After taking some time off from work and only getting on snow two days I was desperate to get on snow. (And one of those days was a pretty mediocre day of skate skiing at Cabin Creek.) So I planned a family back country ski adventure. The goal was to go to Paradise where there would actually be fresh snow and do a little skiing. Jennifer was a little reluctant at first due to the five hours of round trip driving for what we could only hope would be 2-3 hours of on snow activity. I hesitate to call it fun, because you never know how things will go with a soon to be four year old. But Jennifer was also excited about the prospect of having some winter, and trying out her new back country ski kit.
With Jennifer having come home after midnight the night before, and the typical prep work of leaving the house with a preschooler, we didn't get out of the house until 10am. Traffic was light once out of Seattle and we made good time to the park. The road was bare from Longmire to Paradise, but the NPS had left up the "chain up" sign. Fortunately as we were parked in the chain up area, a ranger came by and said we did not need chains, and we were on our way again. There was light snow falling on the way up to Paradise. But it was noticeable how little snow there was down low. (None at Longmire to speak of, and you could not ski to the bridge over the Nisqually.)
We got out of the car and geared up. We had Mirabelle's alpine ski setup and my goal was to be the human rope tow and tow her up the slope. Once we were geared up and got on the snow we found the failing in this plan. It was too difficult for Mirabelle to stay upright in the roughly five inches of fresh snow. After three attempts and three falls we switched to another method. Which was Mirabelle hiking up while Jennifer and I skinned. This of course was not sustainable for a long distance and we made it not too far from the parking lot before I sent Jennifer on ahead up a slope. While I looked after Mirabelle making snow angels and eating snow.
I had forgot to give Jennifer any instructions on transitioning and she spent a good portion of time trying to figure it out. She claims 45 minutes, but I think it was closer to 30. At some point I felt she wasn't going to come down without help and I asked Mirabelle if it was fine with her if I went and helped out her mama. So I raced up to help and found that Jennifer could not get into the bindings (Freerides) because there was too much snow jammed in them. I cleaned them out and she was able to lock the heels and head down the bunny slope to Mirabelle. I rushed on behind.
At that point Jennifer went for another lap while I hung out with Mirabelle. This lap went much better for her and she was back down in a reasonable time. I took another lap while Mirabelle grew impatient with the process of waiting for us. When I got back Jennifer wanted to go for another run. At this point it was close to 3:30 and the gate would close at 5pm, so I told her we should go. Mirabelle got her skis on and I held her hand to ski back to the parking lot. It went well enough as long as she kept her skis in the track Jennifer skied down. Mirabelle would come to a stop if she hit the fresh snow which was now heavier after the afternoon warm up hit it. Right before the parking lot I picked up too much speed and dragged Mirabelle down which was the end of skiing for the day. We packed up the car and headed out after that.
It was a learning experience for all of us. Jennifer realized why I enjoy skiing so much more than slowshoeing. She had a great time and wanted to stay longer, but the park's schedule as well as our child's was not going to allow it. Mirabelle once again enjoyed another day in the snow. But being close to four years old and attempting to ski heavy wet cascade fresh is not the easiest way to do things. Perhaps we'll be able to get her on some corn snow before summer?