My sons and I went on our first XC skiing adventure and we are hooked! My boys are 5 & 7 yo... and growing like weeds.
With a limited stock available at this time of the year, I think we might just rent for the remainder of the season; but was hoping to get some advice on how to prepare for next winter.
I looked on the website here and else where and its a bit overwhelming! Skis, boots, bindings... would REI be a good place for a one-stop-shopping experience?
Any suggestions on what to do with the kids?
Because your are still new to the sport, I recommend continuing to rent. You might ask to try different brands of gear if you have the option. You might find that you like slightly shorter skis at first, but longer skis as you master the diagonal stride. Personally, I prefer slightly shorter poles than are usual for my height. Renting lets you experiment before making any final, expensive decisions. If you find boots that are comfortable, you might want to buy them. My family struggles to find comfortable boots.
Where my family skis (White Grass, in WV), they have a buy-once, trade-up program for kids as they grow. I wouldn't buy gear for young children without such a program.
Yes, REI can definitely get you everything you need for you and your kids, but it may not be cheap for the kids (no offence REI). I may continue to rent or look for used equipment online as we approach the end of the season here. The new stock isn't very good right now as most are sold out. Also, local places may do a ski swap even at the end of the year, though this is more common with downhill skis you can also find XC exchanges. I have a "chain" of friends who have kids older and younger than mine that we will typically as a group buy new gear for the oldest kid and pass it on down the line for XC and downhill gear, so maybe you could work something out with your friends/family as well.
You will probably want NNN classic boots and then NNN bindings premounted on whichever in-track classic ski you end up buying. I am guessing you are doing classic in-track, but know the difference between classic, touring (off-track), and skate skis before you buy the wrong ones. Also, don't buy NNN BC if you are looking for NNN setup (as my parents recently did). Good luck, it is a lifetime sport so it is well worth the investment!