Children in a learn to ski program must be properly dressed and equipped for cross-country skiing. Inappropriate equipment and clothing can make a class misery for the child, the instructor(s), and the classmates. The enjoyment of the skiing will be reduced for all while the instructor copes with a cold/complaining/frustrated/angry child. This guide is intended to give parents some assistance in obtaining the appropriate ski equipment and clothing for children.
- Do not purchase equipment so that the child can « grow » into it. The equipment must fit properly (especially the boots) so that the child is comfortable while skiing. You do have many other options if cost is a consideration.
- Avoid cotton clothing (undergarments, socks, pants, and tops), as cotton is a very poor insulator when wet.
- Know your child. Some children have a ‘hot’ metabolism while others have a ‘cold’ metabolism. Individuals differ in their reaction to the cold and these reactions can vary depending on the child’s mood, fatigue, and /or state of health. Your best guide to dressing your child appropriately while skiing is your experience when skiing with him/her. Remember to listen to their complaints about being too hot as well as being too cold.
- Purchase warm mitts/gloves
- Purchasing suitable equipment for your children is a good investment for two reasons; the equipment retains its resale value and it is an investment in a positive, healthy, and fun family activity.
Equipment Sources and Options
- Informal equipment sale/exchange at Nakkertok’s annual membership night.
- Classified ads in the Nakkertalk Newsletter
- Jackrabbit Equipment Rental Program at Trailhead.
- Trade-up equipment programs at Fresh Air Experience, Peccos and Greg Christie’s.
- Trading and loaning with friends and family.
Layers are the key to making dressing children for cross-country skiing easy. Layers give the child the flexibility to adapt their clothing according to their needs that day. Without layers you can both under dress them and over dress them. An enthusiastic young skier can generate a great deal of body heat and perspiration even on the coldest days.
- A warm polar fleece/wool toque or balaclava that protects all of the ears is essential. Headband and earmuffs can be worn on warmer days. Many children, especially the younger ones, also wear neck tubes (not scarves).
- A good pair or two of gloves or mitts is critical. Usually a young skiers hands are the first body part to become uncomfortable in the cold. For this reason alone it is worth spending a bit more and purchasing quality mitts/gloves for your child. Many use shelled thinsulate or polar fleece liners with a water repellent/waterproof shell.
Young Bunnies and younger, slower Jackrabbits (4 to 6 years old) should wear a full snowsuit, as they don’t move fast enough to generate excess body heat. Their Leaders and parents should dress warmly as well. Above that age slower children should continue to be warmly dressed but as they become more energetic and skilled they need to be dressed in such a way that allows excess heat and moisture to dissipate away from the body. Dressing in layers should be used for these children. These layers can be removed or replaced at will, even while on an outing.
The layer next to the skin should be made from a material (polypropylene) that keeps moisture and perspiration away from the skin and retains its insulating qualities when wet. Lifa, Patagonia Capilene, Sierra Designs are some of the many brand names that you can purchase. What ever you do avoid cotton!
Instead of insulated snowpants, light wind-pants or rain pants over one or two thin layers of polypropylene or polar fleece, will provide sufficient warmth and more freedom of movement and still repel the snow. On windy days it may be a good idea to bring the snowpants along and use them as a warm-up pant until the class begins.
Polypropylene shirts covered by a polar fleece jacket and on windy/very cold days a windbreaker or light insulated jacket is a very simple way to keep the upperbody clothed. It is quite warm, allows excess heat and moisture to escape and repels the snow as well
- Socks. Avoid cotton. A wool blend with polypropylene or some other synthetic is ideal
- Boots. Need to fit properly: after cold hands, cold feet are the next body part that will adversely affect your child’s enjoyment of the sport. The boots should have enough space to allow for warm non-cotton socks to be worn underneath.
- TIP: You should be able to fit a finger behind the heel with the boot loose, and the foot pushed to the front of the boot, when wearing ski socks.
- For children who tend to get cold feet, boot covers can be purchased or you can pull over their boots a pair of big, old woollen socks with the toes cut out for the bindings.
General – Bindings
- For young Bunnyrabbits a binding/ski system that permits use of their regular winter boots can be appropriate if the system is not difficult to operate in the cold and not prone to involuntary release! Make sure that the straps for this system are integrated into the binding construction as loose straps have a way of getting lost. Snow boots can be very warm but if they are not laced up firmly there is a risk of little feet coming right out of the boots.
