I often marvel at the outdoor activities my toddler aged son has already experienced in his two-and-a-half years on this planet. Raising a Montanan is quite an honor. Despite the rain and fog, my husband and I took our son to Logan Pass in Glacier National Park the weekend it opened to backcountry ski. We knew it would be more for the novelty than anything else as we’ve hit the stage in parenting where Charlie’s temperament and will is no longer easily appeased as it was when he was an infant and would sleep either in the pack while we hiked or napped in the buggy while I towed him behind my road bike. As a toddler, he doesn’t wish to be a mere passenger of trails but wants to move those always-busy feet according to his own pace and interests. For the first two summers as new parents we could nearly do what we had before Charlie: hike and bike, just with a kid strapped to one of us with a spare set of diapers and wipes stuffed with the snacks and extra layers. This year, how we move around in the outdoors has changed a bit as Charlie has grown.
Charlie learned to ski this past winter and we knew that he’d be thrilled to see snow in June. We were unsure if he’d really want to ski or if we’d be mostly schlepping tiny skis and gear for a brief tour, but we just knew we had to go. Here’s the big thing about living in Northwest Montana: you don’t stay inside or pass up opportunities to play in the mountains, even with a little one and his tears when you tell them that you can’t pack all 45 of his stuffed animals to accompany him on the trip. Here’s also the big thing about parenting toddlers and the outdoors: snacks matter. Copious amounts of snacks. I may have forgotten diapers but I never head out on the trail without tons of snacks.
Logan Pass was shrouded in clouds when we arrived and got in our gear. We also learned that Charlie’s feet had grown since March (duh) and that his ski boots were a bit snug. He happily wore his helmet and goggles and we had a bit of a negotiation period about riding in the big backpack while we toured up toward the flank of Mount Clements before we could ski down. With no magic carpets for Charlie to ride up we had to demonstrate the whole business of “skinning” to a dubious child. My husband carried Charlie and I had all the gear. We sang songs at the tops of our lungs, which is also an important part of making the outdoors fun for the family. The fog was thick and we cajoled the cloud cover to break to no avail. When we decided we had gone far enough up, guessing in the dense fog just where Clements looked, it was time for fun in the summer snow. Charlie slid and rolled in the snow, and even tried to make a small snowman. He shrieked and laughed, and it didn’t bother him one bit that the visibility was poor. He was in the mountains and playing in the snow in June. What could possibly be more fun?
Well, how about sliding down the snow on skis? To me, that’s really been the most fun I’ve had in my life since I was Charlie’s age. Skis on, helmet and goggles in place, Charlie was ready to go. My husband held his hand while I snapped photos. The terrain was quite mellow and the snow sun-cupped so it took a little bit of oomph to get some momentum. Charlie started to slide and we all hooted and hollered. We’re skiing! And this good fun and happiness lasted for 45 seconds. Then his legs got tired. And suddenly, which is how it goes with these toddlers, it was not fun. His feet hurt (which was likely true). He couldn’t see where to go. He wanted to go home. Cole and I smiled and raised our eyebrows to say: well, we tried.
Charlie wanted to be held and he asked for me: “Mom I want to go with you.” I told him I’d hold him in the steeper parts and then he could ski when he wanted. It was not easy with all the gear on my back holding on to him with his skis in, but this is another lesson in parenting: always be prepared to carry a lot.
I eased into a snowplow once I had Charlie in my grip. He then hollered, “No, Mommy!” And I thought, oh brother, now what? We’ve had snacks, ate lunch, had a snowball fight, and I’m now prepared to ski with him in my arms. What would possibly be bothering him?
He continued, “Don’t do it that way. I want to go fast!”
The kid, the kid who’s only been alive for two years and was recently potty trained, knows the difference between a slow snowplow and how his mom likes to ski: fast.
I just laughed and said, ok, we’ll go fast.
The fog never lifted off Logan Pass while we were there and it likely took us longer to pack up and drive from Kalispell then it did for us to tour on skis at the pass. But that doesn’t really matter because it was another great day exploring the mountains, even if it’s at a different pace and with a different focus than before we were parents. According to Charlie, we skied fast. And then we ate more snacks in the parking lot of Logan Pass while the fog started to lift off the peaks to the east.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.