nordic news from Sno Country
Here's How To Become A Nordic Ski Instructor
Ask a Nordic ski instructor why they teach cross country (XC) skiing and they’ll reply that they celebrate the community and culture of the sport to share that experience with as many people as possible.
Professional ski instructors come in all shapes and sizes and from many different backgrounds. There are part-time and full-time instructors and while some prefer teaching beginners or kids, because they enjoy introducing new people to the sport, others are coaching competitive athletes at the highest level.
The Professional Ski Instructors of America and American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI) is the national organization in the USA that offers professional certification and certificate programs for those instructors looking to gain peer-reviewed recognition of their skills and knowledge. PSIA-AASI develops national certification standards with the industry partners that provide the foundation for these credentialing programs.
The organization is comprised of regional divisions. As of the end of June 2013 there were 893 certified PSIA-AASI instructors for cross country skiing and 1,801 certified instructors for telemark skiing (usually done at alpine ski areas). Canada has the Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors (CANSI), a similar organization had 781 members in 2012-2013 including 583 xc ski instructors and 236 telemark ski instructors (some members have both certifications).
These professional organizations are endorsed by the Cross Country Ski Areas Association and its president Chris Frado, said, "For the best ski experience possible, take a lesson with a certified ski instructor."
The current PSIA-AASI education/certification standards provide a training focus and represent a minimum competency for each level of certification. There are specific PSIA-AASI manuals about teaching cross country skiing and telemark skiing. CANSI has four certification levels in XC skiing and three in telemark. Certification courses are organized and run by six different regions across Canada, following standards established by the National Technical Committee. Besides regular professional development days, CANSI members have access to a variety of technical material such as a very detailed and comprehensive Instructor Manual, newsletters and videos. Professional members also benefit from a liability insurance coverage when teaching, and enjoy discounts with several industry-leading equipment suppliers.
From professional development to expanding skiing abilities to share the ski experience with others, to making lifelong friends and memories, PSIA-AASI is devoted to helping members make their time as an instructor as rewarding as possible. Upon taking and passing the Level I, Level II or Level III certification exams, a member becomes a certified member or instructor.
PSIA-AASI provides much more than just a membership; it provides a connection to people who are excited about skiing and sharing that passion with others. It provides a connection to sliding on snow that has the power to change lives.
The organization has hundreds of discount products from official suppliers and the PSIA-AASI Accessories Catalog available to members at a discount. Other membership benefits include attending clinics, attaining nationally recognized certification, online teaching resources and printed technical manuals, 32 Degrees magazine, instructional aid products, and liability insurance coverage.
The costs associated with becoming a certified PSIA-AASI Nordic instructor are about $150 for attending a 2-day event in one of the regions where you would learn the particulars of teaching (covering material in the Nordic ski instruction manual) and $127 annual dues. For example, the PSIA-AASI events in 2012-13 sanctioned by the Eastern Division were held at 13 ski areas in six different states across the region during the winter (3 in Vt., 3 in N.H., 3 in N.Y., 2 in Maine, 1 in Mass., 1 in W.Va). Attending courses for CANSI can cost $250-300 but this includes the first year of annual membership, which costs $70 per year. If interested in sharing the passion of XC skiing and becoming a certified instructor, contact the PSIA-AASI or in CANSI to find the respective division.
Photo: Teaching cross country skiing (CANSI)
Take Advantage Of A Cross Country Ski Demo Day
Try before you buy. Many cross country (XC) ski areas conduct demo days to give skiers an opportunity to test drive the newest XC ski equipment. It’s a day when product suppliers’ branded tents and flags are flapping in the wind and company reps stand guard armed with knowledge of their wares.
If you need a new set up and want to use a product demo to help make the decision about what to buy, do some homework before going to the demo. Talk with a knowledgeable ski shop employee who XC skis. Be wary of the alpine ski shop that limits its XC ski products to a dark or dusty back corner of the store. Find a reputable XC ski shop that sells multiple models among a few different brands of XC skis. Check out some company brand websites or other general XC ski-oriented websites.
