Kids on Skis – Encouraging a Lifetime Sport If you love to XC ski, but haven’t attempted to get your kids out on the trails, or if your family ski outing ended in disaster, we’ve got a few tips and tricks that can help you have an amazing time with the kiddos and instill them with a lifetime love of the sport. First of all, take advantage of talent available to help with the learning and outfitting process. Consider one of the many groups or clubs that offer lessons – they can make starting up really easy, and more importantly, FUN! Whether your technique isn’t quite on point or you just need to escape the family drama for a bit (parents, you know what I’m talking about) lessons offer kids the chance to ski and play with other kids and learn from other adults who haven’t just told their kid 100 times to keep their mittens on. Here in Hayward, that group is the Hayward Nordic Kids. Nordic Kids started as the Bill Koch Ski League as an after-school program in the early 90s. Their mission is to promote the sport of cross country skiing by providing a fun and organized teaching program for all area youth, encouraging children to develop skills in cross country skiing in a non-competitive atmosphere. Currently, the program is capped at 150 students and is divided into 9 groups with at least one coach per group. Kids can start as early as age 3. Parents often stay to help out, and all the coaches are volunteers. Kids who sign up are able to affordably rent equipment that is fitted specifically for them. Beside the regular lessons, twists and events help kids stay encouraged and involved. “We…have Treats On The Trail…where we hide snacks in a few locations around the loops, and the students have to find them to enjoy them. One week we encourage everyone to wear a costume. And Friday Night Glo Ski events happen 3 times a season at the lighted loops at OO” Salle Beckwith, previous Director and Board Member explains, “This is a fun way to practice skiing outside of the lesson setting.” This year, Nordic Kids is joining forces with the American Birkebeiner. Kristy Maki is Event Director for the American Birkebeiner as well as having been a coach and/or Director of Hayward Nordic Kids for 12 years. “The Birkie is joining with Hayward Nordic Kids for a few reasons. One of the missions of the ABSF is to promote healthy lifestyles and Hayward Nordic Kids is a great way to start kids on the right path at an early age. The ABSF encourages youth programming and is happy to provide resources and support to a program like this…It’s important to the ABSF that the Hayward Nordic Kids continues to thrive and that kids in the Hayward and surrounding areas have a great platform to learn cross country skiing.” Currently, registration is still open through the week for Hayward Nordic Kids, so get more info and get your kids signed up! Check out their facebook page and website. If you aren’t located near a group, or just want to go it alone with the little ones, there are a few things to remember, the most important of which is KEEP IT FUN! Here are some other tips: Encourage indoor play on skis. Let kids practice inside without cold temps and bulky clothing. Start without poles. They just get in the way at this stage and can be dangerous. Chris here at the shop agrees. This will usually spark protest from most kids, but, Chris reports, they just ski better and learn faster without poles. “Kids and adults will develop a natural striding rhythm and good balance by swinging their arms. This will start with simple shuffling and progress to a longer, gliding stride in time. Poles are for propulsion, not balance – add poles once the rhythm is ingrained.” Ski on groomed trails. It is much easier and keeps kids from falling down as much and crossing their skis. Play games to keep it interesting like I-Spy, soccer, tag, or sharks and minnows. Set up cones or obstacles on the trails. Go on a winter scavenger hunt. This gives kids a chance to work on their ski skills without even realizing they are learning. Take short breaks with snacks. OK, this one is great for kids and adults. Bring other kids along. It’s always more fun (at least for the kids). The benefits of introducing kids to cross country skiing at an early age are undeniable. Kids learn balance and coordination and gain strength and stamina that cross over to any other sport they might engage in. Plus, they learn to appreciate the outdoors in winter. New Moon can outfit all of your kids with skis—starting with Lucky Bums for kids 2 to 5 all the way up to top-end racing packages elite high school skiers. Skiing with your kids not only encourages the love of a lifetime sport, it creates family memories that will stay with you and your kids for years to come. So get those little ones out on the trail. You may have to stop a few (dozen) more times and have a few more cups of hot chocolate, but, believe me, it will be worth it!