The Cross-Country Toddler: When and How to Start Skiing With Kids?

It is a famous saying in the skiing world that if you can walk, you can ski – and this holds true for all toddlers. If you are thinking of introducing cross country skiing to your toddler, it is a great idea to start at an early age to develop a love for this sport. Chances are if your toddler has seen you with skis, he/ she is already inquisitive and excited about XC skiing.

Parents’ FAQ about Cross-Country Skiing and Kids

If you want to keep enjoying cross country skiing even after having kids, introduce this amazing sport to them when they are young. This way, XC skiing will become an important part of their winters – something that the entire family can look forward to and enjoy. This means, no more boring winters!

Here are some of the questions that have been bugging parents about introducing cross country skiing to their kids:

1. Is it Safe for a Toddler to Cross-Country Ski?

Yes. If you ask some of the seasoned XC skiers, they will tell you that they have been skiing for as long as they can remember. The cross country skiing is a safe sport for your child – he/ she does not have to master it on the first day. Let him/ her watch you, play around with the snow and ski gear, and soon he/ she would want to try it. The only safety concern is the harsh weather. Make sure you are dressing your toddler smartly by using lots of layers and bringing along some extra clothes especially mittens in case they get wet.

age to start cross country ski

2. When to Start?

Start as early as you can, ideally when they can walk. Avid XC skiers take their children along with them in a carrier or a chariot on skis before the children can even walk. This develops a sense of curiosity and excitement from a very early age. If that is too challenging for you, start at around 3 to 4 years. If your child has passed this age, do not worry. Any age is great for them to learn a lifelong skill.

3. Can a 2 Years Old Cross-Country Ski?

Yes. There are some ski schools that offer private lessons to children as young as 2 to 3.5 years of age. Parents are often apprehensive about taking 2 year old children to learn skiing, but you can find starter skis for young kids, and if they are active and are inquisitive about this sport, there is nothing like it.

4. When Should I Get Him or Her Real Cross-Country Skis?

Your child can wear a ski when he/ she is around 3 years old. Depending upon your child’s inclination towards the sport, you can start as soon as his/ her feet are big enough to fit children’s ski boots. By the time your child is around 5 or 6 years old (or even younger at times), he/ she can head out with you confidently.

5. Does He or She Need Poles?

No, toddlers or even any new skiers regardless of their age do not need poles in the beginning. Often, ski poles get in the way and distract children more. Also, when a child (or anyone for that matter) is learning to ski, they need to focus more on their balance and learn kick and glide, without worrying about the pole. You can work on their pole coordination later. To decrease their pole temptation, try leaving your poles at home too – otherwise, they won’t be able to understand why you are using them and they cannot!

How to Start?

When teaching cross country skiing to your toddler, start in your backyard or a field that is close by to your car or home. Do not hit the ski trail. You need to let them practice how to get on and off their skis, and if they feel uncomfortable, they can get quick access to the home.

In case you have to go to a cross country ski trail, go to one that has a parking lot closer to the trail. This can come in handy when you have many kids of different ages. You never know how is going to give up or throw a tantrum first. When you are closer to your car or ideally home, you can always head back before all of them start to protest.

Before heading out with your toddler, make sure he/ she is dressed properly. Your toddler needs to wear layers of warm clothing. Remember that it is you who would be doing most of the activity and hence can feel hot and even sweaty. Your child will be cold most of the time. He/ she will either accompany you just for the sake of watching and holding the skis or may be tempted to build a snowman instead of trying to learn skiing. Therefore, your child may feel quite cold but you may not. Keep spare layers of clothing especially mittens, socks, and hat in case he/ she gets wet.

Towing

Your first ski experience(s) with your child may involve him/ her being towed by you in a ski sled. This is not only natural but is also recommended that you take your child out on a ski sled so your child can watch you enjoy the snow. Soon, he/ she will also want to step out and give skiing a try.

The sled you use for pulling children behind you when you are out in the snow is commonly referred to as a pulk. Pulks or ski sleds are great for bringing your children along. In case they get tired or do not want to continue, they can go back to their pulk and rest. These are especially useful for those early days when your child is still exploring the snow, watching you from their sled, and wanting to try skiing with you.

When you are towing your child(ren) on the snow, make sure you buy a good quality pulk that has three important features:

  • A sturdy point of attachment to the skier, that is, you.
  • A strong connection from you to the pulk.
  • A completely enclosed area for your child(ren) to sit comfortably and safely.

Children have tiny bodies that can get cold or warm more quickly than adults. For this reason, keep an eye on your child when you are towing him/ her. This is especially useful when your toddler is too young to communicate properly if he/ she is uncomfortable. You can use multiple layers of baby-blankets or quilts to keep the sled cozy and comfy for your little one.

Watch and Copy

When your toddler will watch you do cross country skiing, he/ she would want to try it out as well. Toddlers have a habit of copying everything their parents do – so use this habit in your favor and show them some exciting moves!

You may notice that your child does not show much interest once you put him/ her on skis, but do not give up. If they want to waste their (and your!) time, let them do that in those early lessons. Toddlers need exploration time to feel things and think about them. Your child will want to feel the snow, the skis, and try the goggles on and off ten times before giving skiing a shot. Let them watch you and soon they will try to copy your moves.

You will notice that once your toddler gets the feeling of the thrill that skiing brings, he/ she will want to continue doing it.

