Backcountry Ski Touring with kids… [Part 1]

Note: Winter recreation in the back-country comes with inherent risk. Avalanche education and gear is a must. Visit the Utah Avalanche Center or your local center for more information.

All tours embarked on with our kids so far were in low angle and safe terrain, free from avalanche hazard.


While we’ve been skiers for many moons now, and teaching our kids to ski for roughly the last 4-6 years, we haven’t embarked into the backcountry on anything other than snowshoes.

It wasn’t for lack of desire, but for lack of funding… If you are new to the backcountry scene, the price of gear roughly makes up for the cost of lift tickets. But last year we got really lucky. We found touring set ups, skis, skins, Dynfit bindings, and Black Diamond boots for a crazy good deal at REI. They are backcountry rentals that they were selling off and perfect for Chris and I!

The trouble is, after only a few tours at the end of last season, we fell in love with it! It has a whole different feel than resort skiing. Now you might think we are crazy. And I get it, why would you want to hike up when you can take a chairlift?!

But the mentality is entirely different. Have you ever hiked a peak and wished you could just float back to the car instead of hike the rocky, knee killing, feet aching miles back to the car that you can barely see as a speck in the distance?

It is like that, only you do get to float back to the car!

Backcountry Skiing, White Pine and the Birthday Chutes

Backcountry Skiing White Pine and the Birthday Chutes

So naturally, this season, when all three of our kids (ages 4, 6, and 8) reached a point where they could skillfully or at least manage to get down blue runs in control, we began teasing around the idea of touring with them.

But let us go back to the cost issue… even if they did make kid sized touring boots, the bindings alone are $500 and very very difficult to find used for much less.

So we ditched the gear idea (at first) and went with hiking instead.

Backcountry Tour Trial 1

Our first backcountry adventure was up Millcreek Canyon.

Chris loaded the kid's skis and boots in to his Deuter 50 L pack.

Chris loaded the kid’s skis and boots in to his Deuter 50 L pack.

Millcreek is a fantastic place to go for a wintry stroll or cross-country skiing. We can bring our dog and stop at many of the picnic areas for snacks or lunch. For this reason, we figured it was a great place to start our grand backcountry experiment. We picked a cloudy and not-so scenic day to go. But hey, any day out is a good day. 🙂

Cross country, touring, or snowshoeing in Millcreek Canyon

Our youngest need a little help on the uphill.

My husband loaded the kids skis and boots, (thank goodness they are small) into his Deuter 50 liter pack. We hiked 2 miles up the canyon, transitioned to ski mode 🙂 and cruised the downhill.

Our bitsy one needed a few minutes of reprieve on the way up. But all in all it went well. And the kids asked over and over when we could do it again!

We cruised the Millcreek canyon downhill

We cruised the Millcreek canyon downhill

Backcountry Tour Trial 2

When trying new things, con another family into joining you!

It wasn’t too hard in this case, our adventure family buddies are not to hard to talk into trying new things, especially when you offer to carry their youngest on the way up or down when needed. 🙂

For our destination? Grizzly Gulch up by Alta Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon. So far we’ve had a high priority on easy and safe terrain with the kids. Grizzly Gulch is awesome not only for safe and easy-ish terrain, the views are epic and the access is very convenient.

Mount Superior from Grizzly Gulch

Mount Superior from Grizzly Gulch

We put Yaktraks and micro-spikes on the kiddos who were hiking in snow boots to assist on the steep, icy snow. The kids did decently well on the uphill. We stopped a few times for a little exploring through the forest.

Yaktraks for hiking on snow

We put size XS or S Yaktraks and micro-spikes on the kids who were hiking up in their boots.

Once again our kids had a blast. And we learned that even without touring gear for the kids, we could sort of make this work! Having friends along and ample trail bait in the form of sugar always helps too. 🙂

HIking up Grizzly Gulch near Alta resort

HIking up Grizzly Gulch near Alta Resort, the slick and icy sunny aspect.

Chris loaded the kid's skis onto the exterior of a Deuter Kid Comfort Two for the skin up. I had the boots, layers and lunch. :)

Chris loaded the kid’s skis onto the exterior of a Deuter Kid Comfort Two for the skin up. I had the boots, layers and lunch. 🙂

We conned another fmaily to join us. The more the merrier!

The descent was easy, as we stayed on the road with the kids. Two kiddos got a ride down on the daddy-porters.

The descent was easy, as we stayed on the road with the kids. Two kiddos got a ride down on the daddy-porters.

The descent was easy, as we stayed on the road with the kids. Two kiddos got a ride down on the daddy-porters.

The whole family had a blast, despite a few complaints on the way up. And sure, we were moving at a snails pace, but I learned long ago to change my expectations when we adventure as a family. Maybe backcountry touring as a family really is in the cards?

If you want to see how we retrofitted some BCA alpine trekkers to the kid’s boots/skis, check out part two, coming soon!

6 comments on “Backcountry Ski Touring with kids… [Part 1]
  1. forget about the “converters”, its way too heavy for any hikes over 60-90 minutes… Instead, get the kids into cross-country shoes (15 EUR used) /bindings (25 EUR used) mounted on and old pair of straight skis with skins riveted (to prevent loosening and worries about glue – you will only need them for the uphill part). take regular alpine boots and skis in your (adult) backpack… You will be surprised by how much easier it is for the kids too keep the pace up with you (in our case I have to struggle to keep the pace up with them). We have been using this technique for the last 3 seasons (the kids are now 6 years old) and we are in the 2-3 hour/5 mile/3,000 vertical feet per trip range now – see the videos above.. The older son (9 years old now) just reached shoe size sufficient for the smallest women´s boots (very expensive pair of TLT6 (350 EUR)- but very light) + dynafit speed turn (200 EUR new) + pair of salomon 90mm skis (about 120 EUR)

  2. Hello there — this is amazing and inspiring. My sons are 6 and 9 & we are avid skiers, downhill and xc….. But we want to do what you have done here. Are there “back country” skis for children? Is that what is sometimes called “All Mountain?” Do they have some scales underneath them?
    We craigslisted ourselves with downhill gear but we loooove backcountry so I hope you have some information about the skis.
    My son (like I see above) also wears womens size 8. (My husband is Norwegian hence the love of snow AND the big feet!)

    Looking forward to some tips and thank you for this blog!!

    Liz and the boys.

    • Hi! Thanks for your interest. Yes, there are backcountry touring set ups for kids. They are expensive and hard to find though! Hagan is one brand that comes to mind and is much more “easily found” in Europe. The sport is just so new in the US. Skimo.co is one company selling the set up. “All Mountain” does not refer to backcountry touring, but rather to an all-around alpine ski that can move between powder, groomers, bumps, etc. Backcountry touring is different than cross country because there are no scales on the bottom of the ski. Rather with the use of skins tht stick to the bottom, you skin up hill (or up big mountains). At the top you remove them and ski down. Bindings vary but in general you need a binding that allows the heel to be free on the uphill and lock in on the downhill. Once again, expense is the limiting factor as boots, skis and skins need to be “touring” gear and work as a system. We are working with a system made by BCA (now discontinued) that allows you to tour on your normal alpine gear. Then you’d just need skins for the uphill. Camp USA makes a similar product. Here is the link: http://www.camp-usa.com/products/contour-skins/contour-startup-ski-touring-adapter/

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