Winter Sports Tips

Skiing With Willie

by Mike Henriques

I picked a warm, windless day and planned a short excursion to Great Glenn, a Nordic ski center at the base of New Hampshire's Mt. Washington. Short, gentle trails loop out from the touring center. The lodge, with its wide fieldstone fireplace and a cafeteria, offers hot chocolate and other treats just right for a four-year-old on his first cross-country ski outing. Don't expect too much, I kept telling myself.

Willie fell on the flats, and he fell on the downhills, his legs and skis crooked and slow to gather back under him. He took his mittens and jacket off because he was too hot, then he was too cold. For a time, I felt like a skiing clothes rack, taking and then handing back what Willie needed. He tangled his poles and there was a brief spate of tears when I got too far ahead of him, but the weather helped keep it cheery - bright sun, no wind and great snow.

Make it fun, I reminded myself, so I started falling, pulled to the ground by imaginary snow snakes. When he fell, I fell, and when he got up, the snow snakes released me. Willie started to laugh. We had recently watched brief snatches of the Olympic ski coverage, so the visual images of athletes racing led us to another game. He became the USA skier; I was skiing commentator.

"The USA skier has the lead. Uh-oh. He's down! But look, he's back up and in the track and . . . he's still in the lead. Unbelievable skiing by the USA skier!" The USA skier always won. By the time we quit for lunch, we had managed all of a kilometer. I called it good and suggested we go home and sled on the hill behind the barn. No go. Willie wanted to ski.

So back we went, down the track and onto the field's perimeter loop, the one that follows the Peabody River for a time, then skirts the woods and crosses the auto road that in summer months runs to the summit of Mt. Washington.

Sometimes you discover - by persistence or by chance - that you've opened up a whole new world, a place of fun, a place you know a child will want to return to again and again. It's an affirmation, a special moment I call the "yes" moment of parenting. There never seems to be enough of them but they last a long time. As I poled along beside Willie, he scooted down the tracks, and the "yes" tingle started to hit me. He would come back to the tracks and the snow, and the falling down and the getting up. Yes.

The season ended when an early warm spell settled over New England and the mountain snows dwindled. As a family we drove to Great Glenn for one last ski on a day when squall clouds rolled over the summits. Rain showers laced the afternoon.

We skied together, first in drizzle, then in steadier rain. The snows had melted and the collected dust of a winter had settled over the tracks. With sandpaper glide, it was a day more for the ritual of skiing than the skiing itself, but Willie pushed down the track. Good sign.

We skied to the top of a small rise and looked over at the Carter Range falling in and out of clouds and showers. I unzipped my fanny pack and we snacked on chocolate. In a few minutes the sun punched through and we looked around. "Look, a rainbow."

Out it came, one end touching down in the fields in front of us, the other reaching across to the mountains. I leaned against my poles. The "yes" moment came back. When the rainbow faded, Willie started off. I heard the slush whisper of his skis as I looked across the valley.

"Hey dad," he called, "Come on." I turned to see him skiing off, little poles churning through the snow, legs pumping. I skied to catch up.


To Start Your Child Skiing:

  1. Manage your expectations. Plan a short ski, and choose a calm, warm winter day. This is an outing for your child, not you. You’ll have the most fun if you remember this. 
  2. Turn the outing into an adventure that isn’t solely focused on skiing. Pick out fun destinations, play imaginary games. Remember that learning to ski is about snow time, fun time. 
  3. Have a back-up plan. Some areas offer snow tubing, but a good base lodge with a picnic lunch can be a treat for any child. 
  4. Rent skis before committing to purchase. Shorter skis offer greater control for beginners and a waxless base is hassle free. 

If you have questions about cross-country skiing equipment, call our Product Information Team at 1-800-975-4552, any day between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. EST.

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Basic Snowshoeing Tips

Snowshoeing is quickly gaining popularity because today's equipment is lighter, more streamlined and just about anyone can do it – and it's great exercise. You can quickly get your heart rate up to aerobic levels in a very short time. Here are a few general tips to help you get the most from snowshoeing in fields around your home, at your local touring center or golf course (with permission from the owner) and for other casual outings.

  1. Generally, a person's size and weight dictates the surface area, or size of the snowshoe that is best for them. But if you plan to carry a heavy day pack or a child on your back, you'll need a larger snowshoe. When choosing snowshoes, let the types of activities and the areas you see yourself snowshoeing in most help direct you to the right model.
  2. Even on casual outings, layering your clothing and regulating your warmth are critical to comfort. When snowshoeing, your body will heat up quickly, so carry a fanny pack or day pack and be prepared to take layers off as you go. When you stop for even a short break, you may want to throw a shell or fleece jacket back on to prevent a chill.
  3. Carry a widemouth bottle of water that is insulated against freezing. If it's not insulated, carry it upside down (if it freezes the ice will be in the bottom of the container so you can still get the water out). Also important are extra clothing and power snacks. Don't forget sunscreen, polarized sunglasses and (if you're any farther than your backyard) a small first-aid kit in your pack.
  4. Begin snowshoeing on flat areas prior to tackling steep terrain or heading onto more remote trails. This will give your muscles a chance to stretch and loosen up before your require more from them.
  5. Using ski poles can really help with balance – and they reduce the impact to your knees and ankles (poles are also helpful when getting up from a spill).
  6. Tell friends, family or park officials where you are going and when you plan to return. If you were to have an equipment failure or some other emergency arises, it's nice to know someone knows where you are and where to look for you if you're late coming home.

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