With alpine resorts more restricted and lift lines longer, a whole new generation of skiers is finding its way to the skinny ski side of things. Posts on Craigslist abound: "ISO kids Nordic gear!" and rumor has it that x-c equipment is the new toilet paper.
That's good news for our sport, but it's not always a snap to lure kids over to trying cross-country skiing. It requires more endurance and offers fewer thrills, but it's safe, socially distant, accessible, affordable, and the kind of sport you can enjoy for a lifetime.
So how to get the fam on board?
Here are some tried-and-tested ways to help kids find the fun on Nordic skis.
Hunt for treasure.
One family who frequents Snow Mountain Ranch buys gold coin chocolates from World Market. As they ski, they drop the coins along the trail to encourage their kids to keep up. Finders keepers and they get to eat them as they go.
A backpack is a lifesaver! But don't just stuff it with cold water bottles and hard energy bars. Grab a really good thermos, fill it with hot chocolate, bring a stash of marshmallows, and pack some cold-friendly snacks like PB&J sandwiches, cookies, and clementines, and plan to stop for a picnic mid-route.
Let them plan the route.
Get out a trail map, and show them how to read it. Point out landmarks to look for, like a cave or old barns or pretty overlooks. Show them how to understand topography and anticipate a whooshing downhill or steep climb. Take a pen and outline it, showing them where you'll go and how you'll get back. You'll take away the anxiety of the unknown, teach them new skills, and give them a stake in the trip.
One Nordic mom encourages her son to ski ahead of her and hop off the trail to hide, and he loves jumping out to surprise her as she skis on by. Just be sure kids know not to get too far or stuck in deep snow.
Get a game of tag going.
Yes, it's awkward and hilarious, but ditch the poles and shuffle around a flat area as you run away from "it." It's actually a technique instructors use to help new students learn to use their legs and skis properly without overly relying on poles.
Take whatever route you plan and cut it in half.
One of the most common parent fails seen at Nordic resorts is family groups heading out on an adult-length loop at an adult pace. Don't forget that building endurance and technique in this sport takes years. Quit while you're ahead (and before there are tears), leave them wanting a little more, and you'll be more likely to get your kids out with you again.