A big part of making sure kids have a good time developing as skiers (and riders) entails keeping them dressed comfortably and having equipment that fits them reasonably well. While new backcountry and Nordic gear for kids can be just as expensive as it is for adults, you can find good deals at swaps, online classifieds and even second-hand retailers such as Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington. And there is no shortage of places to go skiing: be it a backyard, your local park, at Nordic ski areas or the woods. For more on how we got our kids into skiing, see How to Make Kids Love Skiing
ErgoBaby Omni Carrier ($179)
We carried our girls on our chests with the Ergo Baby Carrier until they were about nine months old, then on our backs until they became too heavy to carry (around their third birthdays). This will depend a lot on your own strength and balance, as well as your child’s weight) The ErgoBaby features a sturdy, padded waist belt, a sternum strap – which helps to keep your shoulder straps together when in motion – and a simple hood which offers a little extra shelter from the elements. Wear your ErgoBaby atop a layer light enough to keep you from sweating when climbing.
Any pair of Nordic skis, classic-style and with fish scales on the bottom can be a great option when the snow is neither too deep nor soft, and there is plenty of room to maneuver and run. Sloped pastures, open woods and even well-tracked logging roads can be ideal locations for getting kids out climbing and skiing on their own. This gear is typically the most affordable option.
Human-Powered Ski Tow (aka The Mama Poma)
We’ve logged well over one hundred memorable ski tours with the Mama Poma. We make ours from scratch with a 12-foot length of cord attached to a carabiner on one end, and a 7-inch wooden disc on the other. Clip the cord to a supportive waist belt on an adult. Have your child place the seat between their legs. Strap their poles to your pack for the climb, so that their hands are free to hold the rope. When you stop for a longer break, attaching the Mama Poma to a sturdy overhead branch turns it into a fun swing.
Contour Touring Adapter ( $140)
This adapter by CAMP USA turns a youth alpine binding set up into an alpine touring set up. The adapter clicks into your child’s alpine bindings, so that your child can climb uphill, as the binding pivots at the toes and allows the heel to lift when going uphill. Loosen up their upper buckles to make striding a little easier. After climbing, skins are peeled, the adapter is removed and stowed into a backpack, and the alpine bindings are readjusted for the descent. For skins, you can easily grab, rehab and trim to fit just about any old pair on the used market, or splurge for something new.
Altai Skis Balla Hok 99cm ($120);
w/ Universal Pivot Binding option – (add $100)
The Hok and the kids-oriented Balla Hok are versatile, backcountry-dedicated skis suited for soft snow conditions, backyard adventures and much more. The skis feature metal edges and a synthetic climbing skin integrated directly into the base of the ski. They are not the fastest skis around, but they are stable and easy to turn. You can mount any type of binding to this ski, or you can opt for a universal binding that works with any pair of sturdy hiking or snow boots (down to kids size 12-13). Altai’s Universal Binding can be mounted to any other ski, too.
Hagan Pure 8 Junior AT Bindings ($550)
If you are interested in a top notch and dedicated alpine touring set up for your kids, Hagan offers a lightweight, adjustable, tech-style alpine touring binding that is compatible with youth ski boots down to a boot sole length of about 230mm. The bindings have tech-fittings and brakes, and can fit ski crampons. They feature a 3 to 8 DIN release range and can be adjusted as your child grows through four or five boot sizes. Hagan also offers kids-sized skis and skins, and compatible tech-style AT boots.
Voile 3-Pin Bindings ($70) w/ Telemark Boots
Voile’s classic and affordable 3-pin binding, or anything similar, combined with duck-billed telemark boots, is another great option for kids, once they can fit into available used or new telemark boots. You can mount the binding to just about any ski. Check the used market for telemark boots down to about a kids size 13. Adding an extra footbed and doubling up on thick socks for a couple of years works wonders, too.