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Article By: Tracy R. Roach
For families with children, sometimes the cold months of winter take away that joy and motivation to get outside. What many people do not know is that you can get exercise while creating a memorable bonding experience with your children on cross-country skis. All you need is some snow and the right equipment.
If you and your troops are just starting out and you live in an urban area, local bike paths and city parks make for great places to begin. These trails are typically plowed and maintained by their respective cities; however, you can make your own ski tracks right beside the plowed paths. If you are fortunate enough to live near a wilderness area, several areas have designated cross-country ski trails, with markers annotating beginner to more advanced runs. Unmaintained backcountry dirt roads also allow for a great cross-country ski experience. In addition, there are literally hundreds of groomed cross-country ski areas located throughout the US and Canada. The fee for trail access varies from place to place and generally ranges in the $10.00 – $20.00 price range.
Skis: Classic cross-country skiing, which uses the kick and glide method, comes in two different styles: waxable or waxless skis. Waxable cross-country skis require more maintenance and preparation. They also glide faster. Waxless skis have a fish-scale-like undersurface, allowing for a slower glide and a more secure grip on uphill sections. Factors such as the weight of the skier and the type of terrain being skied will determine what size ski you will need. Before renting or purchasing equipment, have an experienced salesperson size you appropriately. An ill-fitted ski will hinder balance, speed and stride.
Boots and bindings: When selecting boots, it is important to choose a boot that fits comfortably. A boot that is too tight will result in cold, cramped feet. Selecting a boot that is too loose could cause painful blisters. For classic cross-country skiing, a comfortable, flexible boot with some ankle support and a snug fitting heel will do the trick. Your boot selection will determine the type of binding you use.
Poles: Poles are used for steadiness and propelling the skier. Pole sizes and styles vary depending on the height of the skier and the type of terrain you are skiing. Just like with skis, it is important that you get sized properly when selecting the appropriate pole.
Cross country skiing is a healthy, all-inclusive activity for people of any age and ability. Parents can pull babies and toddlers in specially designed sleds called ski pulks. The fit, ambitious teenager with the need for speed might enjoy a different style of cross-country skiing called skate skiing. Grandparents who are looking for something more leisure can enjoy the day on a gentle groomed trail. Moms and dads may find pleasure in skiing out to a scenic, romantic spot for a picnic and then topping the day off with a gliding race back to the car. Or the toddlers, teens, grandparents and parents can create warmth in a frigid environment all together, exploring the great outdoors all while on cross country skis. Cross-country skiing is fun for the entire family!