Growing up, Christmas was the end-all-be-all of the the winter season. It meant more holiday dinners with family (err, and more nothing fights, of course), gift giving, cookie eating, and decorating!
These days, living 2000 miles from our closest family members and only 40 miles from the mountain with the most snow in Colorado, winter has taken on new meaning.
Now, with a little family of my own, I look forward to a new annual tradition: Our yearly ski touring trip!
Since moving to Colorado, my husband and I vowed to enjoy a yearly backcountry touring trip, and so far, we’ve held ourselves to it – even on a busted winter in early 2015 and while pregnant in early 2016 – and 2017 was going to be no different!
Of course, this year’s trip was a new level of planning and adventuring…thanks to the baby Forest.
At 9 months old, this kid has had more ski days than I did at 15!! And better yet, his adventure buddy Asa was along for the ride.
I have written about being pregnant while skiing (on Outdoor Womens Alliance) and I’m excited to share a post on Coalition Snow with tips and tricks to backcountry skiing with infants, but wanted to share some more photos and details on here, too, because I think it is SO IMPORTANT that we get out kids outside!
When my good friend Tasha and her husband started making an annual Winter migration to Colorado to join Sam and I on these trips, we were determined to get our little ones out there with us. And I am SO proud to say we are DOING IT!
I admit, it’s not Always easy. But, as my husband says, nothing easy was ever worth it…right?
But where do we START?!
Short answer: At the beginning, I guess 😉
After doing some Google searching and finding inspiration from adventure mamas on Instagram, I decided the best approach to getting my boy into the backcountry is to combine my knowledge and personal experience with backcountry travel with what I do in the frontcountry, at home, and on day excursions. And guess what? Its. Actually. WORKING!
Yes, we have had a lot of setbacks, a few meltdowns (both baby and parents), a couple diaper blow outs, and had to tweak our systems/protocols/styles (fill in the blank), but we are SURVIVING! And better yet – Everyone is still smiling!
So, getting back to the whole starting at the beginning thing…
Part One of this 3-part post will share our steps to planning and embarking on a backcountry ski trip.
Part Two shares a review of our first trip to the Jon Wilson Yurt.
And, Part Three will feature the second ski trip to Tomichi Lodge.
So here we go…
Step 1: For me, that means identifying WHERE we wanted to go and HOW LONG we wanted to be out there. This requires some research…
This year, Tasha (and her husband Matt & little one Asa!) sparked my ambition and we decided to do TWO TRIPS!
The first one would be more of a shakedown – it would be a shorter distance, supposedly easier (wrong), closers to home (sort of), and allow us to test out our systems, make sure the boys (and apparently adults) could hack it, and hone our packing.
And the second would be our full-blown excursion!
We are very familiar with the San Juan Huts (our 2015 and 2016 trips), and determined that a 3-4 hour drive to the trailhead was not in the cards this year. So, I started doing some research on dog-friendly huts, cabins, lodges, and yurts in southern Colorado.
After consulting Google and some local friends in summer 2015 (I like having a LOT OF time to plan), we decided to go with a couple of places that were brand new to us!
We decided our first trip would be a 1.5 mile ski in and 2-night stay at the Jon Wilson Yurt near Lake City. It would be our first time staying in a yurt and it was set up with some great amenities (propane stove for cooking, wood stove for heat, cots and bunks to sleep on, cookware, etc.).
The best part? Some nice skiable terrain from the front door, we had the place to ourselves, AND the weather was amazing!
The second location we booked was Tomichi Lodge located over Monarch Pass in Gunnison National Forest. We actually booked this trip first (not planning on taking 2 trips) earlier in the summer of 2016, so Sam, Forest and I had a chance to check it out that previous June and I was blown away.
I shared a lot of the photographs I took during that summer trip with the owners, so you can see out all the inside details on their website!