When at the demo, get the right size skis for your weight and ski on each pair for about 15 minutes. Find some uphill and downhill trails to see how the skis perform. Do the skis hold going uphill or do you have to fight to prevent backsliding? Are some skis easier to turn than others? Does the glide seem to extend or do the skis slow down quickly?
It is recommended to stay in the same category of skis when testing, so if you’re trying a recreational waxless ski from one brand, test a similar ski from a different brand before switching to a different kind of skis.
Of course, there are two different XC ski boot/bindings available and if you don’t use the same system on the different skis that you’re testing, you’ll have to change boots to ski the other boot/binding system.
Rossignol rep Will Masson commented about the advantage of demoing with the NIS binding, “The NIS system allows you to move the binding on the ski to 7 different positions so you can fine tune your grip and glide position on the skis. The binding starts out at the balance point position and moves forward 1.5 cm and back 1.5 cm to customize your weight distribution on a particular ski. This can only be achieved when using the NIS system.
A customer might be right between a 176 cm and a 186 cm ski on the recommended weight chart. That customer can be put on the longer ski to enhance the glide, and then the binding would be moved forward to maximize their grip on that longer ski. Advantages are like fine tuning a driver in golf, or a handlebar stem height on a bike, or strings in a tennis racquet. With other Nordic binding systems once you mount the binding you are stuck in that position!”
XC ski boots are a very important aspect of XC skiing comfort and it makes great sense to ski on some different brands. Do you want your boots to feel like a comfortable sneaker or do you desire the substantial support of a high boot cuff or a stiff sole? Is the toe box area of the boot creasing in a comfortable spot when you’re skiing? Do your heels rise when you lift your foot? Is the boot too tight or too loose? Should you get custom insoles for your boots to make your feet feel more comfortable? If you don’t know what to look for when testing, ask the rep for some tips.
Have you tried XC ski poles recently? Poles have different grip straps that are easier to use and you may find that they are more comfortable and effective than traditional ski pole straps. Sunglasses are a great item to test. Do they fog up when you get sweaty? Do they feel so tight that you might get a headache? Are interchangeable lenses available for times of low light or bright sun?
Dedicate part of your ski day to the demo and try more than a few skis, poles, and boots. It should be fun and then you can make informed decisions when you purchase your next set of XC ski equipment - you’ll feel great that you bought the perfect gear.
For info about a national demo and introduction to cross country skiing and snowshoeing click Winter Trails. Check the XCSkiResorts.com What’s Happening Page for some demo day listings or contact a XC ski area near you to see when they will conduct their next demo day.
Photo: SIA, Nordic Demo Day at Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort (SIA)
Ride Snowcoach Above Treeline On Mt. Washington
Winter on the Mt. Washington Auto Road in Gorham, NH officially opened in mid-December this year with custom-built four wheel drive Chevy passenger vans and their four massive treads ferrying passengers up the road to an elevation of 4,000 feet. The SnowCoach goes about two-thirds of the way to the summit of Mt. Washington, the Northeast’s highest peak.“The specially-trained SnowCoach drivers can take anyone at any age into the alpine environment that they may never see otherwise,” says Mt. Washington, N.H. Auto Road General Manager Howie Wemyss. “It is really a comfortable adventure for the whole family to see an unforgettable place.”
The SnowCoach ride up Mt. Washington takes about 75 minutes and departs daily, weather permitting. Many passengers bring their skis to go XC skiing back down to the base lodge at Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center.
The price of the SnowCoach tour is $45 for adults, $30 for kids aged 5-12 or part of the Total Trails Ticket ($69) that includes a SnowCoach tour, all day trail pass, tubing pass, and snowshoe or XC ski rental equipment at Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center.
Read MorePhoto: SnowCoach on Mt. Washington Auto Road
Biathlon Programs Proliferating At XC Ski Areas
Biathlon is now on target at many cross country (XC) ski areas across the country. The sport of biathlon combines XC and target shooting.
The roots of biathlon are traced to Scandinavia in the mid 1700s, and currently it is the most popular winter sport in Europe attracting 700 million annual television viewers. XC ski areas in the U.S. are now offering biathlon programs with real 22 caliber biathlon rifles, laser rifles, and even paintball markers (guns).
