How can trudging along in the snow compete with whizzing downhill through soft powder? The short answer is it can’t. How could it? It’s like comparing carrot sticks to chocolate cake. But that doesn’t mean you can’t teach your kids to love cross country skiing.
Why bother, you ask? Well, why bother teaching your kids to love eating carrot sticks instead of chocolate cake? The reason is much the same. Cross country skiing is a sport that they can enjoy for a lifetime. People of every age and fitness level can go a swish in the snow (if the 70-year-olds who sprint past us in racing suits are any indication).
How to Teach Kids to Love Cross Country Skiing
Start Early — Don’t wait until your kids have mastered Double Black Diamond runs to start them on the skinny sticks. Start them before or at the same time as you are teaching them downhill that way they develop the skills to enjoy both sports at the same time. (Don’t worry if it’s too late for the early start. It’s still possible to entice latecomers to XC.)
Stop Comparing Them — Try as much as possible to avoid comparing them. It’s like apples to oranges. Both sports have their pluses (and a big plus of XC is that you develop better balance, making downhill skiing easier). The same holds true for giving either or choices. It’s not “Should we go downhill skiing or should we go XC?” because we both know which one will win out.
Put Them in Lessons — Help them develop the skills they need to enjoy cross country skiing (check out the Cross Country Canada Jackrabbit program). Nothing sucks worse than spending each and every cross country trip trudging along the boring flats (aka the green trails). Teach them how to manage the hills so the can experience the joy of zooming down a twisting, turning trail after a long day of gradual up.
Make It an Experience — Take them places they can’t go on downhill skis. Ski into a backcountry lodge for an overnight stay, plan an adventure up to a frozen waterfall or other scenic viewpoint, or find a trail through the forest for a possible encounter with winter wildlife. Our 10-year-old will never forget the day we saw a snow white ermine bounding across the snow.
Alternate Days — Use cross country skiing as a recovery activity for resort trips. Nothing feels better than putting on slipper-like cross country gear after a few days in heavy downhill boots. Many downhill resorts either have cross country trails onsite or are a short drive to the trail access point. We typically plan a cross country day mid-week and/or weekend days when the resort will be packed and the lift lines frustratingly long.
Start Fun Family Traditions — Make it fun by creating your own cross country skiing games. Our favorites are adding smiley faces to snowbanks, shaking snow hats off the trees, stopping for “ski chocolate” and luring Whiskey Jacks with crumbs from our sandwiches. Don’t forget to pack the toboggans for the end-of-day sliding!