We had the privilege of connecting with Erin Rawstron, avid outdoor adventure seeking mama and ER Doctor. We are so excited to share this interview on tips for co-skiing with your child, with our community. Erin is an outdoor influencer, who continues to crave an outdoor lifestyle in between her long work hours and motherhood. Erin is one of many mamas trying to encourage, motivate, and influence other mamas to enjoy the outdoor community with their children.
How old is your child, and what motivates you to be active outside with your child in tow?
Our daughter Kya, is 16 months old (but, as evidenced by her love of the word ‘no’ I would swear she is 2). Getting outside with her is an integral part of maintaining my sanity and feeling human. As a busy ER doc, sometimes I feel the only true place I can reset is out in the mountains; and, even if that means taking a busy toddler (and ALL her gear) along with me, it is SO worth it.
We first took Kya camping at 3 weeks old and haven’t looked back since! We have slowly been honing our skills at layering her properly for winter day-skis or hikes/snowshoes and have even done a couple of multi-day ski hut trips. Our first backcountry ski trip (at 4 months) onto Tetrahedron park was particularly memorable as I carried a huge multi day backpack on my back while wearing Kya kangaroo style on my front; and, even more impressively, my husband managed to carry an entire pack-n-play into the hut. I can’t remember the last time we were so sore after an approach into the backcountry.
Recently (at 15 months), we took her ski touring for a couple days in the Rockies; but by then we had thankfully discovered a Ski Chariot and Pea Pod sleep tent for lighter weight packing.
What type of skiing have you done so far with Kya?
Mostly backcountry ( in safe avalanche conditions) and resort skiing.
How old do you think kids have to be to learn to ski?
On their own skis? Much older than Kya! We tried getting her on skis at 16 months- she could barely stand in her skis so we ended up holding her up all the way down the hill. She tolerated ‘skiing’ for about 30 mins but seemed much more enthused about snacks and naps that day.
In an Ergo, as soon as mom feels ready to get outside! Actually, the younger the better- on our Tetrahedron hut trip she snoozed the whole way in, and because I was breast feeding we didn’t even have to bring any food for her I to the hut.
What is your #1 (MUST KNOW) tip for mamas when skiing with toddlers/babies?
Babies: They are pretty much the easiest age to take outside! It took me a while to learn this, but if you’re breastfeeding, they can feed right from the Ergo so you don’t have to take them out to give them a snack. If you formula feed, you can pre-make the bottles, keep them in an outside pouch of your backpack then ‘warm up’ the bottle against your chest about half an hour before you think they’ll need a feed.
Toddlers: Normally ‘off limits’ treats, like: soothers, brownies and cookies, are your best friend. Toddlers don’t appreciate the outdoors like we do, so if feeding your normally healthy kid a brownie or two, helps them enjoy their time outside, just go with it!
Do you typically ski alone with your child, or do you have a partner to help out? Is it possible for mama’s to ski alone? What do you recommend from your experience so far?
Normally, I ski in groups or with my husband. Having somebody to help grab gear from your bag, readjust a chariot pole, hand baby a snack etc. is invaluable. Having a kid outside in the cold is not an easy task, so the more hands the better.
I have done a couple snow walks and snowshoe hikes alone with Kya. I made sure to pick safe terrain (in cell reception) and to keep the trip short (under 2 hours). I loved the peace and confidence that came from being alone in the mountains, but I wouldn’t recommend venturing off known trails with a little one in tow.
I have mom friends who will cross country ski (with a Chariot), alone on Resort x-country ski trails. They feel super safe and love that there are others around to help if needed.
How do you co-ski with your child? Example: Child in carrier/ergo-front or back (If so is it necessary for the child to wear a helmet-if you down -hill ski vs cross country?)
Last season I wore her in and Ergo on the front (4-8 months). This made me feel most comfortable as I could control her temperature well, feed her and make sure she was well secured.
This season (16 months), we either put her in the Chariot (which works for a max of 1-2 hours), or I wear her in an Ergo on my back (have done this for up to 5 hours- with snack breaks). She LOVES the Ergo because she gets to go fast with me downhill.
Helmets are a must for us for any pace beyond a slow walk. We made the mistake of forgetting Kya’s helmet for our last long descent out of a hut in the Rockies. Kya had a blast zipping down the hill on my back, but it would have been a whole different story if we had taken a fall. Further, our chariot tipped a couple of times (on fast windy descents), luckily Kya wasn’t in it at the time, but any time she is, ideally she is wearing a helmet and is well secured with shoulder and waist straps. Always always always better to be safe than sorry.
What is your favourite “must have” ski gear for either parents, kids, or both when skiing with kids.
Parents: Ergo all the way!
Kids: Kya has a little face mask/neck warmer that helps keep her warm in negative temperatures. We skiied without worry in the Rockies with this and a $30 puffy snow suit from Amazon.
Final words of advice from Erin
It doesn’t have to be expensive or scary to get outside with your kid. Start short and easy and work your way up to bigger days. You’ll be surprised at your own strength. Further, don’t let your child’s temperament dissuade you from trying outdoor things. Kya couldn’t nap for longer than 40 minutes for her whole first year and still isn’t sleeping through the night; she is busy, rambunctious and strong willed. Her energy challenges us daily while inside but once we put her in the Ergo and get into nature, she will sleep for hours, or ( shockingly) just sit there calmly and enjoy the scenery.
Interview with Erin Rawstron by: Sheena Mista (Little Adventures Company).