First Sweat — Introducing Youngsters to Backcountry Skiing


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | February 15, 2001      
Heading for the backcountry skiing pie in the sky.

Heading for the backcountry skiing pie in the sky. All photos by Lou and Lisa Dawson.

A boy’s life is a string of events: first haircut; first tooth; first home alone. For backcountry boys like my son Louie, firsts also include ropes, fish, elk — and of course skis.

This winter of 2000/01, Louie’s 10-year-old feet had finally grown to fit boots big enough for skimo randonnee ski touring bindings (I’d rigged him up a pair of old Ramer’s a few years back, but that was more of a lark than anything serious).

While we’d done a fair amount of ski touring on nordic gear and modified AT bindings (the Ramers), the boy had never climbed a mountain specifically to ski down.

Time for first sweat.

Hey, these things work.

Hey, these things work.

I got some Fritschi Diamir bindings from Black Diamond, mounted them on a pair of quality alpine skis, and we headed for one of our local alpine ski hills.

Why not the backcountry? I had a plan. At the top of Buttermilk ski area is a restaurant. In that fair bistro is a pie selection. Next to the pie selection is a whipped cream dispenser.”Son,” I said, “Here are your new ski touring binders just like dad’s, it’s hard climbing up a mountain with the things, so for our first, rather than climbing to the sky, we climb to the pie!”

Breaking that first sweat.

Breaking that first sweat.

“Yeah dad!,” replied the young man, and off we went!

We had a terrific couple of hours.

My wife Lisa and I enjoyed the exercise, the day was gorgeous blue sky, the mountain was almost deserted, and the pie was, well, let’s just say Louie found the pie to be an excellent carbohydrate replacement device.

And yes, we did ski down.

Funny how pie has a way of improving your carving.

I asked the young man if he'd rather have a Power Bar, or perhaps a Cliff Bar? "Dad!"

I asked the young man if he’d rather have a Power Bar, or perhaps a Cliff Bar? “Dad!”

It is surprising how efficient free-pivot AT ski touring bindings are.

Watching Louie stride with all that weight on his feet (his alpine boots are not light), I could see how he’d naturally glide his skins on the snow without picking his feet up. His pace was good enough to enjoy any moderate tour in the country. On to the huts!



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  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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