I have been downhill skiing with my daughter and son (ages 11 and 7) for several years but was reluctant to introduce them to cross country skiing, worrying that they would find it boring, technically difficult, or get tired too easily.
Toward the end of last February, after talking to a friend of mine who told me how much his kids enjoy cross country skiing, I decided to give it a try.
We rented the kids skis from a cross country ski center, and my wife joined us on her snow shoes. We started out at the top of a small hill at the trailhead. The kids fell down almost immediately trying to gain their balance on the long, thin skis, but they thought it was funny given that it was just a minor incline, and they were used to skiing much steeper slopes on downhill skis.
We skied on mostly flat, groomed trails through fields and woods and along a river. We stopped several times to view ducks on the river, songbirds and playful red squirrels in the forest, and for all-important snack breaks. After about two hours, my son had definitely had enough, but afterwards he said he liked it and both he and my daughter want to go again.
My favorite spots for cross country skiing in Massachusetts include Brooks Woodland Preserve in Petersham (the adjacent North Common Meadow is a great beginner area), the Northfield Mountain Cross Country Ski Area in Northfield, and Castle Hill in Ipswich. I haven’t been cross country skiing in the Berkshires or in southeastern Massachusetts, and am interested in other areas that people might recommend.
Massachusetts has several x-country ski areas where you can rent skis and enjoy groomed trails, while state forests and parks, wildlife management areas and other reservations offer many opportunities. Below are pertinent links from the Department of Conservation and Recreation and others.