8 Great Tips for Easier Air Travel with Children

Many things can go wrong when traveling on a plane with young children…from painful delays to lost luggage, to diaper disasters and screeching tantrums…while there are many events that fall out of our control, we, parents, better be prepared!

As we are getting ready to hop on a plane once again as a family, I am remembering some anecdotes and situations that occurred to us on some of the many air trips we’ve taken since my daughter was born.

The first time my child ever flew was when she was just 3 months old. Her and I were flying across Canada to visit my family out east in December. I will pass on the amount of luggage I had for this first trip! I was thankful for my ergobaby to allow me free hands to handle all the bags. On the way home, things got a little complicated. After getting up before dawn to catch the first flight, we had a very long second flight into Vancouver where we landed early in the evening. My last flight had been canceled due to freezing fog and we had to overnight in the City. In the line up to the airline customer service, no one would let us pass. My daughter was getting restless and hungry. When my turn came, I was told that I had to check my luggage out, get in a taxi to a hotel 20 minutes away and come back the next morning, check my luggage back in and hop on my final flight.

Before insulting the agent, I took a deep breath and went to sit down to nurse my baby and calm my nerves. Sensing my distress, the agent finally came to me to let me know that she had finally gotten us into the Fairmont Hotel at the airport. Jackpot!

It was just before Christmas, there was a massive decorated three in the lobby. We checked into our king suite and enjoyed a bubble bath in the massive tub, room service for dinner and a good night’s sleep. It was all good after all.

There is also that other time where I was flying with my daughter, then a freshly potty trained two-year-old. As a proud mom, I had the brilliant idea to not put a diaper on my baby’s bum…we spent a lot of time in the washrooms and went through all our changes of clothes.

When my husband flew to Europe by himself with our daughter for the first time, I couldn’t have been more nervous. The night before, I had this dream about them getting separated at the airport and her being all alone with no ID nor any mean to connect her to us. On their departure day, I scribbled all her information with a sharpie on her little pudgy arm and tried to brief her on what to do if she was ever separated from papa during the trip…trying to ease my own mind.

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Plenty of leg room!

Going through security is a large airport can also be challenging. I recall my daughter not quite understanding that she had to hold her arms up, spread her legs apart and wait while in the big, intimidating scanner at the Frankfurt airport, or why a lady in a uniform and rubber gloves was patting her limbs (seriously!).  At the next security screening we went through, although it was just a regular metal detector, she finally registered that she had to stand sideways with her arms up and legs spread apart…We sure had a good laugh.

This has taught me that, no matter how prepared we think we are, flying with a child is always an adventure. I myself always have considered flying as “a necessary hassle” and hope it to be over as soon as possible. I always get nervous at security and customs, although I don’t have anything suspicious in my bags nor do I have “anything to declare”…

I have to remind myself, however, how much I loved flying as a child, and how much the thought of the air portion of the travel was just as exciting as the rest. Watching movies back to back on the tiny screen, eating weird food out of a tiny tray, colouring, chasing my sister down the aisle…

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It’s about time she carries her own suitcase

I don’t have any miraculous tips or toys to make air travel with children easier, but I do try to stick to a few key principles:

  1. Have your ID’s and paperwork in order
    A valid passport is required when traveling outside the country, even for an infant. My daughter had her first one done at 3 weeks old! If you’re traveling within Canada and your child is younger than 17 years old, no ID is required. But to be on the safe side, always carry a birth certificate and the medical care card (it doesn’t hurt to also take a birth certificate with you even if your child has a passport).If only one parent is traveling, make sure you carry a parental consent form and a copy of your spouse’s passport. More information on travel documents and a consent letter form can be found here: https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/children
  2. Travel fast
    When possible, choose the most direct and less painful route. Pick flights with enough layover to get to the next gate but avoid long layovers whenever possible, or if you do, pick an overnight layover and break the piggy bank or use points to book a hotel room. We always book all our segments with the same airline, this way if one flight is late or canceled, the airline will have your family taken care of. We always fly the nearest airport from home and from our destination possible. Who wants to drive 4-5 hours after a long-haul flight with a young child?
  3. Travel light
    Don’t bring your home, but know what you’re allowed to bring. It’s amazing all you can carry for free when traveling with an infant! Car seat, stroller or child carrier (some friendly agents will even let you take a jogging stroller Hello Chariot! right to your gate, but that’s not guaranteed), suitcase, carry-on and a diaper bag. They actually allow for more luggage than two persons can actually carry. When traveling overseas, we try to fit all our stuff in only one large bag that we check in. Within Canada, we only take carry-ons as it now costs fair a bit of money to check a bag in. Our country (and western countries) are pretty well equipped with washers and dryers these days…
  4. Choose comfort over style
    Wear comfortable clothes and bring a change or two with you on the plane. Bring your kid’s favorite pj’s.Kids get dirty, especially when it’s inconvenient. Pack a plastic bag to put filthy clothes. Kids spill things on you; a friend once told me she always travels with her quick-dry hiking pants, easy to wash up and dry in case of a mess. I always pack a small soft blanket for naps. Pack extra wipes…these things are wonderful!
  5. Ipad is okay
    It’s a nice distraction to have on hand. Download some educative game apps and a few cartoons prior to departure. Invest in good child-specific headsets. Colouring books, reading books, small toys and comfort stuffed animals are also very appreciated.
  6. Snacks are your friends
    Authorities will let you carry baby liquids and soft food (hooray for pouches!) when traveling with an infant on laps but unfortunately not for kids over 2 years old…go figure why?! Pack some trail mix, crackers and cheese, veggie sticks, whole fruit, and treats. In addition to being a good back up if your child doesn’t like the plane food, snacks will keep kids busy and keep them from being “hangry”.
  7. Raise patient kids(I know, this is an oxymoron, right?!)We’re pretty fortunate that our daughter is fairly calm and patient most of the time. Some of it certainly has to do with the fact that she’s used to traveling but lots of it is just personality. Overnight flights are the best as she sleeps well on the plane. Some parents use homeopathy or chamomile in case kids get restless. Why not?!
  8. Calm Down and Fly On……For it will be over in a few hours and in 18 years your kids won’t care about traveling with their old mom & dad. If my tips don’t work out and the fight is a disaster, remember that there’s always a full supply of mini wine bottles on board. Sit back, relax and enjoy the flight!

What are your great tips for travelling on an airplane with young kids?

The Countdown to a Long Journey

In exactly four months to this day, my family and I will take off on our next big adventure; six months of travelling, climbing, skiing and enjoying uninterrupted time with each other as well as with our French family and friends.

 

We have itchy feet. We need to move out of our routine and comfort zone as often as we can. It’s now been three years since the last time we took off for several months. It was back when I was on maternity leave; we had gone to Europe for four months with our then 7-month-old baby.

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The biggest little traveller

 

The time before that was when we packed all our belongings into my small Toyota Matrix and moved across Canada to be ski bums. That was seven years ago.

 

This need to break with our everyday life for an extended period of time is cyclical and tends to germinate in my head shortly after I have accomplished a project or lived a dream I had had for a while.

