Just in time to start thinking about the Spring hiking season some great tips from Cragmama!
From the blogger who inspired me to start AwA!
A couple weeks ago I asked colleague Jonathan Shefftz to chime in on a subject I am very new to… skiing with kids. With 5 solid seasons of skiing with his adorable daughter Micayla he has some excellent advice to share! Thanks Jonathan for all the great tips, Alex & I will be keeping this all in mind for our next day out on the slopes!
Skiing with Kids: A How To … and How Not!
Cautious turns down a frozen Left Gully in Mount Washington’s failing daylight, skiing around gaping crevasses off the summit of Mount Rainier, traversing above deadly fumaroles on Mount Hood, and of course avalanche danger in many places. Sure, I’ve stared down some tricky skiing situations, but all of the foregoing is mere child’s play compared to … teaching your wife how to downhill ski!
A blanket prohibition applies to teaching a spouse how to ski, yet it still commonly takes place. (Kind of like cooking in your tent?) I got away with that during the early years of our relationship, when I must have been held in higher esteem. Fortunately, my wife is now interested only in nordic skiing, and she last downhill skied when she was a week or so pregnant with our daughter.
The ensuing fatherhood has of course been accompanied by all sorts of emotions, desires, goals, and dreams. But for a skier, one overriding concern is always: how can I encourage my child to become a fellow skier? I know my father certainly had that priority for his two sons – and he certainly succeeded. (Thanks Dad, and I know you’re eating that pastrami sandwich in some ski lodge up there in heaven looking down on your two boys out there skiing now!) By contrast, Mom’s priority was to enjoy the peace and quiet with all three of us away from the house, but hey, that worked out too.
Taking our daughter out skiing at first was very easy, especially since she didn’t have much of a choice in this (or anything else for that matter). When she was only four days old in late December, I put her in a Moby wrap on my chest, wore a jacket over both of us, and nordic skied onto the golf course behind our house, while she promptly fell fast asleep. (Note that this is far better than isolating your child in a typical external frame baby carrier backpack, as the various “baby wearing” options keep your child warmer, and also make the load more stable for skiing.)
The second winter was also fairly easy, for a total tally of 32 ski outings with her. And at the beginning of the season, when she was only 11 months old I even got her to balance by herself – however briefly – on skis and poles, before she ever walked or stood on her own.
Then in the spring, once she could walk, I got her out on skis again, although she mainly just played with her ski poles.
The third season was more difficult, as by then I had to carry her on my back, which meant I couldn’t keep her warm with an oversized jacket over both of us. (I also had to buy xc skate skis sized for the combined weight of both of us.) And often when I skate skied down a hill, at the bottom she would be laughing, for some reason unknown to me … until I realized that she had tossed away her hat and gloves way at the top of the hill. She also liked to exercise her newly found two-year-old independence by insisting on getting out of our Beco carrier to use my carbon fiber race pole for – as we call it in the avalanche world – snow penetrometry.
The fourth season started off okay, and I had high hopes for her to ski on her own. But after we tallied up seven ski outings on my back, she didn’t want to go out anymore after mid-February. Although my own ski season was going strong, and would eventually crack over half a million earned vertical feet, I was distraught that I seemed to have lost my little ski buddy. With hindsight, one factor is that although her snow jacket and pants still seemed to fit okay when standing up, when fully flexed on Daddy’s back the jacket arms and pant legs shortened up significantly, so she might have been too cold on a few days, and kids can be slow to shed bad memories. I also capitulated to her demand to wear only thin knit gloves, when I should have insisted on bulkier mittens.
Yet then one day she accompanied me downstairs to the ski work/storage room, and inquired about a very small pair of skis (amusingly adorned with high-end adult race ski graphics). “Those are *your* skis!” She proceeded to shuffle along the basement rec room floor. Hope!
Then, as if on cue, we received a late-March snowstorm in southern New England, just enough to shuffle around the neighborhood. Victory!
This fifth season has been going well, at 11 ski outings under her own power as of January 12.
Partly we’ve been fortunate with decent snowfall in southern New England – at least by southern New England standards – while northern New England suffers. And partly maybe I’ve figured out what I’m doing? So here are some tips … although remember that despite all my PSIA, USSA, AIARE, NSP, and AAA credentials related to skiing, I have no qualifications whatsoever to dispense parenting advice!
Start them off nordic: Even if your ultimate goal is lift-served downhill skiing, start your child off with nordic skiing. Your child will immediately be able to shuffle along a little bit, and nordic skiing will build great balance skills for downhill skiing. And since the typical “magic carpet” beginner area at a downhill area has less pitch and length than a nordic ski area, all a downhill resort really offers for a little kid ski outing is more expenses, more crowds, and more general hassle.
