With my skis twisted, my legs and arms burning and the infant on my back sleeping peacefully away, there were a lot of thoughts going through my head that weren’t exactly positive. I reverted to a child-like mindset and wanted to go home (and I didn’t want to have to go back down the mountain to get there!) And yet, it was the toddler on my husband’s back ahead of me that brought me crashing back to reality.

“Come on, Mama, you can do it!”

I looked at him (my facial expression exposing my frustration, I am sure) and faced a big smile coming from a child who LOVES the outdoors. How could I help but not smile back (and then smile sheepishly at my husband?)

It didn’t occur to him to be worried about being cold (which could have something to do with his many layers) or worry about the challenge that his Mama and Daddy faced skinning up a mountain with our two young boys on our backs.

I was quickly humbled.

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Happy in the Mountains ©Amelia Mayer

This is why we are out there. This is why we make the extra effort it takes to get young children safely outside, especially in the winter. This is why we do our best to make trips like this fun and exciting.

And here I was throwing myself a little pity party as I struggled to make my skis progress UP (and not backwards in sloppy reverse)! Our roles were switched as I questioned everything we were getting ourselves into, while our son was all smiles full of innocent trust in us and this adventure.

Yes, it is a LOT of work to get a family of four (including a toddler and an infant) dressed and prepared for these great ideas we think up. It makes getting myself out the door for a run (gasp! on my own!) seem like a breeze. But, the lessons we teach our children (especially the ones that are unplanned) are crucial in shaping them to be the brave, confident, gentle and strong men we hope they will grow up to be. Jack is two-and-a-half years old and was helping direct me on how to untangle my skis (through the leadership of my husband, of course) while encouraging my forward movement (full of confidence that I would indeed do it.) That is certainly not something he would learn in the safety of our home.

And so despite the discomforts that I am sure will continue to surface through the years while we show our kids the great outdoors, we will continue to get out there. We will continue to provide challenges and opportunities to grow for our children (while under the careful watch of Mama and Papa Bear!) It is the life experiences of the mountains that will teach them more than we could ever tell them.

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Two Ocean on Togwotee Pass ©Amelia Mayer

A few tips about keeping kids safe and warm during the winter months:

– LAYER, LAYER, LAYER!  Remember with infants or toddlers to add one more layer than you have on (especially since they are sitting and you are doing the hard work!)  We are most successful with layering a small liner glove/mitten inside another larger mitten (we always buy them big for this reason!)

– Stay away from cotton.  Choose synthetics or wool which will keep kids warm if they get wet (this goes for kids of all ages! :))  We are big fans of merino wool base layers.

– Encourage movement, especially using fingers and toes (which are often forgotten and get cold quicker!)

– Cover necks and faces (use neck warmers and ski goggles – they make these for kids too.)

– Choose high quality gear, especially boots and gloves.  Consider it an investment for your fun (and safety!)

– Bring hand warmers with you if you really need it (but be sure not to use them directly on kids’ skin.)

Our favorite tip: Bring hot chocolate (or cider, or tea, etc.)  It’s a great warmer from the inside-out AND can be used if you need to bribe just a bit….

“One day’s exposure to mountains is better than a cartload of books.”
― John Muir

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Safely and successfully at the top ©Amelia Mayer
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