 

I am not one to be fooled with the promise of freedom retirement will bring. I don’t want to put my life on hold and suck up my urges to live freely and explore the world at my family’s own pace until I am 65 for many obvious reasons.

 

This time around, we are leaving lighthearted as we both negotiated a leave of absence with our respective employers, which takes a huge financial stress off of our shoulders. What also makes a huge difference is that now that we’re homeowners, we don’t have to worry about giving up our rental and fearing to be homeless upon our return. We get to decide the terms of the rental.

 

At D-4 months, the things we need get sorted out in order to be all ready to leave when  November rolls around are mostly administrative. We need to get my daughter’s French passport and a spouse visa for myself, which will allow us to stay for an extended period of time in the Schengen Space. We also need to sort out what we are going to do with our vehicles and try to find reliable tenants for our condo through word of mouth.

 

And of course, we need to save money. Without the option of a deferred leave, it’s up to us to put money away each month so we can live without an income for months. $20K is the amount we have set as our savings goal to live 6 months in Europe. With the exchange rate not quite in our favor, this will convert to a mere 13K Euros, which is a little over 2K per month. We are also securing a personal line of credit, just in case. We will have to be frugal but we know it’s possible.

 

$20,000 can seem like a lot of money to put aside…and at the same time not a lot of money for 3 indivudials to live of of for half a year. We already had some savings for rainy days that we decided to roll into our trip fund. We are saving the rest at a pace of approximately $1,200 a month.

 

We plan on spending as much time as possible visiting friends and relative and therefore saving on accommodation. We are so fortunate that our friends live in some of the most desirable places in Europe. The rest of the time we will rent vacation homes and apartments and will stay in the odd hostels, campgrounds and AirBnB’s.

 

We can also rely on my in-laws’ vehicle to come and go, which will also save us a huge amount of money. The bulk of our expenses will be on airfare, medical insurance, ferries, food, coffee, gas, ski lift tickets and vino and beer (which will be our exchange commodity for staying at our generous friends). oh, and we will also need new climbing shoes.

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Leaving on an airplane is always a source of great excitment…no matter how often we do it.

 

Our project is bringing a lot of excitement in our household and we love planning together and talking about what we are going to do. While we don’t have a clear plan and are hoping to go with the flow, there are some must-do things that we like to prioritize, like spending the holidays with my in-laws, which I can’t recall ever doing before. We also want to go back to Spain, visit Sicily, climb in Greece, ski in Chamonix, hang out in our beloved La Grave, ski in Queyras…

 

We obviously have some compromises to do this summer and need to keep our adventures a little more low key than usual. My husband’s desire for a new mountain bike will have to be put on hold as will our wish to replace the camper we miss so much.

 

We are also mindful about every purchase we are doing as anything that comes into our condo will have to be stored somewhere. But we know how much it’s worth it. So very worth it. Bring on the countdown!

 

What tips do you have to prepare for a long trip?

Purpose

“Your greatest contribution to the universe may not be something you do but someone your raise” Andy Staley

 

To all the mothers, who with dedication strive to accomplish the most natural yet the most complex of all tasks; bring up independent, intelligent and kind humans beings.

…And to all the fathers who embark upon the journey with them (of course!).

Happy Mother’s Day, with all my love and admiration.

E.

 

 

Easter Wine Tasting & Climbing in Skaha, BC

Easter in Skaha is becoming a tradition for our family…and every other climber in Western Canada, as we found out this year.

Integrated into the BC Provincial Park system less than ten years ago, the Skaha Bluffs keep gaining in popularity as the number of rock climbers in Western Canada grows exponentially year after year.

Tucked on the Western slopes of the Monashee mountains just above Skaha Lake near Penticton, the Bluffs offer close to 1000 routes ranging from 5.4 to 5.14. This South Okanagan gem benefits from a warm and dry climate that is unsurprisingly very appealing to warmth-deprived Calgarians escaping the cold and Vancouverites escaping the wet and gloomy.

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Hiking to the bluffs in the warm spring weather on a previous visit to Skaha

If the destination is popular in the spring and fall, it is known as almost too hot for climbing during the summer months; climbers then have to aim for early morning and evening sessions. I have heard through the great vine, however, that local route setters are currently working on a new north-facing crag…Some winter climbing is also possible sometimes, although the gate to the parking area is usually open from late March to late November.

Speaking of vine, the climate in Skaha combined with the nature of the rock are not only benefiting climbers; they are also creating the ideal conditions to grow grapes. The perfect exposition combined to gentle slopes, rocky soil, cutting edge irrigation technology and a local savoir-faire developed over the last thirty years or so make this area one of the best in Canada for producing award-winning wines.

Fine wines, great climbing, and decent weather forecast all aligned to guarantee a great time on our Easter getaway.

If we’re usually camping on our annual Easter getaway to Skaha, this year we were lucky to benefit from the warm hospitality of my sister Anne and her partner Chris, recently established in Shaka where Chris’s family is from. In addition, our father, Jacques, also decided to tag along for the trip and booked a last-minute flight ticket from Quebec City into Cranbrook to enjoy the road trip with us and a long overdue get-together with my sister and I.

Although climbing was obviously on our list, this time we took the opportunity to explore a bit further what Penticton and the Skaha area have to offer in terms of activities for the small and big kids alike.
The heavy rain we had on the first morning didn’t put a damper on our spirits and we headed straight for the Penticton Aquatic Centre, auntie, and grandpa in tow. My daughter, who I suspect to be way more interested in swimming than she is in climbing, was in heaven!

Splashing in the huge hot tub

Penticton, a City of over 40,000, really has an amazing selection of recreation amenities and counts on a state-of-the-art aquatic centre that provided a full morning of fun for everyone, in spite of the mega yellow water slide being out of service.
The rain finally stopped around midday and therefore we were able to get out for an afternoon stroll in the gigantic Skaha Lake Park.

Rated #1 attraction in Penticton on TripAdvisor, this park located a stone’s throw away from my sister’s place didn’t disappoint. From riding bikes along the lakeshore to building sandcastles on the beach, goofing around on the two playgrounds and feeding the gazillion ducks in the creek, the park was well worth the daily visit.

One of the daily visits to the Skaha Lake Park
Not quite the beach temperature yet
Paved trails to ride bikes

And of course, there was the climbing!
We had never seen the Bluff’s parking lot this full, but we still managed to find some routes to kick off the season and spook the crap out of ourselves awaken our senses on the tiny technical ledges.

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My sis and I climbing side-by-side on the solid gneiss

We all gathered at the “Day Care” crag on a warm afternoon to make the kids climb and I must say that it is a very good initiation area, as its name tells. It was surprising over that weekend to see how many climbing families there are and to see that more and more parents are starting to appreciate this family-friendly activity (or perhaps it is that more and more climbers are starting to have kids?? I wonder…)

Parents will have to be mindful of ticks early in the season and do a full children and pet checkup at the end of each day.

Maya and Eva, 3 1/2 and ready to rock
Climbing lessons are on!

On a long weekend, those who want to tackle specific projects have to get up early to beat the crowd, which my husband and I took turns to do…on some mornings.
Another highlight of our stay was the time we spent with Chris’ family around great meals and the chugging tasting of local wines.