Use “real” boots and bindings: Those “universal” bindings that “fit” regular snow boots are fine for a few strides in the backyard, but that’s about it. Your child needs regular ski bindings for more than even just a few minutes of skiing. Otherwise, you are setting up both of you for long-lasting memories of frustration.
Dress yourself inadequately: If the temperatures are cold, dress yourself so that you’re on the verge of shivering. If the weather is very snowy or otherwise possibly wet, wear only marginally water-resistant clothing. This way you’ll be more in tune with what your child is experiencing – which will always be colder and wetter than you, no matter how well you try to dress your child.
Achieve economies of scale: We have only one child (though her independence streaks sometimes seem to cause enough trouble for a family of many more). To my pleasant surprise though, I’ve found that bringing along her nearly identically aged cousin from the next town over is in many ways if anything easier, not harder. (Well, except when they fought over space in their snow “castle” though a hastily built addition solved that problem.) Some aspects, like getting dressed, of course take twice as long. But once they’re out there interacting with each other, the burden on you can be easier.
Protect your back: This is potentially death by a thousand cuts. Or rather, back pain by many dozens of improper lifts. A kid down on the snow just looks so cute – unlike, say, a storage crate – and therefore is so easy to skip out on proper lifting techniques (especially if you’re fortunate enough to be free from any chronic back issues and therefore not worrying about such matters at the time). Fortunately I learned my lesson from some early warning signs this season. So for each fall – and your kid will have many, often deliberately, since that’s part of their fun – get down low with flexed knees, and no bending at the waist.
Think snowplay, not skiing: When I go on real ski tours, I’m admittedly rather intolerant of partners who want to fumble around. Skiing with our daughter is the exact opposite, as any amount of skiing is mission accomplished, no matter how brief. A typical snowplay outing starts off with skiing, then quickly digresses into general snow play, including making snow angels, digging in the snow with my perfectly kid-sized rando race shovel, hiding in the snow “castle” from monsters, and anything else that either of us can think of (even a Jay Peak roundtrip tram ride). Plus no matter what you think of the high prices and/or low nutritional content of ski cafeteria food, it will be worthwhile if it buys your child happy associations with skiing!
Insist on going out … but capitulate to going back in: About half our successful 11 ski outings so far this season have required some initial cajoling. Although I’ve given up on a few other planned outings entirely when she seemed to be a bad overall mood, otherwise I’ve persisted, on the idea that once she got over her initial reluctance, then she’d enjoy our skiing/snowplay outing. And indeed, that idea has proven correct. However, once we have been out for a little while, even it’s been only a *very* little while, and *then* she wants to go back in, well, in we go – often with no warning! (Especially on cold days, as she seems to go immediately from perfectly warm to “freezing” – and sometimes even both “freezing” and “chilly”!) Even though I want to encourage, push, nudge, cajole, etc. her if necessary into each ski outing, once it’s no longer fun for her, then I don’t want to create any bad memories.
Now what about the absence of sled/pulk recommendations for before your child is ready for self-propelled skiing? Until I learned about “baby wearing” I used a pulk for many outings with assorted nieces and a nephew. A pulk with a completely sealed canopy will shield your child entirely from wind and snow. For cold temperatures, the child will not benefit from your body heat, but you can easily pile on the blankets inside the pulk.
The disadvantages include being sealed up inside a little isolation unit, which some kids will dislike. In ungroomed snow, a pulk can be difficult to maneuver, even if you’re up to the workout. And a pulk can be yet another thing to pack into your car.
That said, the best pulk I’ve ever seen is the discontinued Ziffco model. The harness and crossed poles are excellent, and the pulk tracks exceptionally well, even on off-camber groomed high-speed turns. (Yes, I tested this when empty!) Search on eBay and Craigslist for used models. The Ziffco design has now been inherited by Kifaru (via an interim ownership period by Mountainsmith). Kifaru’s focus is on hauling gear, not kids, but a child canopy is still available.
Alternatively, some bike trailers have winter adaptation kits that essentially substitute skis for bike wheels. The advantage over a more traditional pulk would appear to be better glide, given that the entire pulk body is not being dragged over the snow. The disadvantage would appear to be the higher center of gravity, and hence compromised handling. However, I don’t any personal experience with these models. Probably best to try before you buy – too bad you can’t do that with the kid, also so far no desire to return her for a refund!
Jonathan Shefftz is a PSIA certified ski instructor (both alpine and nordic), U.S. Ski Association alpine race coach, avalanche instructor for AIARE and the National Ski Patrol, and governing board member for the American Avalanche Association. Jonathan patrols in Western Massachusetts at Northfield Mountain and Mount Greylock, as well as in his background in Amherst. He and Dave took their Level 3 avalanche course together almost ten years ago in January 2004, along with USFS Mount Washington avalanche forecaster Jeff Lane. Jonathan also organizes the NE Rando Race Series – both those in lycra and those more sensible are welcome!
