It’s many young parents’ dream to one day bring their son or daughter on a family heli skiing trip with them. So, at what age is it appropriate to introduce your children to the high-intensity, high-consequence world of backcountry skiing and snowboarding?
The most important thing to realize is that not all backcountry skiing and riding has to be high-intensity and high-consequence. For that reason, the answer to the age question is pretty simple: you can introduce your kids to the backcountry as soon as they are confident in their ability to link together solid turns down black diamond trails. Taking this approach will help your children develop into confident, knowledgeable, backcountry skiers. There are a number of ways to introduce your kids to the backcountry without exposing them to unnecessary risk:
- Ski Out West
Backcountry skiing usually involves skiing deep, un-groomed terrain with exposure to trees and other hazards. Resorts in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, etc. have in-bound terrain that can be very similar to the backcountry. If your kids are able to handle skiing out west, they are likely ready for a family heli skiing trip.
2. Side Country
Once your kids are feeling confident skiing in-bounds in powder and variable snow conditions, take them on a quick hike or traverse to the sidecountry. There are often designated gates or boot packs that skiers/riders can access at their own risk. Opportunities like this will train your kids to recognize and appreciate more remote terrain. This will also help them practice safe skiing with a group. (Keep in mind: If you are leaving resort boundaries, you & your children should be carrying a beacon, shovel, and probe, and be aware of how to use them)
3. Cat Skiing
Often cheaper, usually more mellow, and slower paced, cat skiing is a great way to take one step closer to heli skiing. Of course, we work with a number of great lodges & outfitters who can get you up in a cat: Check out Skeena Cat Skiing.
Building a solid basis in the sport will ensure that once you’re ready to book your first family heli skiing trip. Your offspring will be ready to make you proud and shred their faces off.
AUTHOR: JAMES HAMILTON
Heli contributing writer, editor, and ambassador