Friday, February 12, 2016

100 Kilometres on Skis so far this Winter

My seven year old has just logged his 100th kilometre on cross country skis this winter (November through February) and I couldn't be prouder. It hasn't always been easy but like most things, the best stuff is worth fighting for. Learning a new sport is often challenging and there will always be a few tears, moments of frustration, and days when you just want to throw in the towel and give up. (many of those days in fact!)

Cross Country Ski Day #19 - Bow Lake in Banff National Park

Many of you have been following our family ski photos on Instagram and Facebook so I wanted to talk about the "experiences" behind the photos because I believe in transparency. God forbid you'd look at my photos and think we are this magical family that has it all together without struggle! It has not been all "roses" and for each awesome moment, there has probably been one (or ten) that did not feel so awesome at the time. Below are a few things you would have encountered if you had skied with us so far this winter:

Trail Experience #1 - My son screaming and wailing because one of his friends passed him on the trail, made it up or down a hill without falling - while Noah was lying on the ground struggling to stand up, or because one of his friends just skied better than him. (the first group ski trip was so horrific I nearly sold Noah's skis the next day.)

My son (in orange) is happy here because he's in the middle of the pack and everybody is skiing together

Trail Experience #2 - My son happily flying down hills, screaming, laughing, yelling "weeeee," and having the absolute time of his life. Noah no longer lets me choose flat trails and has been known to complain in complete misery when he sees a green trail marker indicating that the trail is suitable for beginners. The video below shows him happily skiing down the hill to Watridge Lake at Mount Shark in Kananaskis.

Trail Experience #3 - My son whining, complaining, and totally dragging his butt down the trail because it's "BORING!!"   - usually because we aren't going downhill or because the trail has been flat for too long. (and don't get me started on what happens when we go up hill for too long!!!)

Incidentally, yes, Noah loves downhill skiing and is a complete adrenaline junkie at the age of 7.

A trail my son will tolerate for small sections of time. (too flat, too easy, no challenge)

Trail Experience #4 - My son happily skiing alongside me, like the ideal ski companion I always dreamed he could be. We are in perfect sync, gliding down an easy trail, and we are both blissfully happy. And despite all the challenging moments, there were many moments like this too. (thank goodness.)

Skiing on one of our favourite trails at Lake Louise

Why Push so Hard?

I'm sure there are a lot of people now wondering why we push so hard. Why not just go out for a short little ski, stop to build a snowman, head for hot chocolate and call it a day?

Do kids have to be pushed to ski 100 km in 3 months?

Do kids have to ski long 7-9 km days? Wouldn't a shorter 5 km day be much more fun?

Was it worth it? The tears, the screaming, the frustration... - was it worth it in the long run?

Having fun on a very hilly trail at Panorama Mountain Resort

My answer to the last question above is that yes, for us, it has been worth it. We really haven't pushed that hard and the only reason we've skied so much this winter is because Noah actually LIKES it this year. Last winter he hated cross country skiing and so we spent the winter on snowshoes. And that was fine. There's no way I'm going to push a child to learn a sport that he hates. This winter however, Noah's become quite competent on skis and so we try to get out every chance we get.

Our first ski day of the season back in November - barely enough snow to ski on but we still got out

I also try really hard to choose trails that my son will enjoy. We do car shuttles when possible (starting higher and ending lower,) we choose trails with fun hills to fly down, and we often ski alone without friends so that Noah doesn't get intimidated by other kids who might be faster or stronger at skiing. We also use a tow rope when necessary. In the photo below, my husband towed Noah 6km up the Cascade Fire Road in Banff to the bridge we're standing on. It was uphill the whole time and we knew Noah would never make it on his own. He had a blast skiing down though and that's what it's all about - finding a way to make each trip fun and doable.

This was the day in November where I KNEW I had a kid who finally loved cross country skiing

Finally, we are big believers in "mixing it up" each weekend. If we go cross country skiing one weekend, we'll try to go downhill skiing the next weekend. We add a hike here and there, we go skating and we enjoy simple outdoor activities like sledding. The reason Noah has already logged 100 kilometres is purely because we get out a LOT. We are outside every weekend, on every PD day from school, on every half Friday when the kids get out early... - we're just always outside. And eventually the distance on skis adds up.

In December we skied into a backcountry cabin in Waterton Lakes National Park

Where We've Skied (so far) This Winter

Kananaskis Village - We love the Terrace, Kovach, Aspen Loop. It's roughly 5km in length and has some good introductory hills. For a shorter day we just ski the Terrace Loop which is only a few kilometres long.
West Bragg Creek

West Bragg Creek - Half an hour from my house give or take a few minutes, and there's been awesome snow here this winter (until recently when we lost all of our snow and now have to drive 2+ hours to find any.)

We have tried a few different loops but my proud moment was when Noah managed to ski the Sun Dog Trail (in the uphill direction most people ski down) to reach his favourite trail, East Crystal Line. East Crystal Line is a lovely trail in the downhill direction with tons of double poling and gentle hills. There's only one big hill near the bottom that Noah has yet to make it down without falling.

Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis - Since Noah likes skiing down hills so much, we decided to park at the highest parking lot in this park and ski down to one of the lower parking lots. We started at the Elk Pass Trailhead and climbed up to the junction with Boulton Creek. We then skied the "new" Boulton Creek Trail, which has some crazy hills on it since it's restoration post-flood, to the Boulton Creek Parking lot. From there we skied Wheeler and Meadow to reach the Visitor Centre.