Biathletes race 5 kilometers (3 miles) on XC skis before shooting a rifle at five targets 50 meters (164 feet or 54 yards) away. They have a pounding heart and shaking legs with cold fingers and must take five shots. It may be cold and snowy while the sport entails concentration for precision rifle marksmanship.
The competition includes shooting from a standing position and a prone (lying down) position. Depending upon the venue, the penalty for a missed shot may be one minute added on the competitor’s time or skiing a penalty lap.
The Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid, N.Y. has scheduled biathlon lessons on 32 selected dates December-March, with experienced instructors where skiers can head out to the range under careful supervision. The “Be a Biathlete” program is on the actual shooting range used by Olympic athletes in the 1980 Olympics held in Lake Placid.
The “Discover Biathlon” program and package for $55 includes a one-hour ski lesson and use of a rifle at the biathlon shooting range. Skiers can pay $16 for a shooting only one-hour session where they are informed about safety before they go to the range.
In a similar program at Soldier Hollow Cross Country Ski Resort in Midway, Utah, you will be provided with ten clips of five shots each, for plenty of opportunity to learn and improve. The highly accurate rifles are the very same rifles used during the Olympic Games held in Utah in 2002.
After range instruction and practice, a “mini’ fun competition is staged for participants. Programs are coordinated by reservation for minimum of two people, who can ski or snowshoe and there are three program levels starting at $29 for adults and $19 for kids.
In the spirit of this Olympic year, Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center in Truckee, Calif. announced a new Junior Biathlon program led by former U.S. biathlon team member Tom McElroy. This program will be an introduction to the winter Olympic sport for children in second through eighth grade.
Biathlon was first adopted as an Olympic sport in 1955 and “competitions were held at the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley,” said Sally Jones, manager of Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center, which is just around Lake Tahoe from the original site of the Olympics.
Children who participate in the new program will be coached to improve their skiing skills and also learn marksmanship and gun safety using specially designed, 100-percent safe, laser biathlon rifles.
Tahoe Donner also has new biathlon clinics for adults and children interested in learning about the sport. After range instruction and a brief background on biathlon history, participants will get a chance to ski or snowshoe a short loop and then practice their skills trying to hit targets with an elevated heart rate. This is a 1.5-hour clinic is $30 and scheduled on Dec. 22, Jan. 5 and 12, and Feb. 8 and 17.
Mountain Top Inn & Resort in Chittenden, Vt. initiated the Paintball Biathlon, which brings the aspects of biathlon to 250 kids in a one day event (Jan. 26) to ski and target shoot with paintball markers (guns).
For the ski area, using paintball is a less expensive way to host biathlon. Skiers in paintball biathlon are rewarded with time deductions for each target they hit. Midway through each lap, the skiers visit the shooting range where identically sighted paintball markers (guns) await them to take their shots before skiing off for another lap.
The event draws youngsters from across the region and is geared to have fun on snow. It has introduced the sport to kids and some of them are now participating more seriously in high school biathlon teams.
The Nordic Heritage Sport Club Center in Presque Isle, Maine will hold the International Youth/Junior World Championships for Biathlon Feb 28-Mar 7 and U.S. Team Trials for the competition will be on Dec 28-30. At Rendezvous Ski Trails in West Yellowstone, MT http://www.xcskiresorts.com/xcMTRendez.php it’s a cornerstone of winter activity and there is a free “Try Biathlon Day” Jan 4.
There are also biathlon programs available at Gunstock, N.H.; Bohart Ranch in Bozeman, Mont.; Blackhawk, Wisc.; Sun Valley, Idaho; and Anchorage, Alaska. Check Google or other search service for a biathlon club or program in your area.
Photo: Biathlon Lesson, Olympic Region Development Authority (Dave Schmidt)
Skijoring: Enjoy Winter Trails With Your Dog
Skijoring is a Norwegian word that means “skidriving.” A team of one or more dogs pulls an XC skier and the skier “drives” or directs the team as he or she skis behind.
Skijoring has been done for centuries in Scandinavia, and it is gaining popularity in the U.S. It’s easy to learn and can lead to magical winter days for you and your canine friend. Skijoring will help keep your dog fit and healthy and it can deepen and enhance the relationship that you have with your dog. Learning to work with your dog and become a team is a great reward that skijoring has to offer.
