What is the Jackrabbit Program?

From Cross Country Canada: 
Named after the famous "Jackrabbit Johannsen", the skiing pioneer in Canada who lived to 112 years old, the Jackrabbit ski league is a skill development program for children. Over 9,000 children, ages 4 and up enroll annually in over 300 clubs across Canada. The children participate in skill sessions and fun days, enjoying themselves while they learn the basics about cross country skiing, fitness & nutrition. This helps to develop good technique and lifestyle habits early in life.

In addition to the basic Jackrabbit program for children 8 - 13, there are two related Youth programs which cater to younger and older skiers. For the youngest set is the Bunnyrabbit program for 4 to 7 years olds, and for adolescents there is the Challenge program.

How do I know if cross-country skiing will be a family success?

We thought you'd never ask ... In over a decade of running the Bow Waters Jackrabbits cross-country ski club, we have found that the old adage is true, "the family that skis together, stays together." We find that the more involved the parents are in cross-country skiing, the more likely that young children will follow in the ski tracks of mom and dad. And while they enjoy skiing together as a family when children are young, as they get older, they want to ski more and more with their friends' families too. This is why we encourage adults to improve their ski skills with adult lessons and optional family tours. Children who start with our program at a young age, make friends with other childen who they ski with for years. We could swear that some children come to Jackrabbits strictly for social reasons, but the good news is that they learn to ski very well in the process!

In what level Should i sign my child up?

In a typical season, we offer the following levels:

Bunnies: 4-5 years old

  • Intro to play on skis and basic form

  • No experience required

  • One parent must participate with child during lesson

  • No ski poles

Level 1: 6 years and up

  • Intro to cross-country skiing and foundational technique

  • Focus on fun on skis and shorter ski tours (2-5km)

  • No ski poles 

  • Bunnies completed  or no-to-little experience required

LeveL 2: 7 years and up 

  • Introduction to ski pole technique, building on ski technique and moderate ski tours (4-8km)

  • Learning through fun

  • Level 1 completed, or little to moderate experience

Level 3: 8 years and up

  • Building on classic ski technique and longer ski tours (6-8km)

  • Introduction to skate skiing

  • Learning through fun

  • Level 2 completed or 3-4 years of regular ski touring 

Level 4: 9 years and up

  • Complete Jackrabbits classic and skate ski technique development

  • Longer tours (6-8km)

  • Learning through fun

  • Level 3 completed

If you are unsure of what level your child should be in, please reach out to us through email. We can help you with that decision. The first and foremost priority for your child is to make sure they have fun and learn proper technique. It’s much better for the skiers and coaches if a child starts is a much easier level and gets bumped up, than if they start in a harder level and have to move down. Be conservative when choosing a level for your child. You would be surprised at much they learn (and have fun) by starting in one of the lower levels, where they learn the proper fundamentals of skiing. 

For a description of skills learned at each level, click here.


That’s a tough one. The things is, we love to ski and play outside in our Canadian winters, but we will cancel lessons on a few occasions: 

  • There’s not enough snow

  • The weather makes driving unsafe

  • The temperature is -20 or below, with wind chill

What gear will the kids need?

Here’s a list: 

  • Classic skis for all levels (Bunnies, Level 1-4)

  • Skate skis for Levels 3 and 4 only (you can rent them at the Canmore Nordic Centre, if you are not interested in purchasing them)

  • Ski boots (kids in Level 3 and 4 may want to use Combi boots, which they can use for both classic and skate skiing)

  • Poles (Levels 2-4)

  • Clothing, in general

    • Bunnies and Level 1 tend to need heavier clothing. They will be moving less and playing in the snow more. 

    • Level two, three and four are moving more and longer distances, so clothing can be more cross country ski specific, like lighter “shell” jackets and pants. top- base layer, 

  • Clothing- top:

    • Base layer, fleece or down mid-layer, winter jacket or shell

  • Clothing bottom

    • Base layer, snow pants or shell pants

  • Two pairs of mittens (one spare, in case the first pair gets too wet and cold)

  • Toque

  • Buff or neck warmer

  • Hand and feet warmers (these are game changers). Costco sells them by the carton.

  • Sun block, for sunny days

  • Sun glasses

  • Back pack, with a chest strap (the chest strap is also a game changer)

  • Water bottle and snack (whether on the trail or not, levels will stop for a snack break half way through the lesson)


While ski swaps offer excellent deals, you may require some expertise on quality and sizing. X-C ski stores such as LifeSport or Norseman give excellent service. Norseman carries new and some second hand equipment, and LifeSport holds an annual Ski Swap. Used equipment is a great idea for beginners, and for children who seem to grow out of their equipment every year! While very young children can get away with using "fishscale" skis, we encourage the use of waxable skis in the higher levels. 

"A Parents Guide to Ski Equipment for Children" can be found at this link to the Cross Country Canada website.

What is the hardest thing about skiing with Bow Waters Jackrabbits?

This is an easy one. We often meet for a 2-hour lesson in Kananaskis Country at 10:00 am on Sunday mornings. This means leaving Calgary just after 8:00 am, and some families find this a daunting task. Before you ask, the reason that we meet at this time is so that we can tour after lunch. We like to take advantage of having driven all the way to K-Country, and many families make it a full day activity. Once you get out there, you'll find it is worth the early start.... really!

What is the best thing about skiing with Bow Waters Jackrabbits?

You have a choice. You can hide from Calgary winters and hibernate in your house, or you can come and enjoy the great outdoors. The best part is being outside, in the mountains, with some great people (and some pretty good skiers too).