Paul, Chris’s father took us all on a nice walk along the mountainside to the nearby Pentâge Winery on Easter Sunday.

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Grasslands and rocky cliffs are typical of the area’s landscape
Half of our wine-tasting posse on its way to the winery
Pentâge’s vineyards overlook Skaha Lake and the valley
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One kind of “Heaven’s Door”

There, we were introduced to Julie Rennie and Paul Gardner, former Vancourites established on their land since 1996.
Passionate about their craft and so eager to share their knowledge with their visitors, Julie and Paul grow 19 types of the highest quality grape in small lot releases on their 23-hectares property.

Cheers!

In the sleek design tasting room where colourful local paintings contrast with the dark plywood and steel walls, Julie served us a crisp Gewürztraminer, followed by a Sauvignon Blanc and an oak barrel-aged Roussanne-Marsanne-Viognier, which really delighted our privileged group of tasters.

We then completed the tasting with a rich Syrah and took our glasses outside on a private tour of the impressive 5000 sq. ft natural rock cellar carved right from the bedrock, which offers the controlled climate required for the French-made oak barrels to operate their magic.

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Eva and Uncle Chris climbing the granite slabs in the natural rock wine cellar, a glass in hand

Paul the winemaker then took some time out of his busy schedule to share some of his wine-making and travel stories with us…along with some dirty jokes.

We left the winery with fuzzy heads and a baby stroller heavy with a sleepy child and numerous bottles of Pentâge wine; some of them were consumed that very night, paired with the delicious Easter dinner prepared with love by Sally, Chris’ mother.

We departed Skaha the next morning with the skin on our fingers still intact, as this time we didn’t make climbing the core focus of our stay. However, we departed Skaha with our batteries recharged from the great times spent with the family (and extended family) and a bottled sample of Skaha’s terroir in our luggage.

Where to stay in Skaha (if your sister doesn’t  live there):

Banbury Greens Campground (opens on April 1st) Special early season rates for tenters and small camper vans. Sits on the right side of the lake to get the early morning sunshine. Hot showers, fire pits, and electrical hook-ups. No groceries nor restaurant nearby. The most popular spot for climbers.

Penticton is a fairly large City and therefore you will find accommodation options to suit any taste or budget from motels to vacation rentals: www.visitpenticton.com


Where to eat:

Bad Tatoo. A craft brewery with a great ambiance and tasty pub fares and healthy dishes at a reasonable price point.


Where to have a drink:

The Cannery. The other craft brewery. Excellent beer with the flagship brew being the Muse. Snacks and sandwiches available.


More family-friendly activities:

Ride the Kettle Valley Rail Trail between Penticton and Naramata

Climb indoors at the new bouldering cave in town

Tour other wineries of the South Okanagan VQA (which most of them open on the Easter Long)

Drive down Route97 to Oliver and Osoyoos and check out the Desert Interpretive Centre

Hike the Skaha Bluffs’s Trail and look for bighorn sheep and snakes.

On Spending Money On Experiences Rather Than Stuff

Lately, I have seen on Facebook all sorts of articles, quotes and scientific evidence to prove that people who spend money on travel live happier than the ones who spend money on material things. It seems to be all over Social Media these days.  Perhaps it always shows on my feed because of the obscure Facebook algorithm which tends to only feed you the very targeted content you want to see…

Anyhow, I can say that I obviously agree with that concept. However, I also think that, over and above “how” we spend the disposable money we make, there is an important nuance to be made on how we “earn” the money to spend on travel and experiences and how we decide to spend it in the everyday life as well.

To me, it seems like living a happy, balanced life is the result of a series of choices and decisions, as well as a certain level random events and factors out of our control of course. The choices and decisions on how we make a living and how we shape our lifestyle day in and day out matter a lot and shouldn’t be made lightly.

It goes without saying that if you work a highly stressful job that you dislike and put in crazy overtime, then have to commute an hour each way every day, chances are you’re not living a very happy life even if, when you do get some time off, you spend your money traveling. You get where I am getting at, right?

Traveling brings happiness. Experiences bring happiness, whether they are in the form of sports, arts, craft, music, volunteering for a noble cause, cooking, learning about topics of interest, or simply spending time with friends and family. Work can also even be a source of happiness, for the fulfillment, challenge and human connections it brings.

Each lifestyle decision impacts our ability to spend more time (and disposable income) doing things that bring us joy.

For our family, in order to be able to spend a large amount of time and money doing what we love such as climbing, skiing, traveling, etc., the lifestyle decisions we make translate in all the different spheres of our lives.

 

  • We purposefully decide to work less.

My husband works seasonal jobs in order to get a few months off each year. I work four days a week.

We calculated that we work an annual average of 23 hours per week, which is less than one day per week. 1/7 of our time in total. This allows plenty of time to take care of chores and plenty of time to spend together as a family, as a couple and on our own as I described in this previous post. We don’t make huge incomes; we are pretty aligned with the median income for two parents Canadian families. Having plenty of disposable time on our side is our priority #1.

I must also say that we also enjoy the work we do, for the most part. We certainly don’t dread going to work each day and both are lucky enough to work in very friendly environments. I think this is quite significant because although only 1/7 of our overall time is spent working, it’s a relatively large part of our “awake” time.

 

  • We don’t drive fancy new vehicles.

Our car is 9 years old and our truck: 21! They are long paid off and the truck is really only used on occasions, to go sled-skiing or on camping trips, and on the occasional drive to town. The rural character of the Kootenays makes it challenging to only have one vehicle, but we could only have one if we really wanted to.

The vehicles we drive surely are not sexy, but they are simple, reliable and sturdy.

 

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Tailgate picnics taste just as good in an rusted old truck
  • We live close to where we work and recreate.

My husband walks to work at least 6 months a year and my work and daycare are 5 km from home.

From where we live, we can access hundreds of kilometres of trail for hiking, biking and xc skiing right in our backyard, ski right from our door step. We also have access to six climbing crags and a sweet climbing gym, Spirit Rock, within less than 45 minutes of driving. The Purcells and South Rockies are only a short drive and snowmobile ride away and offer countless options for backcountry skiing.

We even have an airport 25 minutes from home!

This is what my bike commute route looks like
  • We live small.

We live in a 2-bedroom condo of a mere 1,000 square feet. This is 1,100 square feet smaller than the average Canadian home*. Our condo doesn’t have a garage nor any large storage.

Everything we own fits into our living space (and on our deck). Our mortgage is small. The maintenance costs are reduced because we live in a strata and therefore we share them with other owners. Our maintenance duties are also reduced to the bare minimum, which leaves us free to lock our door and head out for as long as we want.

I wouldn’t say that there aren’t times where we miss having a yard, a carport or a heated garage to store our toys because we do. But overall, this living situation works for us and allows us to spend money and time on things that matter more.

 

  • We don’t wear fancy clothes.

We don’t wear rags either. We are not overly trendy or fashionable, we are not complete hippies either. We wear functional, quality clothes that last a few years and we own them in small quantity. Condo living forces us to keep things pretty slim and tidy as we only have 2 closets and 2 dressers.

