Kids hitting the trails. (Fischer Skis)
Kids on cross country skis or snowshoes? It is not only about child obesity, nature deficit disorder, and better brain function – it's about fun.
What can the kids do after school or on the weekends? Have you set your plans for the school breaks this coming winter? The winter can be snowy yet mild and great for a weekly program or a family winter vacation with plenty of cross-country (XC) skiing and snowshoeing, so gather up the kids and head to the hills. There are XC ski resorts that are exceedingly kid-friendly with fun activities to enjoy on the snow. And XC skiing and snowshoeing not only delivers great times for kids, they create memories they'll have for a lifetime.
We know about the calorie-burning effectiveness of XC skiing and snowshoeing. We understand that kids should get outdoors more often. And according to Dr. Majid Fotuhi, chairman of the Neurology Institute for Brain Health and Fitness in Baltimore, studies support the idea that exercise can improve learning efficiency for kids. In short, exercise and better fitness are associated with better brain function. Here are some samples of the unique XC ski and snowshoe programming at XC ski areas this winter:
Smugglers' Notch Resort in Vermont is known for family programming. The one and a half hour XC ski lesson for kids happens in a special terrain park that has snowy roller bumps and other features for kids to learn balance and increase confidence while having fun on skis. Snowshoe programs at Smugglers' include the Cider Walk and the Sugar on Snow Trek.
Jackson Ski Touring nestled in the Jackson Village in the N.H.'s White Mountains has a free, supervised 90-minute ski tour of their wooded trails every Sunday through March 5, 2017 (except Feb. 19). The tours are led by a youth program director in the local school district and her husband, who is a ski patroller and Wilderness First Responder. The Youth Nordic Program tours are open to kids ages 11-17 who are at least intermediate to advanced level XC skiers. The program is 10 AM- Noon, on wooded excursions with a maximum group of 10 focusing on fun, with stops along the way to watch birdlife, study animal tracks, and ice crystals in the streams.
The Snow School program has snowshoeing for about 30,000 kids annually in more than 60 locations in 16 states across the nation. Some of these programs include games, ecology, wildlife tracking, outdoor skills and more. Go to the Winter Wildlands Web site or Facebook page for a list of Snow School locations.
At Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, Mich. the Junior Muffin Races are held March 19, 2017 for kids in three age groups (6 and under, 7-9, and 10-12) with free registration, trophies for all participants, and lunch included. The short race distances are age appropriate for each group.
Breckenridge Nordic Center in Colo. has one of the best equipment exchange programs for kids whereby kids can trade in their old equipment for similar or upgraded equipment or gear in a different category.
Methow Trails in Winthrop, Wash. has three StorySki trails that feature 1 km loops with illustrated story book pages on large panels displayed along select trails for kids to read as they ski or snowshoe. There are also two interactive “Wildside” signs for older kids along the trails. And there are no trail fees for kids under the age of 17.
Tahoe Donner Cross Country Center in Truckee, Calif. has three kids' programs between January and March for different age groups. An 8-week After School program is for kindergarten-grade 5. Third to fifth graders have a Junior Racer program while second to eighth graders can learn how to race and shoot a rifle in the Junior Biathlon program.
A number of states conduct statewide programs to encourage kids to get outdoors in the winter. The Ski New Hampshire "4th and 5th Grade Passport" offers trail passes for one visit at the state's XC ski resorts. The Michigan Snowsports Industries has the "Cold is Cool Passport," which requires that an adult paying full price must accompany the kids and there is a $15 cost associated with the passport for XC skiing. The WinterKids organization in Maine also has a variety of programs for thousands of kids each winter.
Lapland Lake in Northville, N.Y. has the Reindeer Rally season-long program for kids supervised by skilled, kid-friendly, incredibly entertaining PSIA-certified instructors. The program, which is for kids aged 5 – 11 runs 90 minutes on weekends and holiday weeks. The "on-ski" games include Toilet Bowl Tag, Limbo, Spider (flag tag), Soccer on Snow, Relay Slalom, Caterpillar Relay, Sharks and Minnows, Scavenger Hunt, Elephant Hunt and more.
Great Glen Outdoor Trails Center in Gorham, N.H. has the Kids Ski Fest Sunday, Feb. 19 with games on the snow, relays and a themed ski tour. The Trail Tracker program is free everyday scavenger hunt at Great Glen, which is a big hit for kids to track down cartoon animals out on the trails. When they find the animated creatures, they stamp a card and upon return to the lodge they get a treat.
These winter programs feature ways for kids to learn balance and increase confidence while having fun on skis or snowshoes. And they're committed to helping kids develop lifelong habits of health, education, and physical fitness through participation in outdoor winter activities…and as the kids can attest they are also just plain fun.