Winter sports/10/29/2019

How to Go Ski Touring With Children

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Ski touring with children can be great fun. But the requirements in terms of planning, route selection and equipment must not be underestimated. An expert explains how to plan the perfect ski tour for kids.

Auf Skitour mit der Familie, das geht beispielsweise in St. Antönien. 
On a ski tour with the family, for example in St. Antönien. 

Ski touring with children never is a "in between" activity. Good planning, competent parents and absolutely safe goals are the decisive factors for the success of an excursion when touring with children. This means in particular: timely planning so that there is no time pressure. Equipment, clothing, luggage, snacks and helping to get dressed - everything needs much more time with children, as does the ascent itself. After all, the kids have a lot to do off the ski tour, such as building igloos, snowball fights or looking for treasures. Therefore, you should allow twice as much time for the ascent with children.

"Children Give a New Perspective on Touring."

Bernhard Ziegler is founder of the touring portal As a passionate ski tourer and father of two children, he has undertaken many ski tours with them in recent years since his son was seven years old. He wrote down his experiences and a selection of routes suitable for children in the first "Ski Tour Guide for Children".

"My kids gave me a different perspective on ski touring," he says, "kids move a lot more in the here and now." They would much rather set their own course, follow a stream or play in the snow. It's important to give in to them. Even if you had to take a step back.

The cover of the book "Skitouren mit Kindern" by Bernhard Ziegler. 
Image credit:
Bernhard Ziegler

When would you recommend ski tours with children?
Bernhard Ziegler:
The most important prerequisite is that the children can ski well. It's not a question of age. For example, the children should be slowly introduced towards the deep snow at the edge of the piste. The more feeling for deeper snow, the more fun the descent will be.

Whether a child already goes on small ski tours at the age of six or only at the age of nine, depends on how physically trained it is - and of course whether it feels like it. Those children who have fun on ski tours, are the ones who also like to be in the mountains in summer and who also like to exert themselves once in a while.

What characteristics must ski touring routes have so that they are suitable for children?
The topic of avalanches should not play a role at all on children's ski tours. I'm not leaving if the avalanche situation doesn't allow it. And I do not go into an area, which in the worst case could be avalanche endangered. I can't take the same safety precautions I would take with adults with children. For example, maintain relief distances: In difficult situations, children need closeness instead of distance. You need instructions. In addition, there may be a lack of safety when skiing. A fall is always a large additional load. Imagine that: A child has to go down the slope alone, it falls, it has to go back into the skis... You can't do this alone.

Bernhard Ziegler with his two children.
Image credit:
Bernhard Zieger

"At Best, No Switchback Terrain."

What does that mean for planning ski tours with children?
At an avalanche warning level of maximum 2 I go in terrain with less than or maximum 30 degrees. Moreover, in the best case it is also not a switchback terrain, because children have a hard time with it. Piste ski tours may be safe. But my kids didn't feel like it at all. If it's ski touring, it's off-road.

How many meters of altitude did you initially expect your children to climb?
Tours with 300 or 400 meters of altitude have worked quite well at the beginning. The favourite tour of my children was in the Sudelfeld the Schreckenkopf.

What else do you plan when you choose a route?
The retreat is not necessarily the most important thing. If the children can sit in the sun with a snack and perhaps look for buried chocolate coins  in the snow with an old avalanche transceiver, that has also its charm. Children also find forest roads rather bland on ski tours. They won't let themselves be comforted over such a boring stretch with the chance of a great slope. They're interested in the now. And that's boring at the moment. Unfortunately this limits the choice of tours very much. It's the same with hunger or thirst. They don't show much patience either. You should always have plenty of food with you.

"The Avalanche Transceiver Is Standard, Even with Children."

Is there any ski touring equipment suitable for children?
You have to be aware that children have to carry and perform about twice as much as an adult in relation to their body weight on ski tours. Their own weight and that of their equipment - ski boots, skis, bindings - are in a completely different relationship to each other than they are to us. A few years ago, equipment was the most difficult topic. There's been some progress.

Does each child need their own LVS equipment?
I do not go with children into avalanche endangered area, but it is like with a car. Even if I only drive around the corner with my kid, I buckle it on. This should be standard and introduces the children to safety thinking. From my experience, children also have fun searching and digging with the avalanche transceiver.

The Swiss outdoor blogger and book author Urs Kyburz, active on the board of the Homburg section of the Swiss Alpine Club, reports on his blog "In der Natur unterwegs" on his numerous experiences on ski tours with both sons. He complements Bernhard Ziegler's tips with the note that he initially went on tours that he already knew. For the first attempts, a slope was also sufficient for the children to become familiar with the movement sequence. His experience tells him that counter ascent tours don't go down well with children. And the most important thing: "The child determines the course of the tour, not the destination", says Urs Kyburz. "If the child has no desire for the summit, then it is so."

Equipment for children's ski tours

Ski touring binding adapter for beginners
KochAlpin offers the Contour startUp plastic adapter for normal ski bindings. These are not too heavy and you can easily put them in your backpack. They are very practical for testing or occasional ski tours with children, because the purchase of extra ski touring equipment is not necessary. Also cheap skins for children's skis
are available from the company Contour (50 Euro).

Touring skis for ambitious youngsters
The first manufacturers in the ski tour market are also adapting to the growing number of young ski tourers. In view of the still low sales figures, they should regard this offer as an investment in the future.

Hagan offers touring skis for children. The Hagan Ride Junior (199 Euro) is available from a length of 125 cm with the matching bridge binding Z02 JR (279.99 Euro). The Ride Jr Klebefelle comes with Hagan for 99 Euro.

Dynafit is a brand newcomer to the market with the SL 80 children's touring ski (400 Euro). It is available from a ski length of 129 cm with the ST Rotation 7 binding (450 Euro).

According to Dynafit, there are no children's touring boots on the market yet. For the Dynafit touring skis and bindings, the smallest ladies boots (size 22.5 or 36) are therefore recommended. Disadvantage: They are often too stiff and sometimes too high for children's legs. However, the development of a children's touring shoe is under discussion.

The Contour startUp binding adapter and the Hagan binding work with any ski boot that the children wear open for ascent.

Avalanche beacons can be borrowed at the service points of the German Alpine Club.