The same rule applies to outdoor clothing. We have some key quality pieces that serve different purposes. We don’t own different colour ski pants for each day of the week. My daughter, just like us, only wears a few of her favourite pieces each season. We buy clothes on sale, online or locally and occasionally from outlets. For my kid, we rely on hand-me-downs and consignment store and presents from the grandparents.

 

  • We only own the gear we use and we use all the gear we own.

Here again, although we like to have the proper gear and mostly like it new and shiny, space is limiting us in what we can possess. We have a small but well-organized gear closet that sometimes is the tidiest space in our home (!).

We buy most of our gear from my husband’s pro-deals as he works in the ski and outdoor industry, or from outlets and sometimes second hand. The MEC Online Gear Swap is a gold mine for brand new gear that’s never been used. Some people buy the top of the line and never use it as they don’t have the time nor the energy…

We sell our gear online too before it looses all the value and renew it periodically. We trade and borrow some items that we don’t use enough to justify buying such as a canoe for a single annual trip, or xc ski gear for my husband who nordic skis twice a year. We don’t accumulate gear and discard anything that’s beyond use as we just don’t have space to store it “just in case”.

I must say however that sometimes we indulge and we feel okay about it because spending money on gear brings us joy and we know we make good use of it. It doesn’t just sits on a shelve and collects dust.

 

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The experience is free. How much you spend on gear is up to you.
  • We cook, bake, garden, and freeze.

We mostly eat in, unless we are traveling because we love to discover other cultures through food and culinary customs. We cook most of the meals we eat and prepare freezers meals ahead of time to avoid the “take out” temptation. We bring our lunches every day at work and daycare and when we travel too as there is nothing more enjoyable than picnics.

We are also very lucky that friends have offered to grow vegetables in their garden. We can then enjoy the fresh goodness of summer through crunchy organic greens and delectable berries and veggies. It’s also a nice way to socialize, teach our daughter where her food comes from and let her get her hands dirty. It’s also a really nice way to get the benefits of a backyard without owning one.

Lastly, we ski, climb, run, bike, paddle, camp, travel abroad, go on weekend getaways, fly to visit family, go on road trips and rarely think twice when it comes to planning a trip because we feel we have been diligently saving our money and organizing our time to do so.

We feel very good about spending money on these experiences that are meaningful to our family. That doesn’t mean that all our good principles go out the window when we are traveling. We don’t stay in 5-star hotels, rent fancier cars then we own or go on luxurious excursions…

We travel the way we live, make mindful decisions, just like in our everyday life and that feels alright!

What are your tips to afford the time and money to travel or do what you really love?

*http://business.financialpost.com/personal-finance/mortgages-real-estate/canadians-have-the-third-largest-homes-but-they-may-downsize-to-deal-with-affordability-report

The Little Skier Gear Check-List

“Children of winter never grow old”  Warren Miller

 

 

From all the passionate skiers I have met, whether they’re 2 or 82, I do not know any who acts old…

Personally, sometimes I do wish I had embraced this passion earlier.

If I started skiing at the ripe age of 4 and snowboarding at 10, it isn’t until I turned 18 that it really started being more than this casual hobby you do a few weekends here and there.

It could have been worse…my husband didn’t start skiing until he was 20!

Ski adventures are really something that brought us together as a couple, and therefore, there was no question that we would want our child to learn to ski…

To love to ski will be up to her obviously.

Learning the skills and confidence required to be a proficient skier is much easier at an early age, no matter how athletic one is.

We also feel like there are a few things we can do as parents to at least spark a tiny light of passion into our child.

We believe that passion for skiing in comes with 3 crucial things. On the parents’ side: a laid-back attitude and a good sense of humour and from the kid’s side: good gear.

In a previous post, I have listed the items we take on climbing trip to BC in the (wet) spring time. Now it’s time to share what I have learned about gearing a child up to enjoy BC’s Interior cold snowy winters.

#1. Clothing

Nothing is whinier than a cold kid!

Here, the same principle applies as for adults who know a thing or two about dressing up for the backcountry: love your layers!

It starts with good thermal underwear #goodoldlongjohns that will wick away moisture and keep the skin dry. Polypropylene, merino wool, polyester…many outdoor companies now make excellent first layers for infant & toddler as small as size 0-3 months! We usually like to stock up at MEC (REI in the US or Decathlon whenever we go to Europe) as their home brand is pretty good and inexpensive. Long sleeves thermal underwear, tops and bottoms, are a must every season in the great outdoors!

Avoid cotton like plague as it will keep the moisture in and make your little guys cold…and whiny. Even if they typically don’t have a stinky sweat, children sweat too, even in cold weather.

Over the thermal underwear comes the insulation layer in the form of a fleece or wool sweater (here again, no COTTON). The thickness can vary depending on the temperature and multiple insulation layers can also be added depending on your child’s tolerance to cold temperature.

A good pair of ski socks to keep the little feet & toes warm to complete the outfit and voilà!

I personally love the brand Kombi for their ski socks and mitts. This Canadian company sometimes sells socks and mittens in combo-packs, which is great when a pair is wet and makes it a great value for your money. The ski socks are thick and super stretchy which will often allow you to get two or more seasons out of them. The “animal” mittens are super cute and greatly contribute to the fun of getting dressed up.

The outer layer, the protection layer, has to be warm and waterproof, well-fitted and allow a great ease of movement. My preference for ski suit goes to the fabulous “one piece” that, although not practical for toilet-trained children is warmer and more snow proof than the two-piece bib & jacket.

This year I have invested in the Kids Legacy Ins Suit by Helly Hansen and I rate it 5 stars. Well designed with a fully waterproof shell and fully seam sealed, it is light and thin yet really warm as insulated with PrimaLoft. It also features some great details such as an adjustable elastic waist, arm and leg cuffs for a perfect fit over the boots and mittens, snow gaiters with a removable rubber band that prevents pants from riding up, removable hood, and zippered pockets. While a little more pricey than the average kids ski suit (great to strike on an end-of-season clearance), I am really impressed by the design and functionality as well as the style.

2018 update: Our daughter wore her one piece Helly Hansen through two winter seasons which confirms that the investment was worthwhile. This year, she is 5 and we have purchased a two-piece snowsuit made out of the K Legend Ins Jacket and the K Vertical Ins Bib  and I am really happy with the quality. The only detail that I think could be improved is the addition of cuffs to keep the snow out of the sleeves. I sure hope that we get two winters out of this set!

The infamous MEC “Toaster” suit that we had when my daughter was littler is also very popular at our local ski hill and also offers great warmth and style at an affordable price point.

Finally, to top it all up, a nice fleece balaclava keeps the head, neck and face warm and the helmet well fitted.

From my husband’s experience in working as a ski patrol, and from my own experience spending so much time outside in the winter and absolutely despising the cold, the quality of clothing does make a huge difference and is essential in having a positive relationship to winter.

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We love to ski…because we’re wearing proper clothes

#2. Safety and protection

Because we all can deal with a broken limb but no parent wants to deal with a head-injured child, a well-fitted proper ski helmet is mandatory.

Unlike feet, a child’s head grows at a very slow pace and therefore it is not recommended to pick a helmet that is too big, hoping the child will grow into it.