- Older Bunnyrabbits and young Jackrabbits (levels 1 and 2) can use the simple 3-pin boot and binding system although it is becoming less available. However, better quality, warmer and more durable boot/binding systems (Salomon or NNN) are available for children. Both systems are equally functional but the Salomon system offers more variety and is available from more retailers.
- For children who are participating in the jackrabbit (or levels 3 up) and beyond select a boot/binding system (not 3-pin) that will not rub in the track when the ski is on edge or when skating technique is used.
- Frequently this is the most neglected piece of equipment. Many Jackrabbits arrive at their first class with poles that are too short, poorly designed and in poor shape.
- Poles that are too long or too short the skier will have difficulty mastering the technical skills necessary to become competent in the sport. This is especially true for children 8 years old and up or in the L2 and up. At those ages and/or skill level they will actually derive some benefit from their poles. Although Bunnyrabbits don’t need poles, they may want a set (inexpensive!) just to fit in!
- Classic; Poles should reach under the arm when the skier is standing on the floor.
- Skating; Poles should be the same height as the skier’s chin.
- Straps; must be adjustable and the material must be flexible (not plastic).
- Tips; metal only, plastic tips are useless.
Skis have a number of features that need to be considered to make skiing enjoyable for the skier. These factors include type, length, camber, and base. Below you will see some descriptions and suggestions to assist with the ski decision.
- Classic Skis; skis used for the traditional cross country skiing motion, using either track-set or non-tracked trails
- Skating Skis; used for the “new” motion of skating on skis, requiring shorter and stiffer skis.
- Combi Skis; skis that have been designed to perform adequately for either skiing motion. This type of ski is the most common type used by Nakkertok Jackrabbits
- For new Bunnyrabbits (4-5yrs.) and beginner Jackrabbits (6-7 yr.) The skis should be as tall as the child. Once the child has developed some skill and comfortability with skis on his/her feet, you can obtain properly sized skis for him/her.
- For older skiers the length depends on the ski type:
- Classic Skis; the tip should reach just below the skiers wrist when the arm is held straight above the head. The camber should be suitable for classic skiing
- Skating Skis; should be about 5 cm above the head of the skier with the camber suitable for skate skiing
- Combi Skis; the length should be mid-way between the length for a classic ski and a skating ski but the camber should be suitable for classic skiing.
Camber is the amount of flex a ski has along its length. Classic skis are much more flexible than skating skis. Generally, children’s skis are all have a soft camber as the children do not have sufficient strength, weight or skill to realise the benefits of a properly cambered ski. When they reach the age of 11/12 or so and when their technique is solid you should try and purchase skies for them that are of the proper camber. Classic ski camber should be about 60% of the skiers body weight. You can test for this by placing the skies parallel (about 8” apart) on a smooth, hard surface and have the skier stand on them at the approximate balance point. A letter size piece of paper should be able to move between the ski and floor at the balance point. Then have the skier stand on one leg (on the ball of the foot), the paper shouldn’t move now. Skating ski camber should be close to 100% of the skiers body weight. Many of the specialised ski shops in the Ottawa/Gatineau region have a meter for testing camber.
Nakkertok recommends that all skiers use waxable bases as the performance is far superior to waxless skis
Equipment Recommendations by Skill Level
In Ottawa conditions most Bunnys will do better with waxable skis, which give superior grip and glide when properly waxed. (See section on waxing below)
Many use waxless skis. They are durable, inexpensive, widely available but no better than adequate. For many of the children this type of ski will suffice for the season. The pattern on the base can help on a climb but this resistance also reduces the speed, ease and glide on both flat and downhill terrain. Even fairly young children will benefit from using properly waxed waxable skis.
Jackrabbits (level 1 and 2)
- Combi type skis
- Poles; classic length
- 3-pin or SNS/NNN binding/boot system
Jackrabbits (levels 3 and 4)
Skating technique is officially introduced into the skill progressions
- Combi skis
- Poles; one pair at classic length which can be used for skating is adequate but having another pair at skating length would be better
- SNS/NNN boot/binding system. No 3-pin
Eventually parents may wish to provide the child with two sets of equipment (skating and classic) if their ski skills and future involvement in the sport warrant the investment.