'Road Scholars' Flock To Winter Learning Programs
Road Scholar is a brand within the Elderhostel program intended for adults who want to travel, learn and stimulate discourse and friendship among other people for whom learning is the journey of a lifetime.
This is an institution that has had 5,500 multiple-day travel programs attracting 95,000 participants, enjoying a wide variety of subjects. while providing comfortable and inexpensive lodging.
There were 34 different winter outdoor adventure programs with 800 participants in 2013.
There are Road Scholar offerings this winter at Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Vermont. Northwoods in Wisconsin, Sundance Resort in Utah, Yellowstone National Park in Mont. and Sun Mountain Lodge in Wash.
The Trees For Tomorrow program (Road Scholar program #7310) is set for Feb. 9-15, 2014 and this organization has been offering natural resources education workshops to students, teachers, adults, and others in the heart of Wisconsin’s Northwoods since 1944.
It is located in Eagle River, Wisc., a small northern town about a six hour drive from Chicago. All instructors are carefully selected based on their knowledge, experience, and ability to teach adult groups. They have taken courses in each area of instruction to provide participants with a high quality learning experience.
This is a week of classical XC skiing and snowshoeing on trails in Northern Wisconsin. Ski instruction is provided for all skill levels. Naturalists will lead participants through an exploration of the unique ways animals and plants adapt to the difficult winter conditions of the north. Multiple route options will be available for each ski tour. Evening programs will focus on the biology and ecology of animals that call the Northwoods home.
The group will snowshoe in a beautiful old-growth forest, visit Bond Falls waterfall, and learn orienteering skills to practice while snowshoeing. They’ll experience the Kovac Planetarium, the world’s largest rotating mechanical globe-style planetarium and snowshoe at night along a candle-lit trail.
Participants will also XC ski at Anvil National Recreation Trail and have an opportunity to see birds of prey up close. Cost for the workshop is $599 per person (for a double room) or $629 per person (for a single room), which includes: lodging, meals, instruction, field-trip. and rental equipment.
Guests stay on-site in rustic dormitories that have comfortable bedrooms. Each dorm has central bathroom facilities and a lounge with a fireplace. Meals are served in Trees For Tomorrow’s historic dining hall that overlooks the Eagle River chain of lakes.
Annually there are many Road Scholar programs in Yellowstone National Park, but the variety of Road Scholar programming is best exemplified at Vermont’s Craftsbury Outdoor Center. They’ve got three yoga programs (one each in January, February, and March) that incorporate outdoor activities such as XC skiing and snowshoeing.
There is an Introduction to Astronomy program Jan. 21-25 featuring an exploration of the cosmos in space and time and celestial bodies. A program for Film & Fiction is Jan. 26-31 has participants viewing a variety of film genres with a North Country theme and discussions following each film. The group will also read short fiction set in northern settings by contemporary authors ranging from contemplative to humorous with following discussions.
A New England Music & Dance program is Feb.2-7 and again Feb. 9-14 to learn the history of traditional country dance and song from New England, the Canadian Maritimes and beyond with live music and a contra dance, too. All of these programs include outdoor activities on the Craftsbury trails with cross country skiing, snowshoeing and plenty of fun.
For questions or to enroll to any Road Scholar programs, call toll free at 800-454-5768, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. or visit the website www.roadscholar.org to view a myriad of programs to select among hundreds of national and international regions.
Photo: Road Scholars with their instructor at Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Vermont (Craftsbury Outdoor Center)
Comprehensive Nordic Ski Exhibit Opens At Vermont Museum
A comprehensive Nordic ski exhibit opened at the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum Nov. 2 with two floors of extensive cross country skiing memorabilia on display. This is clearly the largest exhibit of its kind about the sport.
The “Kick and Glide: Vermont’s Nordic Skiing Legacy” exhibit at the museum displayed the many facets of XC skiing - the personalities, development of athletes, competition and of XC ski areas and recreational skiers; the evolution of technique, equipment, and disciplines; and the impact of Vermonters on the sport.