The helmet also has to be snow sports certified and hold at least one of the following international standards ASTM F2040, CEN 1077 or Snell RS-98. A ski helmet should also be regularly inspected and discarded at any show of apparent damage or after a significant impact. More information on helmet safety standards and how to choose a helmet properly can be found here: www.skicanada.org

Goggles are also very important as they protect the eyes against the wind, the cold, the snow, potential poky entrants and the UV rays, which are accentuated on the snow.

Because I always look for great performance and style (#skiprincess) but I am also very mindful of value (#Iamcheap), I like that Smith Optics propose a helmet/goggle combo for kids in many fun colors.

Without any major accident and if properly cared for, helmet and goggles could last for 2 to 3 seasons at least.

img_0592-2Another piece that can fit in this category is the ski harness.

Currently in the middle of her second season, my daughter still skis in her harness as she isn’t 100% able to stop on her own nor turn quickly to avoid obstacles. Because we all find more exciting to ride the big chairlift as a family rather than doing laps on our double black diamond bunny hill, we are big fans of the harness.

A mom once offered the advice to wear it around the hips and waist rather than on the shoulders and we do feel that it works best as it isn’t pulling the child backward and allows for a more neutral leg position and straighter torso. It also makes it easier for us to help stir the hips and correct the trajectory.

# 3. Skis & boots

If I wouldn’t advise on saving dollars and cents on cheap clothing, I am a little more flexible when it comes to gear for small children. One thing I would recommend however is to pick boots that are recent enough to provide cushy padding for comfort and warmth. I recall the boots weren’t all that cushy back in the ’80’s. I think it’s okay to pick next or second next size up as the boots are nicely tied around the ankle with the single buckle #pragmaticmom.

The second thing would be to pick the appropriate length of ski for your child’s weight and leg strength. I regret picking 77cm-long skis last winter as even this year, they feel a little too long and hard to put on the edges for our lean 26 lbs 3 1/2-year-old. With the assistance of the Edgie-Wedgie, a little piece of rubber that tie both ski tips together and another controversial accessory amongst parents and ski instructors #lifeordeathmatter, she is able to perform a nice-enough snow plow #pizza.

Gear exchange stores, ski swaps, hand-me-downs, and online clearance are all excellent ways to put your hands on new or used ski gear as toddlers rarely shred damage their skis. Your local ski shops may even have a trade-in or seasonal rental program. In Kimberley, Kootenay Mountain Works offer an excellent trade-in deal and the KAR rental shop offers a seasonal rental program with an end-of-season purchasing option. Check them out!

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All geared up and ready to rip

#4. The little extras…

A large sled can be useful to haul child and gear from the parking lot (or from home in our case) to the bottom of the slopes or to haul a toddler in melt-down mode back to the car at the end of the day #wetnoodle.

Packing lots of healthy snacks and even a nice home-made healthy lunch can also prove a great way to make the skiing more fun. As well, bringing a whole whack of small change to be spent on ski hill french fries, hot dogs and sugary hot chocolate is considered good planning, as those items will always be more appealing to a kid (and a father) than the healthy lunch you spent precious energy to make.

To make the skiing experience enjoyable for the whole family, I recommend bracing yourself with a relaxed attitude as a ski day with a toddler is sometimes made out of a single run and lots of warm-up breaks.

To conclude on a quote full of wisdom:

” The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway ” Queen Elsa

We love to ski..and to eat snacks with our buds

The Healthy Balance of a Modern First-World Outdoorsy Family

A Family who [eats, plays, travels] together lives happily together…

Sounds familiar, right?!

Sounds true?!

Of course.

Lately, I have been reflecting on what makes our family life fulfilling, rich, balanced and enjoyable and have come to the realization that in our case, family balance stands on five pillars.

1. HER

In the first place, there’s THE child. When our child is well and healthy ( and by healthy I mean free of extremely annoying but insignificant cold, flu, ear infection or any of the zillion ailments children catch in a year) and when her needs are fulfilled life seems easy and peaceful. Tuning into her own schedule, listening to her needs and making our decisions with her well-being in mind, always…well, almost.

Spending time with and for ‘Her’ is our main duty as parents and for the most part we do it with abundant pleasure. ‘Her’ still being a toddler, most of our awake time is spent fulfilling her physiological and emotional needs. My husband and I share that duty; sometimes we take turns and sometimes we do it as a team.

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Meet the little earthquake who shook our lives like never we would have thought it would!

 

 

Which brings us to:

2. US

Us as in “us 3”. Papa, maman, baby girl. The nuclear family. The time we spend together is split between the time doing nothing special but prepping meals, eating, driving places, getting dressed, etc. As well there is all that time we purposefully spend together playing outside, going to the pool, the library, camping, visiting friends, traveling. This certainly comes high on our list as what makes us feel happy and satisfied with our lives and also high in the level of priorities when trying to fit everything into our modern days schedules.famille-wasa

We firmly believe that exposing our child to the outdoors and to the things we are passionate about and making her part of (some) of our adventures has more benefits than detriments.

 

However, I sometimes find that the quality of this ‘us’ time and the satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) it provides depends a lot on the quality of the ‘him’ time…and also, to a certain extent, to the ‘I’ time.

 

 

3. HIM

My husband and I made a deal. He never wanted to have children whereas I really did. It was always very clear between us and even imprinted in my wedding vows that I would never stop him from doing what he loves. Since I have known him, what has been so critical to his realization and happiness is spending time in the mountains and I doubt this will ever change. This part of who he is made me attracted to him in the first place and I need to remind myself that I cannot nor do not want to change that.

“He” is the kindest, most thoughtful and caring father to his family and I feel so grateful for that. However, being mountain-deprived suddenly turns him into an impatient, grumpy person, which makes everyone miserable, including our daughter and myself.

That is why a healthy dose of adventure for him is essential to a healthy, happy family life for all of us.

Now that I can no longer be his main partner in crime, “he” had to build his network and find people he likes to share time with. Having one or several motivated and available friends to share adventures is certainly the key to keep doing things for yourself when you have children too young to belay you or be your rope gun or break trail.

Fortunately, we each have a few friends to do that, thank goodness! Most of our loyal adventure partners also have families and some don’t. Scheduling and planning can sometimes be challenging but it usually all work out.
4. “I”

Because historically  moms often will only allow themselves  time and attention after everybody else has been cared for (ha!), in #4. comes the “I”.

Again, I largely benefit here from having a husband who understands how important it is to have some alone time to train, go outside to climb, ski, run, bike or even just have coffee with a friend and clear the brain from every day stress and the responsibility of the family.

From the moment our daughter was born, he was always very supportive of me taking time for myself and do what I love. Moreover, he has always been the one pushing me to do so when fatigue is peaking and motivation is at its lowest.

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So thankful to have a few loyals friends to share adventures. Here with Shenoa, my main partner in crime and mom friend

“I” time is something I make a point to take once or more per week, even if it’s just for an hour. Because when I return, I feel calmer, more patient, energized and happier and I see the positive impact it has on my family….and on my relationship with my husband.

