Most of us can’t even remember being three years old. For families who want to invest in a youngster’s lifelong appreciation of the outdoors in the winter, however, it’s a prime time to introduce mere toddlers to cross-country skiing. Needing only snow boots and strap-on skis, the very young outdoors person can enjoy this popular winter sport with the entire family. Without even the need to use ski poles, aspiring youngsters can concentrate on having fun on short and easy ski outings – all the while building up an enduring, life-long kinship with the great white outdoors.
Everett Myers, the Youth Director for Central Cross Country Skiing, is an enthusiastic advocate for getting youngster out on the XC ski trails early. “Kids love to be outside and experience winter with (their parents)”, he says. He’s an advocate for developing kids skills gradually: strap-on skis for three year olds. Boot bindings are suggested for young skiers, possibly by the time they are four, for sure by age five. “You really like to keep poles out of kid’s hands until they are 6 or 7,” says Myers. “They really ski better,” he adds .
Equipping a youngster can be easy on the budget by going to ski swaps. A basic package that includes skis, poles and boots will cost about $70. Retail stores can put a quality package together for about $150. Some stores offer rental packages, too.
Myers says that many XC ski club have swaps each year, including the annual event held each November at Dunwoody Institute by the Minnesota Youth Ski League. Typically kids will outgrow their equipment about every two years. A good link to swaps around Minnesota can be found at Skinnyski.com.
Basic layering of winter clothing, including wool socks, is all that’s needed for kids to enjoy skiing throughout Minnesota’s winter. The youngest skiers can begin by just wearing snowsuits, and then advancing to snow pants by five years old. Like any outdoor activity in winter, it’s smart to bring an extra change of clothing along, too.
Myers says the biggest obstacle to introducing the very young to XC skiing is “overcoming the parent’s fears”. Kids are quick to play together, ski together. Many regional parks and state parks offer daily groomed trails, warming chalets and frequent programs for skiers of all ages. Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis and William O’Brian State Park north of Stillwater are among the many area ski areas Myers recommends for family skiing. “Most retailers can also suggest clubs and nearby trails as well,” he says.
There are several helpful websites: MYSL.org features a listing of youth clubs in Minnesota); CXCSkiing.org links you up to information on resources outside of Minnesota, too. CXCAcademy.com offers training information (the first five site visits are free). In addition, there are myriad programs throughout the winter, including “WOW” (Wander Outside this Winter) that offers eight weeks of outdoor winter acitivities.
Besides casual cross-country trekking, kids can also get involved in XC ski racing through programs developed and shared by CXC and MYSL. Medals and prizes are awared for top finishers during the five ski race events held between January 2 and February 20, 2010.
Cross-coutry skiing through Minnesota’s vast winter wonderland offers an inviting way to introduce your kids to a life-long appreciation for the great outdoors.