A Parent's Guide to Cross Country Ski Equipment for Children

"Poor equipment, equipment that doesn't fit, or skis that are poorly prepared for the snow conditions
may lead to a negative ski experience that can havea lasting impression on a child.

- BCR Ski Leader Manual

The following are general guidelines to assist parents in determining what kinds of equipment their children actually need.

dbimages/386.gif Ski Bunny Age Group:
This program is directed at children three to five years of age. A child's first ski equipment set would include a pair of no-wax skis with 'classic' length poles (with the pole tip in the snow, the pole height would reach the under arm). Initial on-snow play does not require long skis, and they should be approximately the same height as the skier. It is better for the child to outgrow their skis than to grow into them.

Select a binding that is not difficult to operate, but is not prone to releasing either. If you select strap-type bindings used in conjunction with snow boots, ensure that all the straps are integrated into the binding construction. Loose straps have a way of getting lost. Snow boots can be nice and warm, but unless they are laced up firmly, there is a risk of little feet coming right out of the boot. The boot will be securely fastened to the ski - and the young skier will be left standing with sock feet in the snow. If a child is on their second pair of skis, they may be ready to graduate to waxable skis.

Skiers at the Green and Yellow Badge Levels:
The age group for this badge is usually six to seven years. For learning the skills required at this level it is preferable to have waxable skis, even if it is the child's first pair. Skis can be dual purpose (classic skis that can also be used for skating), but poles must remain 'classic' length.

Skiers at the Orange and Red Badge Levels:
The age group for this badge level is usually eight to nine years. Skating technique is officially introduced to the skill development sessions at this point in the skill progressions. The child can learn skating technique skills while using classic, dual purpose skis, but they now require both skating length poles and classic length poles. For skating technique sessions, skiers using the classic, dual purpose skis must have the grip wax removed from the kick zone and the entire length of the ski prepared with glide wax. For classic technique sessions, the kick zone must be in place again, and grip wax would be applied. It is also important that the skiers are using bindings that do not rub the track when the ski is on edge or when the skating technique is used.

"Take the time to ensure that this aspect of your child's participation is managed well; it is the first step towards the development of good technique."

Skiers at the Blue and Purple Badge Levels:
The age group for this badge level is usually 10 to 11 years. The equipment requirements at this skill level is the same as for the Orange and Red Badge levels. Eventually, parents may wish to provide the child with two sets of equipment (both skating and classic) if their ski skills and future involvement in the sport appear to warrant the investment.

SKIS

• Classic skis should reach just below the wrist of the skier's outstretched arm, with the camber suitable for classic skiing
• Skating skis should be 3-4 cm above the head of the skier, with a camber suitable for skating.
• Dual purpose skis should be a length mid-way between the length for a classic ski and a skating ski, but the camber must be determined by what is suitable for classic skiing.

If the skis are not the correct length and camber the skier will have difficulty mastering the technical skills necessary to become competent in the sport.

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POLES

• Poles must have adjustable straps
• Classic poles should reach under the arm when the skier is standing on the floor
• Skating poles should be the same height as the chin

If poles are too long or too short, the skier will have difficulty mastering the technical skills necessary to become competent in the sport.

Whatever you do,
don't settle for poor quality
just because the price is right,
or it's the only thing available.
Keep looking until you get the equipment that will give your child good ski experiences.

BOOTS/BINDINGS

• For skiers old enough to participate in the skill development sessions, select bindings that will not rub in the track when the ski is on edge or when skating technique is used.
• Salomon and NNN are the two commonly used,
suitable boot/binding systems. Both are good and equally functional, however, the Salomon binding system offers more of a variety, and is available from more distributors.
• Boots must be comfortable. If boots are too large, they will be awkward to ski in and if they are too constrictive, feet will not stay warm.

SKI SHOPS & SKI SWAPS

Parents are encouraged to by suitable equipment for their children for two main reasons: it is an investment in a positive, fun learning experience; and good equipment retains its re-sale value - someone will always buy it when you are finished with it.

Acquiring equipment from ski swaps or other families involved in cross country skiing is a good method of keeping equipment costs in control. Keep in mind however that much of the ski equipment for children that is being recycled at this time is of a poor quality, and may lead to disappointment. Second hand equipment is only a bargain if it is suitable for the needs of the skier, and it fits comfortably. Ski shops can be approached with the prospect of trade-ins. Some already have trade-in programs in place. This method of shopping can also help to keep the costs down, keep children in proper equipment as they grow and progress, and encourage shops to carry only good equipment. (It is harder to recycle poor quality!)

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If your Junior Ski League parents have been proactive in acquiring good ski equipment for their children you may wish to network with the other parents in the formation of an equipment pool. Before the end of each ski season, have a look at what other children are using. When the following ski season approaches (and the children have done some growing), use the network to locate the equipment that is most suitable for your youngster.

Reprinted from the 1996-97 edition of Ski Cross Country Magazine - Cross Country BC