Sunday, December 06, 2020

Ten Reasons to Try Cross-country Skiing with your Family this Winter

 Cross-country skiing has suddenly become a very popular sport this winter with everybody wanting to find safe ways to socialize with friends and family outside where physical distancing is easy and there's space to spread out on the trails.

It's an affordable sport, easy to learn, and great for the entire family young and old.

Christmas Day Skiing in Kananaskis

Christmas Family Photo 2019

Ten Reasons to Try Cross-country Skiing with your Family this Winter 

One. Cross-country skiing is affordable and renting gear is easy

As with all sports, you first have to gear up and invest in the necessary equipment (which is seldom cheap.) Once that's finished though, cross-country skiing is much cheaper than downhill skiing because you don't have to pay for expensive lift tickets or season passes.

Downhill skiing can cost over $100.00 per day per adult (unless you have a season pass, which you still had to purchase.)

Compare the costs for a day out on cross-country skis:

Skiing on golf courses in the city - free 

Skiing in Kananaskis - $5 per day (per car) for a daily conservation pass or $90 for an annual pass (which includes up to two vehicles.)

Skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre - $15 per adult per day (along with a conservation pass above.)

Skiing at West Bragg Creek - $5 per day (per car) for a daily conservation pass or $90 for an annual pass (which includes up to two vehicles.)

Skiing in Banff National Park - free (as long as you have a Parks Canada Discovery Pass)

Cross-country skiing is an affordable way to get outside with your family

I absolutely LOVE downhill skiing, but for families looking for an affordable winter activity, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating will win every time.

** Scroll to the bottom of this story for resources and information on renting and buying cross-country ski gear.

Get out with family and friends this winter to explore Kananaskis on skis

Two. Escape the crowds and safely connect with friends

Cross-country skiing is a great activity for those who don't want to go to a crowded ski resort. Often we can ski for an hour and not see a single other person.

We also enjoy meeting up with friends to ski with, and kids enjoy having companions along to talk to.

Get outside for safe family fun this Christmas season

Last year we went cross-country skiing on Christmas Day and it was glorious! And this year we've been getting together regularly with our "Rainbow Ski Club."

And don't worry if a parking lot looks "busy." Everybody spreads out once they're on the trails. 

Ski outing with our Rainbow Ski Club

Three. Enjoy family bonding with a captive audience!

My house has several rooms spread out over three floors (including the basement) and so it's pretty easy to isolate yourself from other family members if you want to be alone. Even in the car, kids often bring headphones and electronic and like to tune their parents out (or in my son's case, a bag of books which he loses himself thoroughly in.)

Once you get on the ski trail though, there are no electronics, no books, and no distractions. I often ski beside my son (preferring to ski outside the tracks so we can talk) and he catches me up on his school week. He tells me about his challenges, he shares his fears and current anxieties, and he'll tell me about the books he's reading. (If you let him he'll also talk your ear off about Minecraft!)

Skiing gives parents the opportunity to bond with their children. I share stories from my younger days with my son and it motivates him to keep skiing. Sometimes we even play trail games and create stories as we ski.

Obviously if a ski trail is crowded, you'll have to ski single file and you won't be able to talk as much, but there are always rest stops, breaks for hot chocolate and cookies, and quiet trails are usually easy to find if you avoid crowded parking lots.

Family bonding is easy and natural when you go skiing together

Four. Cross-country skiing is sweet and simple

I get a little bit overwhelmed at crowded ski resorts sometimes and I struggle with the logistics. Just getting all of your gear to the day lodge can be a challenge not to mention finding parking, finding a quiet place to have lunch, or just keeping track of your family all day (ever have somebody accidentally end up at the wrong chairlift for example?)

With cross-country skiing you just step out of your car and hop onto the ski trails that are usually less than 100 metres away. There's no waiting for chairlifts, there's no worrying about your child cutting off onto the wrong ski run (always a double black that I can't follow him down in my case,) and there's no accidently skiing past your child (who was playing in the trees and is now behind you.) 

Cross-country skiing is slow, it's a relaxed sport, and kids will always stop when they come to a junction. Snack breaks are quiet moments when you find a peaceful picnic table along the trail and there's a beautiful lack of noise that I appreciate after a busy week in the city.

Cross-country ski days are sweet and simple! 

Five. Cross-country skiing is great exercise for the whole family

Here is a sport where you have to earn your turns! Want to enjoy some big fun downhill sections? You'll first have to climb to get to the top. My family loves hills, and the steeper the better, so we often ski to the top of fire lookouts, viewpoints, or mountain passes. If a 3 hour climb takes 30 minutes to ski down we know we've chosen the right trail.

