Backcountry-Skiing Instructions from a New Mom

You wake with a start, spit spraying across your face. It’s your four-year-old coughing. You fell asleep in her bed. Your head is pounding. You check the time —it’s only 7 P.M.

You still need to put your skins on your skis. While you’re at it, you’d better pack your whole ski kit. You’ll be up feeding the baby by 5 A.M., and your plan is to be out the door by 7:30, but the house is mayhem in the morning, and you’ll be exhausted from feeding the baby at midnight and 3 A.M., too. You haven’t had a full night’s sleep since your second trimester. How long ago was that? Ten months? Can’t be. How old is the baby? Five months? 

You stumble down to the kitchen. Skis, boots, poles. Beacon, shovel, probe. Skins. Med kit. Water. Lunch. 

Lunch! This is a stage of life when lunch is a peanut butter and cheddar sandwich packed in a reused bag that says “Happy Baby Dried Oat Cereal.” When you pack the bag, oat shavings will fly around the kitchen, and that’s OK. It’s fine. And, yes, you should definitely take the kids’ leftover apple slices and the last of the Goldfish crackers. 

You might want to text your ski partners to bring extra puffy coats so they don’t get cold while waiting around in the snow for you to pump (because you can’t go more than three hours without doing something about the milk buildup or you could get get mastitis, which is a breast infection, and you don’t want one of those). They may or may not listen to you, but that doesn’t matter. You’ll probably bring along a few extra coats for them, just in case. Remember? You’re a mom. 

OMG. You’re going to have the minivan all to yourself tomorrow. Because: COVID. That means no whining, no screaming, and no one but you to drop crumbs. Did you think it could be this good? 

Focus. This is your only chance to go skiing for the next week (or maybe for the rest of your life), so please triple-check that you packed your ski boots. But first go ahead and lick the peanut butter off the knife, salivating as you imagine eating the sandwich tomorrow, flakes of snow falling like magic from the sky. 

You should probably get all the dishes done while the kids are sleeping, and plan dinner for tomorrow night. While you’re at it, why not plan dinner for the entire week? No, don’t do that. Go pack, and then read the avalanche advisory before bed. 

Triggering avalanches on weak snow near the ground is possible… however, these concerns are more localized to heavily wind-loaded slopes near ridgelines.… With these hard slabs, avoiding suspect slopes is your best strategy.

That seems pretty straightforward to manage. Moderate danger on wind-loaded slopes, low danger elsewhere. One to three inches in the forecast. Now stop looking at avalanche videos, and go to sleep before the kids wake up again.

I’m a mother of very young children, too, so let me level with you: yes, you can still go skiing. It needn’t be in the backcountry, and the bunny slope and cross-country trails totally count toward your season total. And while COVID likely won’t make the Herculean effort of getting out the door much easier, there might be a few hidden new-mom benefits. Exhibit A: riding the lift solo means you don’t have to hand-pump on the chair next to a stranger. 

And as we all know, getting outside is vital to your mental health, especially as a sleep-deprived new parent. So, whatever you do, go skiing. 

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Lead Photo: Sam Bark/Unsplash

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