Couple of very cool products reviewed on adventousparents.com! I want that 212Evolution Blanket for Alex, looks awesome!
Originally posted on The Adventures in Parenthood Project:
When the snow began to fall here in the Canadian Rockies, I immediately started to think about what I could do outdoors with my baby girl. Whatever we did, she’d have to be able to ride on me or in a sled or Chariot. I would also have to able to keep her warm. While I would be working up a sweat walking, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, she’d be sitting still and getting cold.
So, I was excited when information about 7 A.M. ENFANT‘s products landed in my inbox. One glance at the bunting bags made by the New York-based company, and I had a feeling I had just found what I needed to keep Maya warm and cozy through winter walks and activities. While 7 A.M. ENFANT is designed for urban living, the company was keen to expand into the outdoor adventure market, and agreed to send me the BLANKET 212evolution and Pookie Poncho to test-drive. To maximize their usage, I enlisted the help of Carolyn, another outdoor-loving mama here in Banff.
We just got back from Alex’s very first trip to the slopes and it was AWESOME! Yesterday we had shopped around the various ski stores in town for some toddler skis and the only place that had any left was the very reliable Joe Jones Ski & Board Shop in North Conway. For $39.99 we picked up a pair of Lucky Bums Youth Beginner Skis. Our’s didn’t come with poles, which might be why they were marked $10 under retail, but since Alex is only 2 he won’t be needing poles for a couple more years anyways.
These skis have a universal binding meant to work with most toddler snow boots, and Alex’s new LL Bean Snow Treads Boots fit perfectly! We found these boots yesterday at the outlet store for a $15 steal! The skis also have a bit of a fish ski pattern allowing little kiddos the ability to walk a bit more easily, especially with a slightly free-heel binding. They are recommended for ages 1.5-4 yrs.
When we pulled into Cranmore Ski Resort Alex was noticeably excited. One of his recent favorite Curious George episodes was “Curious George Christmas” in which George skis & snowshoes… he was excited to ski like Curious George!
We strapped the skis on and he was ready to go:
I took one short video with my iPhone, and later discovered the file transferred video is upside down on my PC, so this is the second short video clip… if I can find a way to flip the first one I’ll post it as it is pretty cute…
Alex first wanted to walk straight up the mountain, perhaps because that is what we do the other 3 seasons of the year. When I explained to him that the chairlifts bring the skiers up the mountain he immediately wanted to go on the chairlift. I had to break it to him it would be a couple years before he would be ready for that big step. We spent about an hour walking around with the skis on. When it was time to go he resisted, but I could see him getting tired from the effort and being out in the cold. Luckily Mommy arrived just in time to see him ski a few yards back to the lodge. He perked up again when he saw her and proudly pointed at his skis on his feet.
My parents started me skiing at 3. Seems like a lot of people around here started very early, or start their own children as early as they can walk.
When did you start? When did you start your kids? Please share any tips & insights you have with aspiring families looking to get their little ones on the slopes early in life in the comments below!
Adventure With Alex has some big announcements to make for 2014 but first a look back at last year! AwA had 26 posts last year, averaging 2 a month. The busiest day of the year was July 26th with 130 views. The post that day was Alex’s first 4000 footer! Mount Washington!.
Top 4 runners up:
- Burley Bee Bike Trailer Review Originally posted June 2013
- Bryce Path and Whitehorse Ledge Trails, and a Lesson In Hydration Originally posted September 2012
- Halloween Town at Purity Springs Resort Originally posted October 2013
- My Review of THE NORTH FACE Infant Lil’ Snuggler Down Suit Originally posted December 2012
AwA joined Facebook, and quickly got 114 likes! Our email subscribers grew to 164! I’m estatic to think that sharing our adventures is encouraging other families to create some of their own adventures! Alex also had his first rock climb, and first plane trip!
Watching the development of Alex from infant to toddler has been the single most amazing thing I have ever experienced. While I’ve seen nieces and nephews transform though family visits the day to day changes are so surreal. New words and connections are made almost every day. Hysterical moments of toddler misinterpretation often result. Even the frustrating moments when his budding independence seems like in-your-face defiance… I am trying hard not to miss any of it.