Which brings me to the first and last component of our family: “US”

 

 

5. “US”

Us as in “him & I”. The family core. Where it all started. That desire of two human beings to merge their lives and found a family.

For ten years, it had been just him and I doing everything together; partners in the everyday just as in the boldest adventures. From multi-day ski traverses, to epic 24 hours alpine climbs, from academic achievements to oversea and transcontinental moves, from dirtbag living to granite countertops and retirement savings.

The birth of our daughter has obviously shaken our lives more than we could ever have imagined it would and brought a different dimension to our team.

Without any family around and with all the attention a new-born requires, it took us a while to start doing things as a couple again.

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One of our first full day in the mountains together after baby. Hervé took me to a route he had just recently first-ascended in the Rockies

It’s only quite recently that we’ve started planning evening dates and day trips in the mountains together more regularly again, thanks to great babysitters and generous friends. The key here has been the good old kids swap with friends who also have kids and also like the concept of ditching them once in a while to spark the romantic fire again while getting some vertical in.

In conclusion, all I can say is we do our best to keep those 5 “pillars” described above as strong as possible and that like every family, we do our best to keep each of us content, happy, loved and cared for.

All of this depends on our success in organizing the other aspects of our life ( aka earning an income, doing chores) so that we maximize the time together and the time to ourselves.

It’s not always easy to keep every member of a family absolutely content and family life perfectly balanced, but with a good dose of communication and lots of love, everything is possible.

 

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For my husband, plain old hiking is “no, thank you” but family adventuring “yes, please”…but is it okay if I go climbing tomorrow?

Vamos a Chulilla! Climbing in Spain with Kids

Hola, Espanol!” says my daughter, giggling, as she runs out of the Panaderia. In her hand,  she holds a small pastry generously offered by the owner. Then, she runs across the narrow street to the village Plaza and sits on a bench to savour her sweet chocolate-filled mini croissant with a delicious honey-nuts topping.

It’s 11 am on beautiful Thursday in November and the Plaza is bathed in the sun and bustling with life. Today is market day. The locals are shopping for fresh produce, leather purses or pajamas and socks. Nearby, at the Caffè, a few climbers are sipping café con leche and catching up on emails, eyes glued to their laptops.

The temperature is cooler at this time of year and therefore no one rushes to the crags before noon, especially the shady ones; the mythical ones.

 

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A village nestled between the cliffs. Photo by Shenoa Runge

No one rushes to the crags but us. On a ten-day vacation with young children, we want to maximize every hour of daylight to explore and enjoy this huge climbing playground. Time is limited and family vacation also means we are here to spend quality family time.

 

We’re wondering how we possibly are going to fit everything into ten days…
Although a tiny little village, Chulilla is an enorme climbing destination. After timid developments in the 90’s, local route setters have been very prolific in the last few years, with increased community support towards this major tourism draw. The spot now counts over 800 routes dispersed across a dozen different areas, some located at walking distance from the village and some a little further away in the valley.

The quaint, white-washed village is perched on a bluff and surrounded by countless kilometres of bright limestone walls, perfectly vertical or slightly overhanging.


The climbs are known to be long and tenuous. It isn’t uncommon to link beautiful technical moves for 40 metres and even 50 metres in one single climb. Climbers must come prepared: strong forearms, eighty-metre ropes and lots of quickdraws are required to make the most out of a stay in Chulilla.
While the area offers climbs that range from 6a to 8b, Chulilla is an absolute paradise for 7b climbers, grade in which many of the most iconic climbs can be found. This is a little unfortunate for us, who happen to be modest climbers in comparison to many visitors to this destination.
The information we hold prior to our arrival is that routes in the 6th and low 7th grades can be found but can prove a little runout or polished. Nonetheless, the place still looks appealing to my dear husband, our loyal climbing partners Marc and Shenoa and myself, and we feel confident about finding nice climbs to play on.

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Marc and Hervé eager to get on the rock

In such a large destination with all the many different sites, the local climbing guidebook Chulilla: Guia de Escalada is absolutely essential, but requires some studying.
Fortunately, after day 2, we realize that there is some excellent climbing in our grade with plenty of newer climbs on excellent rock and very well equipped. Sectors like Fantasia, Cherales and la Peneta is were we end up spending a lot of time, in the warm autumn sunshine. These areas never seem crowded although very easily accessed. Most of those sites however, are not very toddler-friendly.

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Moms get on the rock while children play nearby, sheltered by the overhang. Photo by Marc Trudeau

The sites that we find fit and welcoming to families are La Nevera that is of easy access and has fun caves for the little cavemen. Competicion is the best area we found to set up a small top rope for the kids and is also an easy end-of-day crag on our way to the bar. Finally, we also enjoyed another small crag in the canyon between the bridges for the great hike it provides, the river and the fine sand.

Finn, never taking the easy road
Because the little ones like cragging too
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Eva and Finn exploring the narrow streets

We find however that the best way to maximize our time on climbing days is to split up our group into two teams; one team to look after the children for the half-day while the other team climbs.

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The Turia valley, a real oasis in the desert

There are plenty of fun things to do with the kids around the village between exploring the narrow cobbled streets, playing princess & knight in the Castillo, paying a visit the white fluffy goats, hiking the river valley or simply enjoying the local delicacies and running around on the Plaza. Chulilla also has two decent playgrounds, of which one is located by the local watering hole, wifi hotspot and tapas and climbing beta provider; Goscanos.

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Eva, Finn and Shenoa hiking Los Calderones trail
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Meet the Knight and the Princess of the Castillo

 

 

Fortunately , we also have opted for a comfortable and spacious four-bedrooms vacation rental, la Casa Nispero, which is located on a large gated property and the end of a quiet street where the little ones are free to roam. The location and amenities of the house really contribute to making our stay enjoyable, from the ability to cook healthy meals at home to the cozy evenings by the wood fireplace, pool-side lunches and naps in the sun…as well as the two bathrooms.

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Our Casa for ten days

There are also many other vacation rentals right in the village to suit every budget and group size as well as cozy inns and hostels, the main one being El Altico, owned by one of the prolific local route setters. Many climbers also stay in camper vans around town or on the main public parking lots, with access to water and wifi at the nearby climber’s bar.

The village hosts several small mercados or carnecerias where one can find most of the staples to survive: cheese, bread, wine, meat and charcuterie, oranges and mandarines in season, local and absolutely divine. For more diversified foods, the nearby city of Lliria or Valencia are the best options we found to please our little and big eaters.

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Breakfast in the warm morning sunshine

In Chulilla, the spirit between locals and climbers from all around the world is truly positive, especially when the climbers happen to have ninos,  who are the best conversation starter and get a very special attention from every store or restaurant staff.  Even with a limited proficiency in Spanish, it is very easy to communicate with residents who are so friendly and welcoming and never seem on a rush.

Eva chatting with a local abuela at the market

In the small climbing shop, visitors can buy all the staples including the guidebook. The store also carries t-shirts and hoodies with Chulilla’s tagline: Climb. Eat. Sleep. F**k. The sight of it makes me think that it’s probably what defines a stay in Chulilla for most climbers, single, young and beautiful, although we definitely noticed an imbalanced male vs female ratio.

