Nordic skiing is fun for all ages

Nordic skiing is fun for all ages

Getting the younger set on Nordic tracks

Alpine skiing’s low-key cousin Nordic has been dogged with a reputation of being slow-moving and, well, not all that interesting.

Which one of these doesn’t belong: Boring. Slow. Cross country skiing.

Alpine skiing’s low-key cousin Nordic has been dogged with a reputation of being slow-moving and, well, not all that interesting. HA! It’s not true!

The Nordic sport is a lot like cycling, said Hills Nordic Ski Club’s Sports Development Program Director Kip Drobish. Fast sprints are where technique really counts, he told the Arrow Lakes News.

Wait. Fast? Yes, indeed, and a spectator sport too. Cross country races held at Canmore’s Nordic track attract lots of both skiers and watcher, thanks to its varied terrain, said Drobish.

But first you have to get good enough to enjoy tricky terrain, and like learning a second language, the sooner you start, the easier it is.

You can start your ankle biters early with the Hills Nordic Ski Club’s Jackrabbit program for ages three to five. There are also programs for the six to nine and nine to 12 crews too, but this year thanks to more coaches kids will be grouped according to ability as well as age. This year there are 24 kids in the junior program, with a few more down the valley thinking about joining up as well. Although registration for the Hills program closes on Dec. 20, there are still lots of trails you can take your kids to over the holidays. With caveats.

Attention parents: “Don’t take kids to the Rail Trail, they’ll hate it,” said Drobish. Tripping down the trail is great if you want to watch wildlife – beaver, moose and more can be spotted on the sedate path – but there’s not much for turns, twists and more technical skiing. You’d better have hot chocolate at the end of a boring trail, advised Drobish. And what kid cares more about seeing a moose than speed and fun? While big-city folks from Nelson might be interested in catching sight of a beaver scuttling into one of the dams along the trail, or a moose cow with her calf, kids who can see them everyday want more of a challenge.

Another no no? Breaking through fresh snow. There can’t be much more of a turn off for newbies to the sport than spending too much time and effort laying tracks by walking through snow with skis strapped to your feet.

Fortunately for cross-country skiers, there are groomed or maintained trails in the area to get out and explore. The Hills Nordic Ski Club has state-of-the-art clean, quiet, four-stroke grooming equipment thanks to KSCU and other funders, Wensley Creek trails are maintained by the Arrow Lakes Cross Country Ski Club, and there are trails along the Hot Springs Road to try too.

Peer pressure can be another tactic to get kids out on skis. “Get a group to go out together,” suggested Drobish, who said the fun of playing games (did you know you can play soccer on skis, for example?) and actually spending time together rather than just meeting at the lift, is really one great draw of the sport.

“What do you tell people to get them cross country skiing,” mused Drobish. “That’s the magic question.”

How about: it’s cheap. Relative to other winter sports like Alpine skiing, luge or bobsledding, it requires the least amount of infrastructure. Getting into the sport is relatively inexpensive, at least at the beginning. But be warned: when the kids get older and learn how to skate ski, things can change.

“This is where it doesn’t get cheap,” Drobish warned, “when your kids start wanting multiple pairs of skis for different kinds of skiing.”

But for just around $400, you can pick up a complete package of new skis, poles, boots and bindings from Shon’s Bike and Ski shop. If you’re not ready to drop that much money for years of adventure quite yet, he rents too.

And if you’re looking for a great way to bring in the new year, what better way than on cross country skis at the New Year’s Day ski. It’s a casual affair, starting in late morning from where the road crosses Carpenter Creek near Summit Lake and follows along the trail to Bonanza Creek. Maybe it’s time to discover some new winter fun this year. Happy trails!