Keep your cross-country skiing dreams alive, and save room for hot chocolate. Our guide to the pulk fills you in on this useful tool for winter travel with kids.
Everybody said, “Oh boy, your life’s going to change,” when my wife said she was pregnant. We found a way to keep skiing with a baby literally in tow. We bought a pulk.
A pulk is a sled for pulling gear behind you while you travel over the snow. There are manufacturers that make pulks specifically for kids and some that have kits that turn joggers into ski trailers.
They’re great for bringing your kids on winter trips and better than the high center of gravity you get with your child in a backpack. Now that both of my kids have outgrown it, I realize it was an awesome purchase.
Buying a Pulk: How to Choose
Whatever brand you buy, a good pulk has these three features: a good point of attachment to the skier, a sturdy connection from skier to pulk, and a fully enclosed area specifically designed for seating children.
Once you decide on a model that suits you, heed some of the lessons we learned over the past seven winters.
Insulate your child from the floor
Our model had insulation between the child seat and the floor of the sled, but it still got cold for the tyke unless we had a few more quilts and blankets to sit on. And the layers serve as shock absorbers.
Dress your child in lots of layers
Children have smaller bodies that are harder to keep cool or warm. Gauging their comfort level in a pulk is extra hard since they’re simply riding while you’re getting warm hauling. Check them often, especially if they’re too young to communicate, and adjust their layers as necessary.
Be gentle on groomed trails
We took our pulk to smooth skating trails, not classic ones. Some models have ski runners, but our flat-bottomed pulk would’ve destroyed a groomed classic trail. Plus, I found that freestyle skiing gives a smoother ride to my little passenger than diagonal striding.
Give up on “getting a workout” and have fun
Early on, I thought the pulk was my ticket to being a ski racer while fulfilling my parental duties. Now I know all that mattered was that we were smiling together in the snow. Sometimes hot chocolate is more important than a few more kilometers. If my “little coach” wants to make a snowman instead of riding some more, then, by gosh, it’s time for a snowman.
Leave them wanting more
I was the first one to say, “Well, it’s time to go home.” When the protests began, I promised another trip soon. Pick manageable routes with lots of chances to abort and get out while they’re still having a good time. Don’t be the guy five miles from the car with your kid screaming so hard he’s melting the plastic.
Some of my greatest memories are of skiing in places like the Uintas in Utah, Sun Valley in Idaho, Boulder Lake just north of Duluth, and the Onion River Road along the North Shore of Lake Superior. I was gliding over the snow with my whole family in those places. Maybe you know how to bring toddlers without a pulk, but I sure don’t.
While not a comprehensive list, these are some examples of good pulks.
- Fjellpulken: This Norwegian manufacturer makes a pulk for one or two kids. Just make sure you toggle the website to English and click away.
- Kindershuttle: Small and light, this design has been around for a while, and with good reason. Designed for one child.
- Ziffco Outer Limits: No website, but if you can find one, it’s rugged and we loved ours.
- Thule Chariot and Burley: Your trailer/jogger/stroller morphs into a pulk by adding the cross-country ski kit. It rides on two skis, as opposed to the sled-like shapes of the pulks listed above. The main advantage of these brands is that you can use the product all year round for skiing, strolling, and running with different accessories. Check out our test of the Thule Chariot Cross here.
— This article first appeared in Northern Wilds