Obviously, going on a rock climbing trip with toddlers changes your experience … a lot. I think it’d be more accurate to summarize our experience in Chulilla this way: Sleep. Climb. Eat. Play. Nap. Snack…and wipe bums.

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our crew – Photo by Shenoa Runge

Two and a Half Paddlers in the Valhalla Kingdom

There is just no word to describe BC’s Valhalla Provincial Park. The granite spires of the Devils range stand proud and tall over the forest-covered & rolling hills, steep talus, pristine alpine meadows, glacier-fed lakes and deep unpopulated valleys.

With only a few access points up endless kilometres of rough forest service roads, this little enclave in the majestic Selkirk mountains has little to no amenities to serve its adventurous visitors.  It’s most iconic mountain, Mt. Gimli is slowly starting to get more attention from climbers and hikers escaping from the crowds. At its base, a rustic camping site and no other amenities. Most of the year, one can count more white fluffy mountain goats then humans there.

The “Valhalla” are, if not a heaven for warriors killed at war, as suggested in the Norse mythology, a real Eldorado for alpine climbing, with certainly many firsts yet to be completed.

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Mount Gimli and the classical South Ridge route during our first visit to the Park in 2011

From those high peaks and the thin remnants of ancient glaciers flows pure water, into raging creeks, down thick and impenetrable forest, into steep thalweg, down high drops creating impressive waterfalls and, finally, into the deep turquoise of Slocan Lake. The West side of Lake, as the locals refer to it; the wild side of this 40-kilometre long lake.

If the mineral world up high is inhospitable to the living, down below, by the lake, plants & creatures thrive. Crystal water, home to thousands of fish, bushes fat and heavy with berries and other delicacies to the animal reign.

The quietness and the beauty are not quite disturbed by the few motorboats circling around on hot summer afternoons. Not yet….but certainly soon.

The lake is calling. A canoe is the perfect vessel to explore it. At the marina in Silverton, one of the few settlements on the East side of the lake, we get ready for our 3-day paddle. Filled with food, a shelter, some clothes, our canoe is ready for its passengers. The lake is renowned for unexpected weather changes and wind gusts. We would like to get across quickly.

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Absolute cuteness moment in this stunning nature

But only after a few strides, the charm operates. We all relax and tune ourselves to the lake’s pace.

For us, humble mountaineers, being on the water is unusual, but not completely foreign. For now we enjoy letting the canoe carry our heavy load…and our 15-kg 3-year old. Some have had the same brilliant idea…we are not the only family with small children on the water.

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My crew in its new environment

We soon reach the wild side and the first sandy beach where we enjoy our first of many daily swims. Inviting beaches are plentiful which makes it easy to find the privacy we want to lay in the sun and enjoy our the moment in peace. For those who prefer, company is also easy to find in July and August.

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There, far from any distraction, quality family time just happens

We set up our first camp next to the freezing cold Nemo creek, directly on the sand. Tent pads, food cache, fire rings and an outhouse are also available a few metres away in the forest, sheltered from the wind. The evening is beautiful and warm. After a late afternoon swim, we enjoy a simple and tasty meal together, make a fire and roast some marshmallows.

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Our home for the night

The next morning, after a restful night and a polar bear dip in the creek, we enjoy a hearty breakfast before exploring the land around us. A good trail is set along the creek and we are able to observe the waterfalls. The moss on the ground, the trees and the oversized ferns really add something magical to this surreal nature. We don’t hike the whole trail as we don’t have our child carrier…and the lake awaits.

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Just soaking it all up

That day we paddle, slowly but steadily, sometimes in silence, sometimes to the sound of our own songs and laughter. Our daughter sleeps in a small cave we made in the canoe with thermarests. She rests, recharges her batteries. We paddle in peace and avoid stopping not to wake her up. The sun is hot but the cool of the lake tempers the air and makes it very comfortable. The heat must be almost unbearable ashore, we think.

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A restful nap, gently rocked by the motion of the boat and steady sound of the paddles diving in the water

We reach Evans creek by the middle of the afternoon and set up camp for our second night. Two young guys have already set camp near us on the beach. Later, around the campfire, we learn that they’ve been traversing the park by its ridgeline for over a week. They are two 23-year old local twin brothers. Evans Creek is their finish point and their father is picking them up with his power boat. “They have been fishing and hunting in the area since they were kids”, say their dad. There are no climbers, per say…but certainly hardcore adventurers…They ask us about climbing, what gear we use, how heavy our pack is when we climb and such.

They tell us that around Lake Beatrice, the bush was so thick and they were so tired they built a raft to cross the lake as they didn’t want to bushwack their way around it…Their mom sent their dad to pick them up with bacon, eggs and potatoes that they eat with a lot of appetite. Their appetite for food certainly equals their appetite for adventure.

That night, as we get ready to go to sleep, a huge thunderstorm hits us. Our little one is so tired from her day of swimming and being outdoors in the sun, she drifts off to sleep while the wind gusts shake our small tent and the thunder rages around us…

On the second morning, we feel we now have our camping routine well established. It doesn’t take us long to be all packed up and ready to go. Too bad this is our last day. We are really enjoying the simplicity of living with only what our canoe contains.

Slocan City, our final destination, is only a few kilometres away. We know we can reach it in very little time. Eva still finds the opportunity to have one last restful nap in the canoe. On the way, we take time to make a swim stop, jump off rocks and make the delight and pleasure of this trip last a little longer.

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Water so clear we can see the texture of the lake’s bottom

In the Valhalla Kingdom we will be back, by land. On this lake we will be back, as it is the perfect summer journey to enjoy with the family and certainly how we like to experience lake life.

A Weekend of Rock Climbing in Revelstoke, Toddlers in Tow

Everybody loves Revelstoke.

Nestled between the Selkirk and Monashee mountains, this railway and forestry town really is gifted with an amazing geography. Glaciers and dramatic snow-capped mountains, the mighty Columbia river as a backbone, lush rain forest with oversized cedar trees and ferns. Everywhere, the influence from the West Coast can be felt; in the culture, the lifestyle, the vibe…as well as the amount of annual precipitation.

Abundant precipitation in the winter (in the form of cold, dry powder snow) is part of what has made Revelstoke, or Revy as the locals refer to it, a skiing Mecca. With its incredible ski resort that boasts the highest lift-accessed vertical in North America and hundreds of acres of pristine and rowdy terrain for cat, heli and backcountry skiing, Revelstoke is up and coming on the global best ski destination scene.

Revelstoke also has an impressive network of high quality single track trails, like hundreds of veins on which fresh-air deprived mountain bikers from all over Western Canada and beyond come to ride, up & down.

However, what Revelstoke is less known for is the diversity and the quality of its rock. About ten different climbing areas are scattered around town, all within 10 to 30-minute drive; trad or sport, from the short single pitch to the 450m multi-pitch bolted routes on the Columbia Buttress, from low grades to 5.13 +, there is no shortage of fun routes to climb.

Both ourselves and our loyal climbing partners and friends Marc and Shenoa had been to Revelstoke for climbing before kids and had all had an amazing time.