This was a tough day (a very tough day) and the 9km felt like 20!! The Boulton Creek Trail went up as much as it went down (and the hills were very tricky,) Wheeler bored Noah to tears (literally) because it was so flat, and then Meadow had a lot of climbing before we got to ski down to the Visitor Centre. It wasn't the easy peasy day we had envisioned and I'm sure we skied up as much as we skied down (despite ending at a lower elevation.)

Skiing one of the easier sections of "Meadow" in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Cascade Fire Road, Banff - 12.8 km round trip and somehow we thought this was an appropriate ski trip for the end of November. To date it is still Noah's longest ski outing and he was towed for half of it. However, he LOVED skiing down this trail and it was the trip where I knew something had finally clicked and that we'd be doing a lot of cross country skiing this winter.

Skiing across the Cascade River in Banff

Lake Minnewanka Road to Upper Bankhead, Banff - This was one of those days where we should have turned around 5 minutes in to our ski. It was icy and the trail was not good for skiing at all! Lesson learned. No shame in turning around and heading off to do something else instead. (Skating would have been a good option on this particular day)

Castle Mountain Ski Trails, Banff - We skied approximately 10km from the Protection Mountain Campground on the Highway 1A back to the Castle Mountain Hostel where we were staying at Castle Junction. This was an awesome day and the scenery was unbelievably beautiful. The first section from Protection Mountain to Castle Mountain Lookout is now one of our favourite trails. The second part of the trail gave Noah a great workout and he really built confidence going down steep hills on this trail.

To read more on this one, read my story Winter at the HI Castle Mountain Hostel with Kids

Beautiful skiing near Castle Junction, Banff National Park

Calgary City Golf Courses - We haven't had a lot of snow in the city but we did get out a couple of times to ski at Confederation Park and at the Shaganappi Golf Course. These are great for after-school outings.

After school skiing in Calgary

Backcountry Skiing in Waterton Lakes National Park to the Cameron Lake Cabin - This was our first family backcountry ski trip where we all skied into a cabin on our own steam. Noah wasn't towed, he didn't ride in a sled, and we didn't have to snowshoe. We ALL skied. It was so glorious!!!

To read more on this trip, go to my story Winter at the Cameron Lakes Cabin, Waterton Lakes National Park. 

Skiing out of the Cameron Lake Cabin, Waterton Lakes National Park

Nipika Mountain Resort, BC - We spent New Year's in Radium Hot Springs and couldn't resist the short drive out to Nipika for a couple hours of skiing on their amazing trails. Noah made it all the way to the Natural Bridge and skied some impressive hills this day.

Nipika Mountain Resort

Panorama Mountain Resort, BC - While staying in Radium Hot Springs over New Years we also took a trip out to Panorama for a day to try out the trails. We particularly enjoyed the Valley Trail that took us from the golf course down to the main ski base area. It had some pretty sweet downhill sections (even if it was -20!!)

Skiing across the Golf Course at Panorama Mountain Resort

Mount Shark, Kananaskis - In an effort to find snow, we recently drove out to Mount Shark in Spray Valley Provincial Park, and skied to Watridge Lake. It was an easy 7.4 km round trip ski with a fun descent down to the lake. We normally bike this trail so it was Noah's first time skiing it. Unfortunately, I think he prefers biking it. I guess it's faster on a bike.

Watridge Lake, Mount Shark, Kananaskis

Lake Louise, Banff - We love skiing at Lake Louise and finally got to ski our favourite trail, the Tramline Trail, last week. We added to the trip this year though and skied the Fairview Loop (4.6 km) from the Chateau parking lot down to the Moraine Lake Road. We then skied 1.6 km on the Moraine Lake Road down to the junction with the Tramline Trail. From here it was an easy 3.1 ski down to the Village below. All in all it was a great 9.3km outing and we definitely ended lower than we started (always our goal when possible)

My boys Skiing down the Tramline Trail at Lake Louise

Bow Lake, Banff - Another awesome ski outing we did last weekend, we skied across scenic Bow Lake to the back of the lake. We had goals of making it to Bow Falls but turned around when we came to an avalanche slope. Without proper gear on us (and with three children) we didn't feel safe continuing. Regardless, it was a lovely ski across the lake (after a sketchy start wallowing in deep snow when we got stuck on a snowshoe trail out of the parking lot.) The lake itself was easy to ski across and we followed the tracks that backcountry skiers had made ahead of us.

Ski Day Number 19 - Skiing across Bow Lake last weekend

I realize that I ended on an odd number (19 days rather than 20) but we will hopefully hit days #20 and #21 as a family this weekend. #23 if lucky.  Myself meanwhile, I am at day 26 this winter which astonishes me!!

It's been a good winter so far, I have a child who genuinely loves skiing now, and we get outside a lot to play in the snow. Life is good and we are active. Now we just need the temperature to drop so that we can get more snow and continue skiing until April.

There's no bad day in the mountains. Add skis and they're even better


  1. Regarding "why push so hard?": because sometimes the only thing standing between a kid hating something and enjoying it is a bit of practice. My step son "hating biking" and didn't want to learn until finally we just made him do it. Shockingly (actually not shocking at all) he suddenly LOVED riding his bike. Sometimes you just have to put up with the tears and complaining because you know the pride and enjoyment they will get when they actually learn a new skill will be worth it.

    I will also add that my parents dragged us all out cross country skiing throughout my childhood. With 5 kids I am sure at least one of us was complaining every time. They did it because it was something they enjoyed and wanted us to enjoy as a family. I am now 31 and I remember all those ski trips fondly. I get out on my skis every chance I get. Again, sometimes you just need to power through the whining and tears.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words and support.