Small children do not mean an end to skiing and training. Chariot makes one of the more popular pull behind child carriers designed for high performance. Diana Whitney tested the CX-1 model extensively and reports back.
The Chariot CX-1 is a high performance child carrier for running, biking, x-c skiing, strolling, and hiking. The CX-1 is Chariot’s sleek and stylish top-of-the-line model; the company makes at least six different kid carriers, each designed as a single chassis that converts for different sports. (Go to www.chariotcarriers.com to compare features of various models). Although my CX-1 dates back to 2005, the product has had no major structural updates since then. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d rank the Chariot a 9 as a ski-trailer, 9.5 as a bike-trailer, and 6 as a baby-jogger.
Pros: Incredible way to skate-ski pulling your baby/toddler. Convenient system for owning one piece of gear for several sports.
Cons: Very expensive (each conversion kit sold separately), time-consuming to assemble, parts break over time.
Without a doubt, the Chariot CX-1 sets the standard in kid carrier performance. I’ve been using the Chariot for running, skiing and biking for over three years, since my first baby was six weeks old and sturdy enough to hold her head up and be safely baby-jogged down a dirt road. I bought the Chariot deluxe chassis initially for running, but soon got the CTS conversion kits for x-c skiing and biking as well. This innovative system lets athletic parents convert the chassis according to the season and their sport of choice. While you may find a lighter and more maneuverable baby-jogger on the market (The Bob is a good option), you can’t beat the Chariot CX-1 ski-kit for a baby-friendly nordic workout. Chariot dubs it “the ultimate winter accessory,” and despite several disappointments, I have to agree.
Old school pulk-sleds do the job if you enjoy dragging a heavy sled behind you attached at the waist with a bungee-cord. While this method yields major thigh-burn, it doesn’t allow for much glide and thus doesn’t feel like real skiing. If the pulk is a heavy-duty station wagon, the Chariot is a Beamer. Its lightweight, aerodynamic chassis hooks into a set of mini-skis by a clever suspension system. It glides smoothly behind you like a little spaceship, attached by two long metal rods (adjustable according to your height) to your padded waist-belt (make sure you tighten it thoroughly).
Both my babies have enjoyed riding in the Chariot. Strapping them into the super-comfortable, low-slung seating system may be a bit challenging, but is reassuringly safe (Chariot calls the seat a “protected child cockpit”). With a padded shoulder harness as well as a waist-belt, your baby will not budge even if you take a hairpin corner too tight on your skate skis, fall, and tip the chassis over. In my three years of Chariot-pulling, I’ve only had one such accident, due to my own exuberance and poor judgment. Panicked, I scrambled up off the snow to rescue my baby, but she was sitting happily on her side in the chassis, protected by the roll-bars and still snugly strapped in.
The Chariot comes with a superb weather-proof cover that will insulate your child from any blizzard. For additional warmth, I recommend the optional fleece-lined zip-up bunting bag that snaps right into the chassis (for an additional $55). If you’re running in the summer, your babe will appreciate the Chariot’s climate control: full mesh sides with zip-on tinted side windows. If you’re headed to the farmer’s market or out on a long OD ski, you’ll love the handy storage space for snacks, toys, clothing and water in the roomy back and side pockets.
For tired parents and impatient kids, one major downfall of the Chariot is the time required to dismantle, transport, and re-build the thing in the ski center parking lot. This is the price you pay for a smooth, sporty ride. I’ve spent some frustrated minutes out in the cold with a screaming baby in the car, assembling the metal poles bare-handed as fast as I could, struggling to wrestle them into the chassis, only to strap on the waist-belt and discover the darn poles were twisted and I needed to start again. (Note: the colder the temperature, the slower all the parts fit together). A mellow baby who sleeps in her car-seat while you assemble the thing will help the process. Over time, you can hone your Chariot-building skills, but it will never be as easy as pulling a pulk sled out of your trunk. One plus: the chassis folds up easily and for compact travel and storage, and you can even buy a handy carrying-case.
However, if you want to get out for a run, turning the Chariot into a baby-jogger can be particularly challenging. At least on my 3-year old model, the front jogging-wheel braces do not slide easily into the chassis. I’ve often needed to bang the metal pieces in with a hammer, mallet, two-by-four, or other nearby heavy object. Part of the plastic chassis actually cracked during this violent assembly and required replacement; unfortunately the sticky wheel-braces are bent and even harder to fit in now.
Like any athletic gear, if you use the Chariot hard, you’ll need to repair and replace parts. After three years of two parents working out with it several times a week, our Chariot has suffered major wear and tear. In addition to the broken plastic front-piece, we needed to buy a new back right wheel after the original one fell off during a bumpy downhill bike ride. I found Chariot Customer Service decent but not outstanding, and we paid a pretty penny for each piece replaced. Two other bummers: the front wheel on our jogging version now pulls to the right, meaning the runner must guide the push-bar firmly with at least one hand in order to track a straight path. And the Velcro on the sun shade flap has grown un-sticky over time; my husband jerry-rigged it with twine and bungee-cords to keep the sun out of the baby’s eyes.
One last disappointment: I’ve found that skate skiing pulling the Chariot is infinitely preferable to classic. Other parents may beg to differ, but the Chariot’s suspension system means that chassis bounces up and down during the kick-and-glide cycle of classic skiing. While skating with the Chariot feels like real skiing—and as a bonus makes me work my legs and keep my hips high as I lean forward against the waist belt—classic skiing is too bouncy to be fun for long. This is when a babysitter, grandparent, or kind spouse is necessary— to watch your little one so you can get out in the tracks alone and stride like you used to.
Bottom-line: if you want to bring your child skiing, the Chariot is your ideal method. Ski with the Chariot, and you will get strong. Skating with your baby or toddler behind you is a fantastic strength workout, turning flat terrain into vertical and forcing you to USE YOUR LEGS. If you take it up a notch and keep pace with your Chariot-less spouse, you’ll get some excellent Level 4 ski training.
So if you’re an avid Nordic skier, put the Chariot CX-1 on your Baby Registry. Due to its exorbitant cost ($700 for the chassis alone, requiring separately-sold conversion kits to be functional), it may be the only gift you get. But it’s worth it.
Diana Whitney skied for Dartmouth College back in the 1990s. She now lives in Brattleboro, VT, where she writes, teaches yoga, and takes care of her two small children.