That means activities like mountain biking, trail running, orienteering, and paddling in the Spring, Summer and Fall, and cross country skiing in the Winter. Programming varies by club, but the emphasis is on developing skills and agility, and a connection to the natural world.

Programs are typically led by experienced coaches who understand the ethos of an outdoor active lifestyle. Kids are arranged in groups by skill level, age and gender, and develop a sense of team through activities like relay races, paddling, and orienteering, games like capture-the-flag, and age-appropriate competitions like adventure running and mountain bike races.

What does “age appropriate” mean in practice? We limit one-on-one competition for kids 9 and under by focusing on games and relays with an occasional opportunity for individual competition for those who may be interested. We introduce a few more individual competitions for kids 10 and 11, but still more of an emphasis on relay races with peers, family, or friends and with team competitions. Kids 12 to 14 are in that transition period, and we try to accommodate that with more individualized competition while still giving some options for relays and other skill building activities.

While many adults picked up activities like these on their own, today’s world is different. Parents are reticent to let their kids explore the world without adult supervision. TRAIL KIDS provides possibilities for kids and allows them to bond with natural surroundings and build relationships, sharing in a community of excitement while learning competence and confidence for a lifetime of exploration, all under the guidance of experienced coaches and mentors. TRAIL KIDS is a foundation from which kids can follow their own paths, some moving into competitive sport, some participating in sport in a leisurely manner, some exploring through the wilderness. The love of the outdoors is a common beginning.

The emphasis is not on performance, but instead is on developing skills and a long-term enthusiasm for outdoor activities. For those kids who might develop an interest in high-level competition, TRAIL KIDS suggests waiting until adolescence and then pursuing training through another avenue, often affiliated with the same club.

Each club is different, but typically clubs meet a few days each week and then attend events like cross country ski races or tours, or adventure-based trail running or mountain biking races. Registration is usually by season – Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. Most clubs emphasize skiing in the winter, some clubs emphasize mountain biking in the summer and trail running in the fall. But through the course of the year all TRAIL KIDS will be exposed to a variety of lifetime activities.