Among those in attendance were Vermont past Olympians Larry Damon (1956, 1960, 1964, 1968); Dennis Donahue (1976); Stan Dunklee (1976, 1980); Jim Galanes (1976, 1980, 1984); Marc Gilbertson (1998); Bob Gray (1968, 1972); Trina Hosmer (1972); Martha Rockwell (1972, 1976); and Bucky Broomhall, who started the TorgerTokel League in 1969, now known as the Bill Koch League to develop skiers not yet in high school.
“It was a joyous day in the spirit of friendship and the Nordic sport," extolled Peter Graves. "We are indeed fortunate to have all these powerful experiences bonded together by sport.”
Vintage Synthetic Nordic Track with Fischer Zero Mohair skis (1970s), the latest trail grooming equipment, snowmaking technologies, adaptive ski equipment and a chance to try a hand at Nordic ski erg laser biathlon took place outside the historic 1818 Old Town Hall, which is home to the museum in the heart of Stowe.
Vermont XC ski areas such as Trapp Family Lodge and Viking Nordic Center are purported to be among the first commercial XC ski areas developed in the USA. There is a strong contingent of XC ski area operators who started XC ski businesses in Vermont and remained in the business for many years. They organized a group association, marketed the sport, and developed clubs and programs.
The grand opening ceremonies included a ribbon cutting and exhibit introductions about Vermont as an XC ski destination and a part of national and regional efforts to promote XC skiing. Equipment and clothing aspects of the industry were introduced and learning to ski was also a focus. Various films were shown including, “I Won a Purple Ribbon” about kids XC skiing with Bill Koch, who was the first American (from Vermont) to win an Olympic medal in cross country skiing in 1976 and a World Cup crown in 1982.
The Nordic ski exhibit was spearheaded by volunteers who are Vermonters and have been involved in the outdoor business for many years. They joined museum curator Meredith Scott in an exhaustive effort to find and contact pillars of the XC ski world linked to Vermont.
“We are fortunate to have the help of men and women associated with Nordic skiing in Vermont since the late 60’s to assemble the remarkable story of how the Green Mountain State’s contributions shaped the sport and culture”, said Rob Center, Exhibit Chair.
Bob Woodward, (long time outdoors guru journalist and more from Bend, Ore.), began looking for a home for his collection of XC ski gear.
“Like so many who love the sport, for decades, I couldn't bear to get rid of anything no matter how dated it was. Then a chance remark by ski writer Michael Brady led me to the Vermont Ski Museum. I am eternally grateful for the Museum accepting my donation, which I give in honor of all the Vermonter cross country ski greats and for all the wonderful times I've had skiing in the state,” he said.
Appreciation was given to all those who donated items and supported this exhibit and special thanks to apparel product supplier Helly Hansen Inc., which was instrumental in the exhibit coming to fruition.
This yearlong exhibit coincides with the 2014 Winter Olympics and some people in the industry are hoping that it becomes the initial development of a museum for cross country skiing in America. Kick and Glide, Vermont’s Nordic Skiing Legacy, will continue through Oct. 13, 2014.
Photo: Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum Nordic Legacy exhibit of historical XC ski bases.
Cross Country Ski Areas Association Website Redesigned
Cross Country Ski Areas Association (CCSAA), the national trade association of cross country ski area operators, has redesigned its website. The site has duel purposes for XC skiers and the ski area members.
“The intention was to simplify and separate the site so that it is easier for skiers and ski area members to use it and the site redesign process is ongoing,” said CCSAA president Chris Frado. “The CCSAA Board of Directors was instrumental providing input and encouraging the site to be more mobile-friendly.”
The association’s mission is to promote the growth of the XC skiing population and to improve the quality of XC ski area operations in North America. CCSAA has about 180 ski area members of all different types (inns, parks, clubs, etc.) and it is dedicated to furthering and protecting legitimate interests of XC ski area operators and to provide establishment of reasonable standards for the protection of XC skiers. The group is committed to promoting ski lessons and XC skiing on groomed trails at its member ski areas.
The site’s navigation is easier than before and it has more modern images of cross country skiing and bigger more expressive photos and graphic messages. The website has search mechanisms for XC ski areas, events, and programs.
