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Kids and backcountry.

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I have just come off the back of a 3 day weekend with great spring conditions here in NZ. My daughter is 10 now and I treated her to some lovely off piste spring snow with the caveat that we did not go out of view of the trails.

She had a ball and was skiing some pretty challenging terrain for her age/level quite well. Personally I am not planning to expose her to anything more than that until she is big/strong enough to be able to pull her weight in the event of an emergency, so I think it'll be some time yet before we'll be busting out the transceivers ;)

I do see people taking their kids into terrain with no safety equipment that I would be reluctant to go into without proper gear and it always bugs me. Our ski patrols will go outside the marked trails to retrieve people if necessary but this really only covers accidents where wait time is not so much an issue. If you're stuck under a mountain of snow with only a pre-teen to help you out it's not going to go well.

Not really a question as such, I was just curious to see other people's viewpoints on this e.g. when you would think your kids are ready for that kind of skiing or if I am being too paranoid :)
post #2 of 11
My measure for if somebody is ready for the backcountry is my level of confidence that the person will be able to locate, probe, and dig me out of a slide. Doesn't really matter the age of the person.
post #3 of 11
It sounds like you're talking about what I'd think of as either off-piste or sidecountry.  I think of backcountry as somewhere that you get to under your own steam, and where your only option is self-rescue.  But this may be a difference between the US and NZ.
post #4 of 11
I would rather have a 10 year old girl using a beacon to locate me than nothing at all.  At least she can find you and start digging before help arrives.  Time is very crucial.  If you get her the equipment, and give her the knowledge to use it she will always have that knowledge. 
post #5 of 11
 Being "in sight of the trails" doesn't mean that you are safe.  Just sayin,' don't mean to harsh on you and I don't know where you were.  I might consider taking a mature child into the backcountry on realatively low danger days as part of a strong group.  If I did such a thing, I would be training my child on every outing and emhasising the need to ski as part of an organized group.  My friends were faced with the dillema of their kids skiing out of bounds.  The kids were strong skiers who routinely skied double blacks at JHMR.  They realized that the boys and their friends were going whether they permitted it or not and that they couldn't stop them short of banning them from the mountain. Their solution was to take the boys into Teton Pass on some easy tours.  The boys had a really good time and were super attentive on those first tours.  Then the parents introduced a mentor, a pro skier in his early 20s, who the boys admired.  The boys were allowed to "go" with Dad or the mentor.  These trips were always by the book.  The kids weren't "allowed" to go OB with friends.  It probably happened anyway but at least the kids knew how to take care of themselves     It has worked out so far.  The "boys" have become smart skiers with a lot of respect for and knowledge of the mountains.  I think the boys were 10 and 13 on their first backcountry trip.  That was a few years ago.  The youngest brother now competes in freeride and park and goes to a ski acadamy.  It depends on your kids and you and your situation and abilities.
post #6 of 11
My 15 year old son is getting all the gear this year.   He's been riding Highland bowl with me since he was 8 or 9.
We will be taking it pretty slow and stable. 
post #7 of 11

Just takes time and patience...

My 10yr old son has been area skiing since he was 4 and has been joining mom and dad and numerous friends on backcountry ski trips for several years now. All of those trips have been to backcountry huts or on well established local trails.

He has a beacon that he knows how to use (we often play hide-the-beacon when we are out), he has attended several avalanche awareness classes (no true clinics yet), he knows that if a trail crosses an avalanche runout zone to wait while the skier in front gets across, he carries and can use a slope indicator and understands what can slide and what usually won't, he knows how to build a snow shelter, etc., etc.

Point is, take the time to do it right and you will have years of great times with your daughter in the backcountry. Your biggest challenge will be finding gear that fits. We ski with randenee gear and can only find 3-pin tele gear for him, so it limits his ability to ski on low angle freshly covered slopes. We are getting close, but his steady growth is the challenge. Best bet so far? Dynafit bindings, used ski's and small womans dynafit boots. Keep the binding, replace the ski's as his size dictates and hope the boots last more than one season.
post #8 of 11
It doesn't matter what age you are as long as you have taught ur kid about beacon useage and if she has a pack with a shovel and a probe it should be no big deal
post #9 of 11
Originally Posted by rmerry View Post
...or if I am being too paranoid :)

Not at all, you have good common sense.

One adult with a child isn't good practice in any remote wilderness activity, what if something happened to you? That's a lot of responsibility to put on a 10 year old.
post #10 of 11
Originally Posted by skibeast6 View Post

It doesn't matter what age you are as long as you have taught ur kid about beacon useage and if she has a pack with a shovel and a probe it should be no big deal


Kids have different judgment, strength, body heat retention, etc. from adults.  There's a big enough issue with adults thinking carrying "gear" magically protects them out of bounds.  Also with adults it's a big enough issue for most just getting them to switch modes, etc.; and even most adults aren't going to do to well with shovelling in the heat of the moment.  With a 10 year old you are basically guiding someone who should not be expected to be self-sufficient.

Parent-kid interactions are also their own dynamic.  You don't want your kid to be in a position where she sees you get slid, etc. etc.

That's not to say that sidecountry or stable bc excursions with a 10 year old kid and parent aren't a wonderful thing.  There's lots of appropriate terrain involving shorter outings out there.  As noted already by others there are 10 year olds who can and do do this.  View it as similar to introducing them to hunting.
post #11 of 11
 Hunting seems like a nice analogy.
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