Building appreciation and knowledge of the backcountry with your kids is one of the most rewarding things you can do as a parent. While the risks involved may seem a bit daunting, this post will hopefully show that it can be pretty easy if you follow a few simple tips.
Ski Touring Gear for Kids
Kitting out a kid in potentially expensive ski touring gear is the first hurdle to overcome if you don’t want to burn a hole in your pocket. Our approach has been to seek out good quality second hand gear and bargains on sale either locally in Australia or overseas, and includes:
- Skis: There’s plenty of good kid size powder ski models these days to choose from and we’ve tended to try and buy one all-round set to suit both resort and backcountry skiing. The pair Dane’s carrying above are 143cm Atomic Bent Chetlers that we picked up on sale for around $250.
- Bindings: Frame touring bindings are going to be more versatile than pin bindings for a one quiver kid’s setup if they’re skiing both resort and backcountry. The pair we mounted on the Bent Chetlers were Silvretta Pure that weight about 1kg and have a low DIN setting for kids that cost around $200 second hand. There’s similar style lightweight frame bindings available from Marker and Fritschi. If you’re confident with a drill and measuring tape, you can easily mount your own bindings by following instructions like those provided by Wildsnow.
- Skins: As kid’s skis are going to be way smaller than an adult pair, you can pick up a second hand pair and cut them down to size for well under $100.
- Boots: Going with the one quiver approach, buy some good lightweight touring boots that will also suit resort riding. Women’s ski touring boots will often come in small enough sizes to fit kids.
- Backpack: Kids over 10 years old can easily carry a 30 litre standing ski touring backpack adjusted to fit. If you use the guide of 25% bodyweight for carry a loaded pack, they’ll be able to carry 6-10kg quite easily. As the parent, you’ll end up carrying a bit of extra weight, so it’s a good idea to load up the kid with bulkier, lighter equipment like sleeping bags and tent tarps.
- Jackets & Pants: You’ll want to kit your kid out in similar lightweight shells to what you’re wearing yourself and these can either be sourced from hand-me-downs, second hand or at a discount from shops like Aldi.
- Thermal layers: It’s best not to skimp on this unless you want a cold, grumpy kid in tow, so go with high quality Merino thermals, polar fleece jumper and pants, down puffer, beanie and two pairs of gloves and socks.
- Avalanche Safety: While you should be planning a route to avoid any avalanche risks, it’s good to get your kids into thinking about safety and knowing how to use the gear from a young age.
Australia has ideal terrain to take kids ski touring and camping, given its relatively short vertical climbs and easy pitches.
- Make sure you check the weather forecast and ensure you’re heading out into good weather for the duration of your trip. While you might enjoying hunkering down in a blizzard, most kids won’t!
- Plan a route that doesn’t involve too much uphill for a first kid’s adventure. They’ll be keen for the downhill runs and setting up camp as opposed to slogging uphill for hours on end.
- Stay relatively close to civilisation if you do get half way and the kid refuses to keep going and you need to scupper your plans for the night. If you push them too hard on the first go they’ll be unlikely to want to join you again!
- Take a proper first aid kit and know how to use it.
- Focus on getting to camp as quickly as possible on the first night out. This might mean leaving later in the day so you can get there, set up and go to sleep relatively quickly without needing to entertain your kid without their normal electronics.
- Choose a camp site in the tree line so you can make a fire. This is a great time filler to get set up and source of warmth once the sun goes down.
- Take day packs so you can leave camp for side tours once you’re set up.
- Freeze dried meals and two minute noodles are perfect if you’re using a Jet Boil or similar camping stove for staying warm and nourished. Lots of tasty treats and lollies are essential to keeping your kid moving through the day.
- Don’t skimp on good quality sleeping bags and mats. We use -10˚ comfort / -15˚ limit rated down sleeping bags, NeoAir XTherm Thermarest sleeping pads and cheap closed cell sleeping mats underneath.
- Sleep in your thermals, polar fleece jumper and pants, clean socks, beanie and polar fleece gloves.
- Take a pee bottle so you don’t need to go outside the tent at night to urinate, and a DIY poop-tube to pack out solid waste.
- Head torches are essential for moving around the camp site at night and illuminating the tent once you’re in bed.
Once you’ve established your base camp you can head out on day tours in the surrounding terrain. As preparation, it’s a good idea to have done a few short day tours beforehand to get your kids familiar with using skins and hiking uphill. Kids will pick up skinning incredibly quickly, so the focus should be on choosing routes where the downhill reward is high compared to the uphill effort to get there.
As your kid is already carrying a day touring pack, the parent can repack this with the necessary gear for a day tour, and it’s a good idea to have a lighter day pack for the kid to carry their things in.
Just set your pace to what your kid’s comfortable with and be prepared to cut your route short if they complain too much. Bear in mind that they will need enough energy to get home, so pace yourselves accordingly with lots of breaks for water and snacks. If the conditions are good, you’ll be able to ski all day before returning to camp for another night or heading back home.