There’s also a link to SnoCountry.com snow and ski area conditions reports. XC ski industry businesses are listed on the site including product brands (ski equipment, clothing, magazines and websites, etc.) and there is plenty of info available on the site from how to dress for XC skiing to terms and answers to frequently asked questions.
Eat Your Way To Fitness With XC Skiing And Snowshoeing
Here's a guilt-free way to indulge yourself with food while exercising. XC skiing and snowshoeing are some of the best forms of aerobic exercise.
But if you go on a "Gourmet Ski Tour" on your XC skis or snowshoes, you may very well eat your way to fitness at a number of trailside food stops. What a grand time so go ahead, eat, ski, and be merry - appetizers, wine, champagne, fondue, entrees, desserts, and more.
Here's a cross section of the culinary XC ski and snowshoe events that are planned this winter across the country with a varied menu of fun and fine cuisine.
Smugglers Notch in Vt. has Sweets and Snowshoes every Wednesday night 7-9 p.m. for adults only. Hot cocoa, coffee, and three desserts await snowshoers after a 30-minute trek to a pavilion and campfire. A warming meal of hot soup, bread and beverage at a trailside cabin is a destination for the Soup and Snowshoes guided trek mid-day Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and on Tuesday nights there’s a Snowshoe Adventure Dinner at the mountain summit.
Eastman Cross Country's Nordic Nibbles in Grantham, N.H. Jan. 19 has a Scandinavian theme with a visit to a fire pit at each stop for cheese from a local smokehouse, Lindt chocolate, gingerbread cake and pastries, local dairy milk for hot coco, soup, and the main meal from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
The Sweetheart's Chocolate Tour at Bretton Woods Nordic Center in N.H. is Feb. 15 with a self-guided tour to stops for sweets from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Enjoy the Sweetheart's Ski or Snowshoe Tour by candlelight at 7-8 p.m. that evening.
The Chocolate Festival at Mt. Washington Valley Ski & Snowshoe Center in Intervale, N.H. Feb. 23 is an inn-to-inn affair at 10-12 stops to experience your chocolate fantasies including moose and fondue. A shuttle is also available for those that have overindulged on this event dubbed the “Sweetest Day on the Trails.”
The Upper Peninsula of Mich. in Ironwood features cuisine from local restaurants that can be purchased at a nominal fee along a designated route along the trails at the Taste of the Trails on the ABR trails March 1 from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m.
Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, Colo. hosts the Grand Huts.org Progressive Dinner Feb. 15 with a multi-course meal at outposts along the trail in a fundraiser for the huts.
Just Desserts Eat & Ski in the Enchanted Forest XC Ski Area in Red River, N.M. Feb. 22 features goodies from 20 different local restaurants at three trailside stations with up to 100 desserts within a 4 km loop. Their motto is, “It’s not a race, just a gorge fest.”
Crested Butte Nordic Center in Colo. has a yurt reached by a 2 km XC ski or snowshoe tour where 10 dinners are offered during the winter including the Full Moon Dinners @ the Yurt and the Valentine’s Day Dinner.
Look to the Galena Lodge in Ketchum, Idaho for the Full Moon Dinners on nights associated with the full moon, whereby you can go ski or snowshoe (half price rental gear offered) and then return to lodge for a four-course dinner at $40 or half price for kids under 12. There are also special Wine Dinners, Holiday Dinners, and a Valentine’s Day Dinner.
Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Mont. has the Glide & Gorge event March 9 from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. with trail luncheon stationed with appetizers, soups, entrees, desserts from the Ranch's four-star kitchen, local brew, wine, music and shuttles. There's also a trailside one-stop buffet every Friday that can be reached on foot, snowshoes, or skis located so that one can either begin or finish their outing with the feast.
Cypress Mountain outside of Vancouver, B.C. has Chocolate Fondue Tours Friday and Sunday nights starting at 6:30 p.m. and a Cheese & Chocolate Fondue Tour Fridays and Sundays at 6–10 p.m.. Tours are organized by pre-registration. Ladies Only Chocolate Fondue Snowshoe Tour are Jan. 10, 24, Feb. 7, 28, and Marvh 14 at 6:30 p.m.
