Living the Dream

Getting outside with your child

It was early in the day at Tuckerman Ravine and we had just finished breakfast over our small canister stove that we use for fast and light camping. It’s a tiny metal thing that opens up like a butterfly and screws into the top of a small canister of isopro fuel. It’s pretty neat actually, the canister and stove nestling into the teapot like a set of Russian dolls that take up barely any room in your backpack.

I didn’t get to put the stove away. Instead, eighteen-month-old Ryland, wrapped up in the most adorable pink and purple down onesie, was instantly captivated by how everything fit together. So instead of simply packing up breakfast, we took it out and put it back together again a few times. In and out. My camping stove was now a toddler’s new favorite toy.

They had come up for the day. Our adventure loving friends (who also happen to own Base Camp Ski & Bike Shop in Killington) wanted to pass on their love of the outdoors and had skinned up the 2.4-mile Tuckerman Ravine Trail to the Hermit Lake Caretaker’s cabin with their 18-month daughter on their back. And there, on the deck riddled with crampon marks, we got to introduce Ryland to life in the mountains. 

We put her snacks into the teakettle and off she went. She high-fived every skier and rider that came through Hermit Lake that day, fascinated by what they were wearing and helping them repack their gear. HoJos is where everyone transitions for the next phase, removing their skins and switching to crampons. Of course, Ryland had to pass them their sneakers or their water bottles, while gazing longingly at whatever snacks they might be eating at the moment. Her own snacks sat ignored on the other side of the deck.

She learned how to climb onto the picnic table and, more importantly, how to climb down safely. She ran around the benches lining the deck and learned to stay away from the deep holes where snow had melted around the rocks. In a matter of minutes, 18-month-old Ryland had made the deck at HoJos her playground.

The baby barely even noticed that her dad and the BF left for a few hours to climb up Hilman’s Highway while mom used her crazy long-focus lens to get some amazing photos of them coming down the Christmas Tree. She was too busy learning that while crampons, micro spikes and ice axes were not for her she was more than welcome to walk around with everyone’s adjustable poles or my avalanche shovel with the handle shrunk down. 

It was amazing to watch just how comfortable she was in the mountains, rolling around in her snowsuit without a care in the world. Here was a kid that will be raised in the mountains with her skis on. At 18 months, she’s already spent a few days on snow and there is no doubt that she’ll be at Tuckerman Ravine every year for the rest of her life. 

There were other parents there, some with their now older kids, who told stories about when they first brought their kids up the long, arduous hike and into the mountains. We watched a 10-year-old girl make her way over The Lip, the most difficult line in The Bowl, receiving a round of applause and congratulations from everyone as she made it to the bottom. Her dad gave her a proud hug and stood by quietly, letting his daughter bask in her moment of glory, no matter how afraid she had been on the descent. 

Because Tuck’s isn’t about taking the biggest line with the fewest turns. It’s about the pilgrimage. It’s about a shared experience with so many East Coast adventure skiers and riders and passing along your love of adventure skiing to your friends and your children, to keep the dream of big mountain skiing alive when so many of us get caught in the rut of lift access. Tuck’s is about honoring the history of skiing and testing our limits to see what we can achieve. 

With the 65 mph sustained winds, we didn’t take the baby into The Bowl but it was enough. At one point, I threw Ryland onto my shoulders and walked toward the rusty water pump. As we came around the corner and The Bowl came into view, I felt her little body lean backwards, trying to take it all in. I couldn’t see her little face but I could feel her awe, as she saw the bowl for the first time and I cannot wait to see the skier that she becomes. 

Maybe one winter, 20  or so years from now, Ryalnd will be the caretaker at Hermit Lake, guarding the traditions of earned ski ascents. But until then, we’ll continue to blow bubbles, repack our gear and climb up picnic tables. Just so long as she’s in the mountains. 

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