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 is 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 would 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’s 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 more whiny 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, top 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 real 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 prevent pants from riding up, removable hood, and real zippered pockets. While a little more pricey than the average kids ski suit (great to strike on and end-of-season clearance), I am really impressed by the design and functionality as well as the style.

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 cloths

#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 of 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 backwards 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 plough #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
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The Little Climber’s Gear Check-List

We are so excited!

In 3 dodos (three sleeps) we’re leaving for an eleven-day climbing trip in BC. This year we’ve decided to do our spring trip a little later than usual and to stick to destinations within our dear Canada for a few different reasons: low Canadian dollar, lack of friends with the same schedule and a desire to spend some time with Tata (French slang for Auntie) on the coast. Our trip will be in two phases; we will spend the first half in Revelstoke, and the second half in Squamish. These choices will allow us to split the drive in 2 (Squamish is a mere 12 hour + drive from Kimberley, where we live), and will provide great variety in the climbing and in the scenery.

Our Mini actively helps with prepping our camper and packing her stuff, which really contributes to building the excitement!

A few weeks ago, I came across this excellent blog post from mother, climber and writer Beth Rodden on great outdoor kid gear. (I must say that I pretty much agree with all her list, with the exception perhaps of the Poco Plus child carrier by Osprey. I would certainly have used and loved this pack had it been generously donated by a sponsor! Unfortunately, we stuck to a much more minimalist version by Deuter, generously donated by dear friends with two older kids. My husband decided this Deuter pack was more aligned with his own vision of what mountain gear should be: light, light and light. The fact that there was no padding and storage space for useful things such as diapers, water, food, spare cloths was to him, a detail he could cope with.)

Anyhow, our daughter is now almost three years old, very active, and somewhat interested in climbing and hiking…all by herself (I DO IT! …sounds familiar?). With quite a few camping and climbing trips under her belts, we now have our list of favs when it comes to packing her gear. Here’s our check-list:

1- Deuter Little Star Sleeping Bag: Can be extended to fit children from age 1-6. Combined with the Z-Thermarest= hours of entertainment


2- Petzl Ouistiti Full Body Harness: for the 5-minute climbing session which last less time than it took to put that thing on 🙂

3- Patagonia Capilene Thermal Underwear: our MUST since birth. Need to transition to a t-shirt rather than onesie now as missy doesn’t wear diapers anymore

4- Helly Hansen Rain Set: The suit was great up to 2 and potty training. Now we find the 2-piece set more versatile. Can be layered with warm pieces to replace a snowsuit…Yeah, we’re going to coastal BC…did I say the weather can be unpredictable in BC in May, or in fact, every month of the year?

rainsuit

5- Grivel Kid’s climbing helmet: cute and functional, can also be used as a bike helmet for space saving purpose

6- Mammut Kids 10L Backpack– (because she wants to hike ALL BY HERSELF!): a serious review website would say: storage= 0, functionality=0, waist belt=0, hydration system compatible=0, cuteness=10, stuffed mammoth=10.


7- Shoes: hikers, beach/water shoes, Keen sandals, Bogs rain boots… weather can be unpredictable in BC in May…tak’em all.

8- Books: Mountain-related for total immersion into our element

9- Sun/bathing suit: in case we get the odd warm day

10- Sun hat+sun glasses: for the style, and the odd sun ray

11- Ukulele: for showing off with Tata by the campfire

12- Smartwool Merino Socks: a couple of pairs, they are simply awesome

13- Flash light: for reading the cool mountain books on line 8.

14- Water bottle: You know the great $30 Klean Kanteen kiddy water bottle …NOT! A $10 no BPA version will do just FINE!

15- SMALL toys+ favorite SMALL stuffy: ’cause that’s all that fits into the 10L backpack on line 6.

packing list

16- Patagonia Puff Ball jacket: warm, versatile and so reversibly stylish

17- Bubbles, bucket and shovel: to keep busy at the crag, beach or campsite

packing list2

Allright, I got to go finish packing!