Photo: Nordic Nibbles at Eastman Cross Country in N.H. (Eastman XC)
Kids Programs On XC Skis Or Snowshoes Ready For New Season
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 areas that are exceedingly kid-friendly with fun activities to enjoy on the snow. XC skiing and snowshoeing not only delivers great times for kids, they create memories for a lifetime.
We know about the calorie-burning effectiveness of XC skiing and snowshoeing. We understand that kids should get outdoors more often. 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 all year long, so here are some samples of the unique XC ski and snowshoe programming this winter:
In Gorham, N.H., Great Glen Outdoor Trails Center has the Trail Tracker program for an 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. The TC Bank Kids SkiFest Jan 12 has an obstacle course, lollipop race, mini lessons for first timers, treats, free XC ski rentals and special trail rates.
Jackson Ski Touring nestled in N.H.’s White Mountains, has the Story Land Element Garden, a small terrain park at the Touring Center designed for young children. Kids are also encouraged to ski or snowshoe to a 3-kilometer destination to the Ellis River Warming Cabin, which is open on weekends. Reach the cabin and enjoy a chocolate covered waffle on a stick treat.
Garnet Hill Lodge in North River, N.Y. has a 6-week kids XC ski program (1.5 hours on Sundays) that is available to individual kids or organized group programs for fun, exploration, and adventure learning skills on ski and games on XC skis with a hot coco/snack break, soccer on skis, tree ID game, and more.
The Snow School program has snowshoeing for kids in more than 40 locations across the nation such as Cable Natural History Museum in Cable, Wis. and Michigan Tech University, which coordinates snowshoe programs for 3-8th graders in 20 school districts in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Some of these programs include games, ecology, wildlife tracking, outdoor skills and more. Go to the Winter Wildlands website or Facebook page for a list of Snow School locations.
The Loppet Nordic Ski Foundation runs one of the largest introductory kids cross country ski programs of its kind in the country at the Theodore Wirth Park, just minutes from downtown Minneapolis, Minn. Some 600 kids from local elementary and middle schools learn to ski each year through the Foundation's programs. They also are given info about fitness and nutrition. A small trail is groomed at each school, so that the kids can ski right out the door in their physical education classes.
Breckenridge Nordic Center in Breckenridge, Colo. has one of the best equipment exchange programs for kids whereby there is no charge for kids to trade in their old equipment for similar equipment in bigger sizes.
The Bohart Ranch in Bozeman, Mont. has the Adventures in Winter Ecology ski program for school groups starting with fun games on skis, a snack break and then smaller tour groups go out for grade-specific hands-on field exploration science curriculum meeting at a trail shelter for lunch with classmates.
The Methow Valley Sport Trails Association in Winthrop, Wash. has three storybook trails that feature 1 km loops that have sign-sized illustrated story book pages on panels displayed along select trails for kids to read as they ski or snowshoe. And the trails are free for kids under the age of 17!
The Strider Glider program at Bear Valley Cross Country & Adventure in Calif. runs both midweek and weekends. This program includes games, destination skiing, skill building, striding, skating, racing, etc. The weekend program allows local kids to befriend and ski with weekenders that they would not see with just a midweek only program.
A number of states conduct statewide programs to encourage kids to get outdoors in the winter. The Vermont 5th Grade Passport offers a booklet of coupons for free trail passes at more than 30 XC ski resorts. An adult paying full price must accompany the kids and there is a small $10 cost associated with the passport, which is good from December through May excluding holiday blackout dates.
In the Burlington, Vt.area, the Smuggler's Notch Nordic Center 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.There's also the Mom or Dad and Me class for a parent and child older than 6 in a one hour private lesson with an instructor.
Also in Vermont, the Bolton Valley Nordic Center's kids program focuses on the development of basic Nordic skiing skills as well as natural science and natural history and each of the kids' ski skills are practiced with fun games like ski soccer, tag, obstacle courses and snowball biathlon.
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.
Photo: Kids cross country skiing at Sleepy Hollow Ski Center (Sleepy Hollow)