Encouragement and Motivation

Encouragement goes a long way. Encourage those tiny skiers. Compliment their snow boots or ski gear. Tell them they are doing a great job even if they keep on falling down. Motivate them to take a step on the snow and then another one. If they want to give up, encourage them, and if need be, bribe them! Parents are good at bribing and they know the favorite chocolate bar or candy their child craves for. Keep those goodies handy. Reward your child after a good learning session.

Keep some snacks handy. If your child seems tired or hungry, take a snack break. You can also bring hot chocolate in a flask and set a milestone. Once you all reach a certain point, have a hot chocolate party. Your child will love hot chocolate in the middle of snow – and you will too!

cross country ski kid age

Tell your child that it is okay to fall. Falling down and being unable to do something correctly only shows what he/ she needs to focus more on. Let them learn from their experiences, and yours too. Do not push your child if he/ she wants to take a break or call it a day. Pushing your child too much towards it when he/ she does not want to will only push him/ her away from skiing. Instead of telling your toddler he/ she has given up too quickly or have ruined your skiing, get a positive attitude, and take pictures instead. If your little one wants to make a snowman and ski some other day, he/ she may actually want to play with the snow and would want to try skiing again some other day. Even if your child has tried skiing for 10 to 15 minutes, it is enough for those early sessions. Remember, when your child is only 2 years old, 10 minutes is a big number!

End each skiing day with something that your child loves to eat – as a reward for trying out the sport. It could be marshmallows, chocolate chip cookies, jelly beans, or maybe M&Ms. Whatever you think your child considers as a “reward”, go for it. You want to reward your child for trying out a new sport and learning a new skill. If you see your child push skis instead of walking with them, acknowledge his/ her efforts. Your child would want to do that again to make you happy.

Ski n’ Play

A great way to get your child into trying this sport is to make him/ her excited about it. Play with him/ her using skis and/ or ski gear. Tell your child to pretend he/ she is kicking a ball to help them get the motion down. If it is not a big hassle, bring a ball along and let your child kick it. It is better to go with a heavy ball otherwise you would be the one chasing the light ball in all directions when the wind blows on the slopes. For parents, it is also a good idea to have one adult ahead of the child to chase and one of the parents behind as the pick-up crew.

If you notice that your toddler has started getting comfortable with skis on, play a game of “catch me”. Your child will love to chase you or even better, would love you to chase him/ her. This is not just a fun game to play, it will enable your child to experiment with different speeds while on the ski. Your child will also think about what movements would work better for him/ her when chasing you and what makes him/ her go faster.

You can create your own games. Think about the stuff you can do on snow with your child. If you have older children, play a game of tag or ski handball. Kids love to play games and when they associate skiing with playing, they automatically consider skiing fun as well. You may be surprised how long the game takes to end when you and your child(ren) are having fun. The more time on the skis, the better it is for them to learn and get comfortable in the ski gear.

Techniques for Teaching Kids

Let your little one take charge. If your toddler wants to take the lead and wants you to follow him, do that happily. If your toddler feels he can ski without your help, show him that he can by letting him try it out on his own. If he falls down, see if he is trying to get up on his own. There is nothing better to have a toddler wanting to do something without your help, as long as you are watching him.

If your child wants to hold your hand even though you want her to balance herself on her own, listen to your child, and hold her hand. Do it a couple of times and you will be surprised to see how she will find the confidence to do it on her own.

The best way to teach kids how to learn cross country skiing properly is to have a good communication line open between the two of you. Let your child communicate what he feels like or how he plans to take his next step. If he slides down, ask him if he is okay and if he can get back up. Let him try. Encourage him to try. If he looks uncomfortable, communicate with him, and ask him what you can do to make him comfy. If he needs a snack or a break in the middle of a session, listen to his needs. You can convince him to stretch the session a couple of minutes longer, but if you feel he does not want to, do not push him to.

A great way to teach your child do downhill on cross country skis is to get them to put their hands on their knees. This makes them bend their knees and lean forward. How about singing along the phrase “Hands on your knees, and bend them please”? They will remember this technique. Skiers, whether young or adult, often lean back when going downhill and eventually end up on their bottoms. When you give small tips to your children, make sure you say them in a soft and simple manner. The voice and the tone play an important role in them learning the skill.

Finding Junior Cross-Country Skis for all Kids

Kids need skis that are the right size for their age and height. Your child will not be comfortable or safe if the skis are too long or too short for him. The same goes for other ski gear. How do you measure the right size of skis for your young one, and what are the options for getting some great quality skis for your kids – check out our detailed article on all about finding the perfect junior cross country skis for your kids.

Conclusion

Teaching your toddler to learn how to ski can be a rewarding experience. You can enjoy a great family outing and share many laughs. And your child will learn a lifelong skill.

Cross country skiing can be physically demanding so do not tire your little ones by overdoing or over-teaching. They will learn at their own pace. Also, make sure you go out when the snow conditions are good. This means that the snow should not be too icy. Pick a trail that is closer to home or car so they can head back to their comfortable homes when they are done with it. You can encourage another family with kids to join you. The more the merrier! This way your child will learn along with other children without even knowing it. After all, activities are more fun when you have your friends joining you in it, and cross country skiing is no different. No matter how many times they fall, they will end up learning and loving the sport – like you did!