The highlight of our previous visit had been climbing at Waterworld, a cliff on the side of aquamarine Lake Revelstoke, a few kilometre north of the dam. After a 2-minute hike, climbers rappel down all the way to a small wooden platform only a foot or so above the water. Although the couple of 3-4 pitches routes at Waterworld are all bolted, they offer a nice alpine-like challenge as once you’ve rappelled into the unknown, you’re committed to at least climb the easiest route up: Gilligan’s Island ( 5.8). On hot summer days, make sure you take a skinny dip from the platform before you start the climb, at least you will feel nice and cool for the first few moves! The photo featured at the top of this post was actually taken 6-7 years ago, during our first visit to Revelstoke.

With great memories from our previous experiences, when the time came to decide on a climbing destination for a long weekend in the spring, we quickly reached a consensus. Over and above the good climbing options, we were all pretty confident that this place would also be very kid friendly with easy and convenient camping options and other fun family activities to keep our busy toddlers entertained.

On the May  long weekend, then, after the usual full day of packing, we set off to enjoy a couple of days of climbing in Revelstoke, kids in tow.

Our family set up camp at the Williamson Lake Campground just a kilometre out-of-town on the Thursday night. We had booked well in advance knowing that this would be a very busy time in Revelstoke and we didn’t regret it as the place was full. Our daughter was ecstatic when she realized that there was a fabulous playground at arm’s reach from  our campsite, which in fact made us feel like we were camping at the playground. Wiliamson Lake was also pretty cool with tons of fish to feed Cheerios to from the dock.

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Eva and Finn “setting up” THEIR playground for the weekend

Although this type of campsite wouldn’t normally be our fav, this time around we were thankful to find hot showers, plenty of other kids for our children to play with AND a washer and dryer that we were stoked to find when the camper’s roof leaked gallons of rain water onto our bed.

Our friends Marc, Shenoa and their little boy, Finn,  only met us the following day and brought along a canopy tent that also proved to be quite useful in the rainy weather.

Shenoa and I had the privilege to tackle the climbing first as the papas took care of the children. Under a beautiful sunny sky we aimed for the Begbie Bluffs and spent our afternoon connecting with the local rock at the Raptor wall. We were glad we hadn’t taken the kids as there was little to no flat and safe space at the bottom of the crags. At Raptor wall we found some nice vertical routes from 5.8 to low 5.11 . We came back to the campground late afternoon to relief the dads and let them enjoy a few hours at Begbie Bluffs. The little ones on their end also had their share of fun while they dipped their naked bums in the lake and made sandcastles.

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Herve on the steep and classic “Flashdance” (5.11a) on Raptor Wall

The following day, after a short stroll  downtown, we stopped for delicious coffee and treats at La Baguette, a local favorite held by a fellow couple of Quebecois. As the name indicates, La Baguette is a fine bakery where you can buy your daily loaf of fresh bread, order a full breakfast or lunch and treat yourself with their in-house baked goods and tasty gelato. This place is tiny and can be very busy so come prepared to wait to be served, but the wait is always worth it.

Later that day, we all packed up to go spend the day at Blanket Creek Provincial Park.

Herve and I then left our precious, who was snoozing in the camper, to the attention of our friends and went for a romantic outing on to the Blanket Arête (2 pitches, 5.10d). The Arête is highly visible from the bridge over Blanket Creek when driving south towards Galena Bay. Although the walk to the start of the climb made it feel like the rock would be mossy and moist, in the end it was a really nice climb, with the bouldery crux being at the start of second pitch.The Blanket Creek Crag also boast some single-pitch routes, mostly in the low 5.10’s. While the provincial park is ideal for families, the crag is unfortunately not.

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My date scoping “Blanket Arête” from the bridge
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A little moss on the first pitch of Blanket Arête
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Marc taking his baby-sitting role very seriously

After this quick outing, we went back to the day use area to relief our friends and put our parents hat back on. We spent the rest of the afternoon hiking to Shannaghan Falls, chasing gofers and playing in the sand by the lagoon with the two tots. Upon Marc and Shenoa’s return from their climb, we had a nice picnic dinner in the park before heading back to our own campground for the night.

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Shannaghan Falls are only 5 minutes walk from the campground on a stroller-friendly trail

 

When we woke up on the Sunday, it was pouring rain. This meant we had some time to explore what Revelstoke has to offer in terms of indoor activities and we were quite pleased with all the options! Of course, we all indulged once again in one of our favorite activity, which is going for coffee and treats. We also checked out some of the towns’ boutique stores, before heading to the aquatic centre for a swim. Revelstoke’s public pool is quite impressive with its 3-storey high water slide, its kiddy pool and deep water solo like climbing wall. Everyone had a good time there and we ended up staying for a few hours! In the end, we didn’t even get a chance to check out the other “indoor” options such as the Railway Museum, the Dam, or the Begbie brewery.

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Our little gourmet is always up to checking out the local dining scene…especially when it comes to sampling “pains au chocolat”
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Our two dwarfs enjoying a hike in the rain (aka so glad we packed warm clothes and rain suits)

On our way back to the campsite that day, we decided to go check out another climbing area, “the Drive-In” which is only a few kilometres from Williamson Lake on the east shore of the lake. This area is nothing major but it was steep and sheltered enough than even after a day-long rain shower, some of the climbs were still dry. We decided to give it a go and were quite pleased with the end-of-day muscle stretching opportunity at this low-key crag.

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Herve and Marc checking out the Drive-In, which boasts a few .10’s, .11’s & .12’s

After one last nice camping dinner all together and a restful night, we all set off the following morning. Our friends hit the road back to Kimberley and we set off West towards our next destination, Squamish, where we were intending to spend the rest of the week.

On our way out-of-town, we stopped to the ultimate kid’s attraction on the Trans-Canada Highway, the Enchanted Forest. For a mere $11 per adults (free for tots) our mini spent a full 2 1/2 hours visiting every single hobbit’s house and shaking hand with every one of the statue animals, elves and other fairy tale creatures.

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The closest thing to heaven for a 2 1/2 year old: the Enchanted Forest at Three Valley Gaps

In spite of the rain, we had a great time climbing and enjoying family time in Revelstoke. If you head there, make sure to purchase the excellent local guidebook “Revelstoke Rocks” from 2010, self published by local route-setter and mountain guide Ruedi Beglinger.

Provincial Parks near Revelstoke, such as Martha Creek and Blanket Creek offer great camping options. There is also numerous forest service roads and backcountry camping options out-of-town.

The town has good boutique shopping, a good Saturday morning Famers Market, as well as plenty of excellent dining options. For quick and easy meal with the fam, check out Nico’s Pizzeria and the Village Idiot, or for a more refined dining experience, Woolsey’s Bistro or the 112 Restaurant and Lounge won’t disappoint.

There is no shortage of good swimming holes on hot summer days as well as plenty of stroller-friendly multi-use trails around town, including the Greenbelt. Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks are also located very close from Revelstoke and boast multiple family friendly hikes and scenic views. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to experience it all this time…

We will back there for climbing and all the other fun stuff, that’s for sure…because for kids and adults alike, AND for non climbers, Revelstoke does rock!