In ski culture, the term ‘first chair’ is synonymous with die-hard skiers and riders willing to wait in line an extra hour or more just to get a 9 second advantage on the rest of the chairlifts occupants and lay first tracks on their powdery line of choice.
I’ve experienced first chair glory a time or two in my life but it was more for the bragging rights than anything and I live more of a ‘first turn’ life these days. ‘First turn’ is a term I may have made up that refers to those who perhaps lack the dedication to wait in line for first chair but put in the effort to get to the mountain before most and are on the lift before the ‘first chair’ makes it back down to the bottom bull wheel. Considering our mountain opens at 8:45 this means being on the chairlift before 9:00 am, which in its own right is a pretty impressive feat each weekend if we are taking into account the 10 month old baby (and the accompanying gear and responsibility) we now bring with us.
Today was special however. Today we did get first chair. Despite a lazy morning at home and an afternoon arrival at White Pass we proudly sat on our first chair; as a family. At ten months old, Aubrin enjoyed a series of three chair lift rides as we navigated our way to the farthest reaches of the ski resort and followed a boot pack to one of our favorite places in the PNW while she snuck a trail nap. We then enjoyed a memorable 2,300 vertical feet snowboard run back to the lodge as a complete family.
As outdoor oriented and at times overly-ambitious parents, today was a proud day; a milestone moment in an amazing journey we are thankful to be a part of. And if you’re curious about the descent, check out the video at the end of this blog post!
It’s probably also worth talking about the process behind this day because those interested in doing something similar as well as those potentially placing judgement could benefit from some added context.
As an experienced snowboarder and 16 year season pass holder we’re immersed in a ski culture where it’s natural to be at the resort every weekend and if/when you have kids, they come along too.
Every weekend we stand in the lift line along side parents carrying their young children out onto the slopes and I have always been confident in my ability to carry Aubrin on a snowboard if and when the time came. With that said, it was still a cautious and meticulously thought-out decision.
We monitored the weather (temp and wind) for weeks and choose a particular day of the week and time of day to have as few other skiers on the slopes as possible. We acquired a baby specific helmet, full UV protection (baby specific goggles) and had proper cold weather clothing for her as well as an additional back pack full of the usual supplies that accompany an outing with a baby. We put a lot of thought into front or back carry and concluded that at this time front carry would allow the most comfort, control and safety for Aubrin on a snowboard. We then tested our proposed carry system at home first to get the fit dialed in with all of her gear on.
Even after all of that we proceeded with the mindset that we could and would abandon the plan at any time if we didn’t feel 100% comfortable with all of the aforementioned items.
Like all things in parenting it took a lot of preparation, teamwork, acute awareness and and ongoing evaluation and re-evaluation throughout the process which has become pretty automatic to us because of the similarities between outings like this and our personal experience with backpacking and mountaineering.
Summery: Be ambitious, make a plan, thoroughly prepare, have fun and always be willing to alter or abandon the plan!