Cross-country skiing with a child

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The cross-country skiing with children tempts you ? It’s a good activity in this special year when the ski resorts cannot activate the ski lifts! It is an activity, particularly neglected by vacationers; however, in the mountains, it is a sport often practiced by locals. The cross-country skiing has a sport image for the older ones, and yet the practitioners are often younger than me! Because, it’s actually a sacred sport much more trying than downhill skiing!

So, although still a beginner, I will explain in simple words and not at all professional whatis cross-country skiing to make you want to discover this sporting activity with your children!

  • Why go cross-country skiing with the family?
  • What is cross-country skiing: alternative or skating?
  • At what age to start cross-country skiing: At 3 years old or 7 years old?
  • What equipment to practice cross-country skiing?
  • How to teach children to cross-country ski?
  • Where to practice cross-country skiing?
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Why practice cross-country skiing with the family?

Cross-country skiing: a less expensive winter sport for families

Whether it is the rental of equipment, the ski pass (yes, there are ski passes even if the Nordic stadiums often offer a free loop!), The prices practiced for this sport are much cheaper than downhill skiing.

Here, around Briançon, the package is € 9 for 3 hours and free for children under 10. The rental of equipment costs, for good equipment, 12 € the half day

To learn the meaning of effort

Cross-country skiing is engaging! It may seem a lot harder to children than downhill skiing. A sustained effort is required.

To practice intense activity in a short time

Do you dream of distracting yourself by testing all mountain activities, but the days are not long enough!

While practicing skating, you will find it intense! Indeed, if classic cross-country skiing can be done in very soft mode and therefore in a 3-hour ride, skating is immediately more difficult for the heart and the breath. A session usually lasts 1 hour 30 minutes, even 1 / 2h with the children!

For my first time (knowing that I am not very athletic), I was only able to do 30 min, the heart and the breath did not follow! Now after a year of practice, we go for 1 hour of skating, at a sustained pace (at least for me!)

To enjoy the beauty of the landscapes and the snow-covered undergrowth

In classic cross-country skiing, you can go for beautiful “slippery” hikes through the undergrowth. The slower pace allows you to better enjoy and observe the surrounding nature.

To share an activity together, even with baby on the slopes

Unlike downhill skiing where I do not recommend skiing with baby in the baby carrier, here it is really common and not at all dangerous to pull baby in his pulka, or on his sledge. This multiplies dad’s effort, mum follows quietly, the children ski and the youngest plays or naps in the trailer.

>> And why not try mountain biking with the family?

Cross-country skiing with child in family

What is cross-country skiing? Difference between classic so-called alternative cross-country skiing and skating?

The cross-country skiing includes 2 types of slides. The traditional: classic or alternative skiing, and an more recent: the step of skater or skating. This sport is practiced on groomed and marked trails and requires a lift pass. The track consists on the right of 2 parallel rails close together for alternative skiing known as classic and on the left of a groomed track for skating or not skating.

Normally, a direction to move forward must be respected to avoid getting in the way!

Child cross-country skiing: alternative or skating
Mini traveler in classic cross-country skiing (alternative) me in skating (no skater)

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Classic cross-country skiing (or alternative)

The alternative cross-country skiing is practiced on groomed trails, in rails laid out for the occasion. The movement is done by sliding the skis in the rails. This is the easiest way to learn cross-country skiing.

The practice is smoother and less physically engaging, at least at the beginning. In fact, it is mostly a sliding ballad. But then it is possible to go very quickly on alternative skiing.

classic cross-country skiing with child
1st time in alternative cross-country skiing

Cross-country skiing skating or not skating

This discipline appeared in the years 1985 and quickly found success among athletes. This movement of the skater’s step allows you to propel yourself much faster than classic cross-country skiing.

The movement called skater step is similar to the style of ice skating or rollerblading. The beginnings are much more difficult in skating than in traditional cross-country skiing.

During my first attempt, I fell 5 times. It has been years since this happened to me. Mini Voyageur in December fell ten times. This is where high morale is needed so as not to be discouraged!

But as soon as you manage to slide, the speed, quite relative when you start, is quickly exhilarating.

1st time skating for Mini Voyageur, at Christmas

At what age is cross-country skiing for children?

I see every day little 3-year-olds, try out classic cross-country skiing. But don’t dream, you will only do a 1/2 hour lap and that is more than enough not to disgust them.

I advise to try skating from 7 years old, if the child has already practiced classic cross-country skiing, ice skating or rollerblading. Many Mini Voyageur friends already know how to do it!

I think the child’s temperament matters a lot. My grown-up wasn’t hooked at all, and even at 9 she hated it and never comes with us! She doesn’t like effort! Mini Voyageur found classic cross-country skiing easy even with a few falls and from the 2nd session tested skating, and preferred! Mini Voyageur started this year at 9 years old, he does not know how to ice skate or rollerblade very well, but in 3 1/2 hour sessions we were able to go on a green track directly by skating.

