Even though his legs got tired to the point of pain on his recent trip to Palouse Divide, Mick Perryman, 7, says, “It’s just really fun to go out in the woods and ski.”While Mick liked seeing jackrabbit and deer tracks, his father, Erik Perryman, appreciated the opportunity for the whole family to “all hang out together.”
“It’s such a gentle bit of terrain that they could all do something,” he said of Mick and his younger brothers, ages 3 and 5.
John Crock, owner of HyperSpud Sports in Moscow, says it’s good for kids to start learning cross-country or Nordic skiing when they’re young, “because it’s easier for them to learn than when they’re adults. They have a lower center of gravity and less far to fall.”
Adam McCrory, U.S. Forest Service recreation staff officer for a large region that includes Palouse Divide, concurs: “Kids are so interested in trying to learn something new, it’s a great time to give them that exposure.”
His daughter, Geneva, skied for the first time at Palouse Divide two years ago at age 4; this season his son, Orion, 3, skied there after a few times in the yard and a trip to Phillips Farm County Park five miles north of Moscow.
McCrory describes the 160-acre farm as “a great place for beginners. There are lots of different grades and slopes so everyone can find something they’re comfortable on.”
While Geneva now has good balance and likes to ski fast without her poles, McCrory’s wife, Jodi, knew that Orion needed to turn around and head back to the car a little earlier, while he was still having fun.
“He’s a good sport,” she said, “but after a while he gets tired and wants to be transported back to the car for warmth and snacks.”
At Palouse Divide, she said, “I didn’t want him to fall every few feet. I skied next to him and held his hand. He put his other hand on his knee for balance.
At the bottom of a gentle rise, he said, “I love skiing down hills!”
Once kids can move forward on skis without falling, they can have experiences out in the woods that rival the excitement of downhill skiing – and for a fraction of the cost.
By Judy Sobeloff, who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- To avoid cold (i.e., unhappy) kids, carry a backpack that includes a thermos of cocoa for each kid; trail mix laden with chocolate chips; an extra fleece jacket; and extra gloves.
- Those willing to deploy the old “gloves in the armpits” backcountry survival tip can awe young children (and alarm older ones) by drying their wet gloves in, yes, your armpits right there on the trail while you ski.
- Or you can try Little Hotties hand warmers, available at outdoor stores, for about 89 cents a pair.
- Though you don’t want to bundle kids up so much they overheat, they are typically comfortable in snowpants and winter coats with long underwear, an optional additional top layer, hats and gloves. Avoid cotton since it tends to stay wet. You may want to have kids wear a double layer of wool socks instead of one pair.
- Cold fingers and toes tend to warm up after kids have been moving for a while; on the other hand, stopping too long to eat a snack can contribute to kids getting cold.
Little Bear Creek Canyon
John Crock recommends this trail in Troy for beginners. He describes it as “totally flat and easy.” To get there, go through Troy and turn left as if heading to Deary. Cross the bridge and immediately turn right – don’t go up the hill – onto a very short road that is hard to see and goes to a parking lot at the Troy sewer plant.
Boulder Creek Trail
He also recommends this route outside Deary, which is “totally skiable for beginners for the first couple miles,” before climbing to a ridge for a five-mile loop that is better left to more advanced skiers. To get there, head toward Bovill from Deary and turn right at Helmer. Turn left just before a bridge into a little parking lot by the campground. Follow the trail along the Potlatch River.
It’s 39 miles northeast of Moscow on Idaho state Highway 6, and is great for families, with about 20 miles of groomed ski trails at various levels.
Virgil Phillips Farm County Park
This is just five miles north of Moscow on the west side of Highway 95, marked with a brown County Park sign. Park up top and then walk or ski down. Good for all levels, after this initial descent. My kids loved the hills, unfazed by the waist-high teasel weeds.
Fish Creek Meadows
Seven miles from Grangeville, the trails start at the Snowhaven parking lot. Mike Follett, owner of Follett’s Mountain Sports in Lewiston and Moscow, recommends this for families “because it’s basically roads that are wider and they do set track there.” Plus, he says, families can warm up and eat inside the lodge when it’s open.
Winchester Lake State Park
This is 38 miles south of Lewiston. Nita Moses, park manager, says the 3.3-mile trail around the lake is “relatively flat except for one pretty steep little hill.” You can also ski up by camp loops B and C, which are closed to camping.
Fields Spring State Park
Go 30 miles south of Clarkston on Highway 129 until you are near Anatone. Dick Sheffield, park aide, recommends two of the trails here as easy: The Grande Ronde Trail, which starts out of the main parking lot and goes for about 3/4 of a mile, and the Coral Trail out of the county parking lot. Follow the county road that goes along the park on the east side. Other trails are steeper and not for the inexperienced.
Palouse Ridge Golf Course
It’s just east of the Washington State University campus at 1260 N.E. Palouse Ridge Road, off Airport Road and Terre View Drive. It can be a very low time investment for people who don’t know if cross-country skiing would be fun or not. There are trails all over the place. You can cut across the slope and just keep going into the trees. You can have hills if you want; you don’t have to have hills if you don’t want. Beginners may want to sidestep or walk down the hill from the parking lot to get to the flatter area.