Kids on snowshoes or cross-country skis? It’s not only about childhood obesity, nature deficit disorder, and better brain functions—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 and snowshoeing and cross-country (XC) skiing. 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. Snowshoeing and XC skiing not only deliver great times for kids, they create memories they’ll have for a lifetime.
We know about the calorie-burning effectiveness of snowshoeing and XC skiing. 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.
Here are some samples of the unique snowshoe and XC ski programming at many Nordic ski areas this winter:
Great Glen in Gorham, N.H. has three-day camps perfect for holiday weeks where the kids do different activities including snowshoeing, XC skiing, and sledding. The Trail Tracker program is a free, every-day 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. Family Snow Days on Dec. 29 and Feb. 23 offer a variety of fun activities including animal tracking with a naturalist.
Jackson Ski Touring nestled in the Jackson Village in the White Mountains, has a kids’ terrain park, a new tubing hill, and the Thursday After School Program. Kids are encouraged to snowshoe or ski to a three-kilometer destination to the Cocoa Cabana, which is open on weekends. Upon arrival kids that ski around a little ankle-biter’s circle get a golden covered chocolate coin.
The Snow School program has snowshoeing for kids in more than 40 locations across the nation, such as Cable Natural History Museum in Wis., Bogus Basin in Idaho, and Mt. Shasta in northern California. 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. Some 600 kids from six elementary and two middle schools learn to ski each year through the Foundation’s programming.
Kids are taught how to ski and use the equipment as well as given info about fitness and nutrition. The Foundation grooms a small trail at each school, so that the kids can ski right out the door in their physical education classes.
Breckenridge Nordic Center in Colorado 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.
Tahoe XC in Tahoe City, Calif., coordinates the Strider Glider After School program in an eight-week program for kids that includes gear and instruction. Their Winter Discovery Center is a science program for students in the third through fifth grades with free skiing for kids and their teachers.
The Methow Valley Sport Trails Association in Winthrop, Wash., has three storybook trails that feature 1k loops that have sign-sized illustrated story book pages on panels displayed along select trails for kids to read as they ski or snowshoe. The trails are free for kids under the age of 17.
The Vermont Fifth Grade Passport offers a booklet of coupons for free trail passes at more than 20 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.
The Upper Valley on the Vermont/New Hampshire border has the Passport to Winter Fun, which is a similar incentive for kids in 25 elementary schools to keep a log of their winter activity for prizes. In the Burlington, Vt. area, the Catamount Trails Association is conducting a youth program for building skills, fitness, winter ecology and fun adventure. The program is free and will provide kids with gear for skiing and snowshoeing. The WinterKids organization in Maine also has a variety of programs for thousands of kids each winter.
These winter programs feature ways for kids to learn balance and increase confidence while having fun on skis or snowshoes. 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.
For more information on snowshoeing and cross-country ski resorts—including news and tips—visit http://www.xcskiresorts.com.