We've been out a few times now this season and I'm starting to get a feel for the requirements involved in teaching a young child how to cross country ski. What I've learned so far, I gladly pass on to you - in hopes you'll leave comments at the end of this post with tricks you've also learned.
|Learning to ski at the Canmore Nordic Centre|
Bring FriendsI've said this before and it will be a recurrent theme on this website; Bringing a friend is the equivalent of giving your child a super hero cape. They will ski, hike, walk, skate... further, faster, and with more enthusiasm if you bring a friend. We took 6 other families with us on our first trip out to the mountains this year and each family had children ranging in ages from one-three. The children skied anywhere from 0.2 km to 12km. (more to come on the amazing three-year old capable of skiing 12km.) It was so much fun watching the children chase each other on skis, try to keep up to their friends, and actually put on their skis - just because all the other kids were doing it. (Yay for positive peer pressure!)
|Three year olds learning to ski|
|First Time on Skis|
Ski With Your ChildI know this isn't always easy if you are also pulling a second younger child in a Chariot or sled, but children do best when they can see you participating in a sport with them. If you can't pull a sled and help the new skier at the same time, make sure you recruit the help of another family member or friend. We tried skiing for the first time this year in a local park and it was an utter and total disaster!! Crying, complaining, and general lamentation all around! The only reason I can come up with for the miserable experience is that we made our son ski alone while we walked beside him, coaxing him on with games and treats. The second time out, I wised up and skied with him. I didn't play games, I didn't bribe him to reach the next tree with treats, and I didn't watch as he did all the work. We skied together side by side - and it was fun. I even enjoyed the slow and relaxing pace because we were in harmony sharing my favourite winter sport together.
|Skiing together on a local golf course|
|Father and Son on the trails together|
Get in the Right Mind Set Before You GoWhen we did the big group ski a couple weeks ago, our son only skied about 0.2km. (at most!) And we didn't push it. We had the ski pulk with us and were on a mission to reach the bridge 6km away so that we could get photos for our Christmas cards. A few of the other families also pushed on to reach the bridge and the kids spent most of the time in their Chariots. Meanwhile, a couple of the families decided they were out for the kids and were only going as far as the kids could happily ski. They skied slowly for a half hour or so, turned around, and kept it simple. We are still happy we made it to the scenic bridge at the campground but we knew going out that this was an adult ski trip for us and that our child would be along for the ride. On the days we want our son to ski we leave the sled at home. Even a toboggan is too much temptation to ride as we discovered today. Decide before you go - who's skiing today and how far are you going? What pace will you set and are you ok if you only ski for half an hour before heading home again.
|Relaxing day in the country - Toddler Pace|
|First Time on Skis for this Two-Year old.|
Take Diversion BreaksOn our most successful outing so far this winter, we headed out on a local golf course with another family. We told the kids we were skiing to a bridge we could clearly see down the fairway. (yep, that's as far as we skied - the length of one hole) When we got to the bridge, we made snowmen, had a snowball fight, and gave the kids snacks. It was a great reward for their efforts and gave them a break before heading back to the cars. Look for places to ski that have an objective and plan something fun to do when you get there. Later this season we plan to stay at a wilderness hostel that will require a 500m ski to reach the cabin. We plan to have the kids ski in rather than pulling them in sleds. What an awesome reward it will be when they reach the cabin and know they made it there on their own!
|Nothing like a good snowball fight!|
|Stopping to build a snowman|
Be CreativeWe have friends who've taken to towing their three-year old with a stretchy bungee cord while they ski. At Three years old, their daughter is capable of skiing 12km as she does a combination of skiing on her own and gliding behind Daddy. I can't imagine the balance and core strength required to do this at such a young age but I saw it for myself so know it's possible. We've now bought our own stretchy rope and attached it to a handle from an exercise band. I tried pulling my son with it today across a flat pond. I think it's going to be a looooong time before he's ready to ski 12km and he wasn't quite able to figure out yet that he doesn't need to keep shuffling his feet when he's being towed, but he will and it's going to be fun trying this method of skiing with him.
|Getting set for her big 12km ski with Dad|
|Teaching my son how to use a tow rope|
We've tried other games too from picking up alphabet letters scattered along the trail to chasing after a football we throw across the field. Ski Football was by far the most successful game.
Next on our list is teaching our son to stand up when he's fallen down. Please leave comments if you have great games for this one! I've got the idea in my head that Ring around The Rosie would be fun to play around a big tree. I'll let you know how it goes next time we're out.
|Standing up is always a challenge!|
I'll leave you with a few more cute photos of our son and his friends learning to ski. I'd love any suggestions you have for teaching young tykes how to ski. We are figuring it out one day at a time for now.
|Skiing on the Cascade Fire Road|
|Another first day on skis|
|Such awesome two-year olds skiing!|
|My son's first time on skis last winter when he was 2.5 years old|