What cross-country ski equipment with children?

Alternative or classic cross-country ski equipment

The skis are very thin, long, with small scales underneath, allowing you to hang on and thus propel yourself. The foot is only supported by the front of the shoe, which is much lighter and less uphill than for downhill skiing.

The material is much lighter, children can easily carry it on their own.

The alternative cross-country skis should normally be 10 to 15 cm taller than the rider beginner. The sticks are also very long, they come to shoulder height.

Please note, it is not possible to go skating with classic cross-country ski equipment

Equipment for skating

It is slightly different from traditional cross-country skiing. The skis are always light, the boots light and reach just above the ankle. The length of the skis is that of the skier, the sticks are longer and reach the ears or chin (for beginners)

All the equipment can be hired in sports shops near the various Nordic sites. But beware, skating equipment is rarer to rent, because much less demand! And better to reserve because at Christmas, the rental shops were robbed!

>> See our partner to reserve your equipment

Skating cross-country ski rental shoe
Cross-country skating ski boot

Dress for cross-country skiing

Know that this is a sport where you will get hot very quickly. The physical expenditure is much higher than downhill skiing. Use the method of diapers to be able to undress as you go as you warm up: Technical long sleeve t-shirt, fleece and windbreaker on top. For the pants, the regular practitioners wear tight pants, spindle. The cap is quickly replaced by a headband that warms the ears, but let the heat from the top of the head escape.

For our part, always minimalist, we haven’t bought anything specific for cross-country skiing. We have for this year, our downhill ski equipment for the pants (and not spindles on the legs), it does not bother us given our level. For the top, however, no downhill ski jackets are too hot. Light down jacket or softshell jacket are sufficient. A long-sleeved technical knit top, one fleece underneath. I skied at -8 ° C like this.

With children, always have a gourd available ! Of course, sunglasses and sunscreen essential!

Child's cross-country ski outfit
Held lighter than the first times

How to teach children to cross-country ski?

Finding balance in classic cross-country skiing (alternative)

Whether for you or for the children, know that the first sessions will be difficult. Falls follow one another (especially in skating – no skater) during the first 2 or 3 outings.

Better then learn balance by practicing classic cross-country skiing (alternative). In 2 or 3 sessions, by trying to go faster and faster, you will have gained confidence. Arming yourself with patience will be essential to have a good time with your family!

Our family strategy with Mini Voyageur: 3rd sessions took place on a free track! One of us stuck to him, giving him advice, encouraging him, taking the falls as a joke, while the other was doing a full run to burn off, and we took turns helping to keep calm and ease the mood movement!

Take cross-country ski lessons

If Vyou have never done cross-country skiing, the ESF gives lessons in Nordic areas, in groups or privately. For kids, these lessons are very fun (ball game, running, ski hockey etc.) before leaving to slide on a track!

Participate in Festi Nordic

It’s a event that everyone advised me to introduce Mini Voyageur to cross-country skiing! And of course, this year everything is canceled because of Covid. But, the workshops allow you to test cross-country skiing, biathlon, etc., for free, all while having fun with other children!

Try skating

Then when you have found your balance, you can try skating (no skater). For this, it is better if your child already knows how to ice skate or rollerblade. It’s pretty much the same gesture, pushing on the legs!

And there, patience, a few falls will put everyone’s nerves on edge, but what satisfaction

After’learning to balance, you have to learn to push on your legs, taking the step of the skater. For that, better try without a stick.

Mini Voyageur has improved a lot by doing a full turn without a stick trying to push and slide as well as possible!

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Where to practice cross-country skiing with the family?

The Nordic sites are rather positioned at the bottom of the valley, to be as flat as possible, even if the very athletic ones also climb and descend.

Green, blue, red and black trail markings allow you to know the difficulty of the course and it is often the height difference that increases the difficulty!

Almost every ski resort has its Nordic area of ​​around ten kilometers. On the other hand, some places are dedicated only to cross-country skiing:

  • The Vercors plateau is a hotspot for Nordic skiing, with over 130 km of slopes – fonturle, Correncon. This is where I learned, as a child with school, alternative – classic cross-country skiing! And that hadn’t really pleased me when I returned there alone with my father!
  • In the Queyras, here each village has more than 30 km of Nordic ski slopes,
  • The Clarée valley right next to my house! With nearly 60 km of classic cross-country ski trail or no skater
  • The Jura is also suitable for this activity, the Jura mountains offer more than 140 km of slopes, not counting those of all the small resorts around
  • The Haut Giffre valley, at Sixt fer à Chevel must be superb to practice this sport with 64 km of track (I hiked there with a snowshoe, read here)

And you, which cross-country skiing site tempts you with your children?

There you have it, I hope this article will make you want to try cross-country skiing with your family to learn either alternative skiing or skating with your children!

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