Whether you like hills or not though, cross-country skiing always provides a great workout. Ask any parent pulling a ski pulk or chariot as well what kind of a workout they're getting! 

And if you're a family skiing with young children, you just have to get creative sometimes if you want more of a workout. My husband will often drive to the end of a long trail if it's doable one way with a shuttle and will ski back to meet us. This allows my son and I a one-way ski (usually in the downhill direction) while my husband climbs to meet us and gets more exercise. Towing young kids can also give you more exercise if you choose a trail that's fun to descend (but requires work to get up.)

For families skiing with younger children check out this TowWhee product from Kids Bikes Canada. The business is run by a Calgary family and I know from experience how useful it can be to have a towing system when skiing with children.

We've done a lot of ski-towing to help our son enjoy the downhill descents

Six. No early starts required!!

My boys left the house at 6am this morning to go skiing at Lake Louise. I got up to say goodbye and then went back to bed. I am not an early riser and what I most appreciate about cross-country skiing is that I don't have to wake up with the chickens.

Certain trailheads can get busy early season when options for skiing are still limited but as the season progresses, arriving at 10 or 11 am is definitely doable for cross-country skiing and you should never have to wake up before 8am (even if skiing at Lake Louise.)

If skiing with young kids, you can even combine different activities in the same day. Stop for a short ski, move on to a lake to skate, go for a hike... Options are endless if you aren't going out for a 20 km ski.

Get out with family and friends for a ski trip (no early start required!)

Seven. You can ski close to home without leaving the city

Many Calgary golf courses and parks are groomed and track set throughout the winter. The trails are free to ski and tend to be very flat (and perfect for beginners.)

Sometimes we even bring a sled with us if we're skiing at the Confederation Golf Course.

Below are some of our favourite places to play in the city.

And I'll add that there will also be a skating trail in North Glenmore Park this winter (and that there's been ski grooming there in the past.)

Cross-country skiing on a Calgary golf course

Eight. Connect with nature while getting a healthy dose of vitamin D

We all need regular doses of the sunshine vitamin and nothing beats skiing across sunny meadows, having lunch at a trailside picnic table, and stopping for frequent breaks to make snow angels.

We always feel better after we've spent a day playing in the woods, skiing through a snowy forest, and getting away from the urban lifestyle.

Playing outside resets the brain and helps set you up for another week of work and school.

Get out and soak up some Vitamin D and fresh air!

Nine. Anybody can cross-country ski and it's easy to learn

There is no great skill required to enjoy cross-country skiing as long as you choose a flat beginner-friendly trail. We take my mother with us once or twice a year and she loves slowly shuffling along as she marvels at the winter wonderland around us. She enjoys spending time outside with us and cross-country skiing is not a strenuous sport if you take it easy and head out for a relaxed jaunt.

Nobody is too old or young to enjoy cross-country skiing. Even babies and toddlers can come along if you have a ski pulk or chariot with skis. (And most places that rent skis also rent ski pulks and chariots.)

If you want to invest in ski lessons for the family, check out the recommendations in the Cross Country Skiing YYC Group on Facebook. 

My son connecting with his grandmother at the Canmore Nordic Centre

Ten. Cross-country skiing is a sliding sport!

We have at least 7 months of the year here in the Rockies where there's no good snow for skiing. In those months my family loves hiking and biking. Come mid-October though we transition to sliding and gliding sports (skiing, skating, and sledding) and I don't want to walk down a hill when I could be gliding. (Why walk when you can fly!)

I fully believe in seizing the moment and embracing every season, so for us, when it snows, we jump into gliding and sliding.

Winter is for sliding and gliding!


We love skiing in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Kananaskis

Need to rent skis:

The stores below can help you out this winter with rentals. Visit their websites for more information. Many of the stores require that you book or reserve your equipment online ahead of time.

Sports Rent, Calgary - conveniently located on 16th Ave on the way out of the city

Outlaw Sports, Calgary

Canmore Nordic Centre Trail Sports - conveniently located at the Canmore Nordic Centre

Kananaskis Outfitters at Kananaskis Village - conveniently located at Kananaskis Village beside great ski trails

Wilson's Sports in Lake Louise - conveniently located in the Lake Louise Village where you can access ski trails

Winter is  magical season!

Looking for used gear to purchase:

Check out the websites and links below.

Facebook Marketplace and Facebook Buy Sell Groups

Check out the following Facebook buy/sell groups:

- Buy Sell Trade Calgary Outdoor Playgroup (for children's gear)
- Calgary Mountain Gear Loft
- Outdoor Gear and Apparel
- Calgary Area Outdoor Gear Swap
- Nordic Buy, Sell and Trade YYC

And of course there's always Kijiji 

Family ski days are a lot of fun!

Looking for new gear to purchase:

Check out the stores below 

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