So what’s on the agenda for 2014? Well, many who know me are aware my winter guiding schedule does not allow for much free time for blogging, and sadly, getting outside with Alex. I can promise you this though, Alex will be on skis a few times this winter! Skiing as a child is my single most powerful memory and undoubtedly had profound impacts on decisions I have made in the last 20 years. I thank my parents for bravely putting me on the slopes in Tahoe, CA at the tender age of 3 and I am giddity at the prospect of someday watching my son leave me in the dust as he races down the mountain with the same youthful exuberance I still have! So look for near-future posts and gear reviews covering what you should be mindful of when skiing with a young toddler… I have been picking the brains of many who have a ton of experience, most recently a mom of 3 who’s youngest started at 19 months and is now 12 years old and a nationally recognized snowboarder.
Also for 2014, and something I am definitely new to, is sponsorship. I’ve always liked sharing my opinion on products I use with customer’s and clients and based on the statistics I get back from my blog people like reading reviews just as much as trip reports. So to that end I’ll be adding a bit more product reviews to AwA. More than just generic reviews found online these will be detailed accounts of the advantages and disadvantages of something I would truly use. If it’s something that helps with adventuring with kids I’ll be happy to test it and share my honest opinion with my readers.
Earlier this month I posted a review for Friendly Foot, a really cool grass-roots company I stumbled across and am stoked to be supporting. But even before that, in late Fall, Piggyback Rider, a company that manufactures a very unique and interesting solution to the child carrying dilemma has added me to their list of ambassadors and sent me their Nomis model to demo.
Alex, at 25 months, wasn’t quite ready to use this but when the Spring hiking season arrives I expect he’ll be the perfect size and we’ll log some serious miles on this so stay tuned for that!
Over the next couple months things will be a little quiet here while my guiding season is full bore. Those interested in ice climbing and avalanche courses can follow along over at my personal guiding blog. Expect AwA to ramp up to full speed come April as the winter guiding season closes and a 2 and 1/2 half year old and his Dad get back to red-lining the White Mountain National Forest, back-packing, learning to ride the Strider Bike, swim lessons, and what ever else adventure comes our way!
See you soon!
What is a review of foot deodorizer doing on Adventure With Alex? Well it’s quite simple really. I am genetically predisposed to having stinky feet. You can ask my mother. Or my wife. My feet reek. Add that to the fact I rock climb, ice climb, ski, hike, mountain bike, and paddle more than 200 days a year that puts me at an extreme need for some anti-odor ammunition. Long ago I gave up on the big name foot powders. They left my socks a bit grimy, smelled a bit too “minty”, and after a few weeks left me with a weirder funk than when I started… I tried spraying my shoes down with “Steri-fab” which seems to work wonders on our rental climbing shoes and plastic mountaineering boots that have different sweaty feet in them all year long. It didn’t work on my shoes, just everyone else’s. I truly have some awful smelling feet.
So it was with a bit of skepticism that on a late night of internet wandering I came across Friendly Foot All Natural Foot Powder. I can’t remember the exact connection but I know it was through LinkedIn. Regardless, the company caught my eye so I pulled up their website. A small company started by a long-time climbing guide in Washington State who was into environmental responsibility, organics and “paying it forward”… well I had to reach out. The connection was positive and a week later I had a 4 oz bottle to try out and review on my fledgling blog. The timing was impeccable as I was leaving for a 6,000 mile 48 hour 4 flight 2 night 1 day avalanche instructor course on the opposite side of the country the next day. I’ld be starting my day normally at 6am, flying out of Boston at 4:30pm, and arriving in Reno 8 hours later for a total same sock wearing time of 19 hours. Then ski boots for the day. Then return at 6am the next morning. A perfect test run!
After that extensive test I spent a few more weeks using the powder daily. My scientific control was asking my wife daily if she smelled my feet after coming home and removing my shoes. Normally I wouldn’t have to ask, she would let me know that those boots/shoes/socks had to go down stairs to the gear room immediately and I needed to wash my feet before I contaminated the whole kitchen. Now when I ask her she hesitantly says… no….
What sets this foot powder away from others is the scent. It is pleasant, not over powering. Tea-tree, Lavender, Eucalyptus, with a bit of Peppermint make up the main ingredients. Instead of smelling like strong medicated foot powder or floral baby powder it’s a more subtle, but effective scent, similar to the smell of quality massage oils.
I’ve dabbed a bit in my ski boots, climbing shoes, hiking boots, and house slippers, and the difference in odor is quite measurable… I even left my wet boots after ice climbing for 7 hours up stairs and my wife never noticed!
So yes, foot powder is now something I am using daily. Since I use it before and hiking with Alex I figured a review of the product would fit in just fine here. In full disclosure I was provided the product at no cost, but the opinions here are solely my own. If you know my wife you are welcome to ask her opinion on how well this stuff works!
Also, the kind folks at Friendly Foot have offered a 10% off discount to any Adventure With Alex readers! Just use coupon code “FF14″ at checkout!