This trip would feature a ~6 mile ski in and 2 nights in the lodge with access to TONS of backcountry skiing. And guess what? We had the whole place to ourselves and there was so much powder to ski!
So, with research done and locations booked, we moved to step two…
Step 2: I love gear and I LOVE making lists. And combining the two makes me, dare I say, nearly swoon! So next up, it’s all about the packing list, including gear, clothing and food for baby and adults.
Here’s a rough list of gear and clothing for a 2 night/3 day ski trip:
- Skis & Boots – Madshus Epochs with Voile 3-pin Hardwire, Essention skins, & Rossignol 3-pin BC boot/Scarpa T3 2-buckle boot.
- Clothing – Stio Environ Pant, Smartwool Corbet 120 Vest, NTS Mid250 zip up hoody, and socks.
- Accessories – Knotty by Nature beanie, Native Sanitas and Costa Wingman sunglasses, Black Diamond Mercury Mitt gloves.
- Other gear: Sleeping bag (30 degree North Face Cats Meow or Zero degree Big Agnes Ethel), camp pillow, camera, Sierra Designs down booties, first aid kit.
- Gear: Ergo360 baby carrier and Chariott stroller with skis
- Clothing: BAP fleece beanie, Patagonia capalene base layer and REI synthetic baselayer, 3 pair fleece socks and 1 pair fleece booties, 3 fleece onesie, Fleece Patagonia bunting, down bunting with down booties and gloves
- Accessories/other: Sunglasses, sunblock, 1 bag of disposable wipes, 8-10 disposable diapers per day.
I encourage you to use gear you are familiar with! I was using a brand new ski/binding/boot setupfor the Lodge trip and though I had a couple days on the skis prior to both trips, the boots just arrived the week we left, so I had limited time to break them in. I knew I was running the risk of busting my feet and low and behold, I got a blister on my right foot. Boo.
We were a party of 6 – and two of those six were still nursing – so we packed a lot of food. While the boys were primarily breastfed (which means lots of extra water for mamas), they also ate some solids.
Also, though I am usually a stickler for the menu, we jumped around a lot when it came to eating what we had planned to eat and snackatizing.
Here’s our list of meals/food from both trips:
- Breakfast: Oatmeal, Pancakes and Sausage, Bagels with Nutella and/or cream cheese
- Lunch: Grilled cheese with tomato soup
- Dinner: Stir fry (chicken/beef, peppers, onions), mac n’cheese with green chili sausage
- Snacks: KINDbars, GORP, fruit leather, dark chocolate, other food bars (e.g., Nature Valley, BOBO’s, etc.)
- Drinks: WATER! tea, coffee
Some other things to consider:
- Know your gear. Get out before a big trip and make sure everything is in working order. AND bring a repair kit! We forgot tie-down straps for the sled on the Tomichi trip but thankfully, part of Sam’s repair kit had some extras!
- Diapers, diapers, diapers! While I used disposables, Tasha used cloth diapers. We had sick babies and a couple blowouts, but in the end, we were both happy with our choices. I liked the light-weight component of a disposable (we used 7th generation brand) and Tasha was okay with some added weight to stick with cloth. It’s a personal choice.
- If baby ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. So make sure your little one has enough layers, food/water/milk, and gets the rest he/she needs to have fun!
Step 3: Pack up, head out early, & bring your patience! And if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!!
Whether it’s your first or 100th trip with a little one, there will always be “the unexpected”.
Will it dump snow? Did you remember sunblock? How did they get stomach bugs in the middle of nowhere?!
Whatever the elements and life throw at you, you will get through it – if you work together and try to keep a positive attitude. Sometimes it’s hard. Whether you’re carrying a little one or carrying all the gear, we learned that sharing the load is really important and when something doesn’t go exactly as planned, we needed to be willing to adapt.
I hope some of our experience helps out on your next adventure…but either way, enjoy the photos to come. I’m sure you’ll get a good laugh out of some of ’em 😉