Sundance Nordic Center Ski and Snowshoe

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This week the weather was amazing.  The sun shone so much it felt like spring, so naturally I wanted to get out of the house and do something.  When I suggested we go snowshoeing, at first Big E was not interested.  He wanted to go play with his cousins. Unfortunately for him, an avalanche closed the road down the canyon so we did what I wanted to do – snowshoeing!
Phase one of our adventure was a picnic at the Sundance Nordic Center.  My kids love picnics so we often include them in our days, even if it’s just eating on a blanket on the floor of the car repair shop. Food is just more fun if it comes from a picnic bag.  The bonus about starting out this way is that it allows us all to have the best possible experience. I was not about to take my kids out on an adventure without them having full bellies and empty bladders.  It makes all of our lives easier.
After we ate, little g had her first meltdown of the day.  I didn’t know if it was too bright, too cold or too tired but she started crying and I couldn’t figure out why. It wasn’t until we walked back to the truck that I sniffed the problem. Lo and behold she had pooped in her diaper, requiring a multilayer diaper extraction. If you are planning a cross country ski excursion, be aware that the Nordic Center only has outhouses, so plan accordingly. 
With g standing in the driver’s seat of the truck, I took her out of her snow clothes, stripped her down and changed the stinky mess. It was not ideal but we didn’t have any other choice. 
After the diaper drama was taken care of we moved on to phase two of this adventure – gearing up.  We rented Big E his strap in nordic skis from the Sundance Nordic Center.  They’re not true nordic skis, but rather skis with a stirrup on each, that straps over the kid’s own snow boots.  It gives more control and stability than classic nordic skis. 

Little g rode in the hiking pack.  I always put her in the pack at the last possible moment because she tends to cry while I strap her in and doesn’t stop until she’s moving.  On this adventure, however, she waited to wail until I started moving and didn’t stop for twenty minutes straight.

I strapped on my snowshoes then hefted little g onto my back.  The picnic table was very helpful for this part since getting the baby pack on without tipping the baby out is always a bit of a trick.  In this picture we’re all geared up ready to go.

And so began phase three – hitting the trail. On this nordic ski adventure I didn’t have the luxury of another adult.  Because I know my son’s patience runs out quickly I started the trip by reminding Big E of the book The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper. That particular book is one of my mom’s favorites and  I remember her often quoting the famous line, “I think I can, I think I can,” when I was growing up. I tried to get Big E excited by saying we would pretend to be the Little Engine and if we fell we had to chant its famous catchphrase.  
Hopes were high at the outset.  I knew from the last time we went cross country skiing that Big E would likely be spending plenty of time on the ground.  For that reason I decided the best trail for us was the Lil’ Rodent Loop.  It is short and sweet, right by the yurt and wouldn’t be used by anyone else.  
Big E struggled with the skis, constantly crossing them and falling down.  Being the headstrong boy that he is, every time I tried to help him up he yelled, “No, I can do it myself!”  His attitude, along with the still crying little g, made any attempt at positive encouragement through pretending to be Little Engines that Could fly out the window.  With every flop came crying and complaining from Big E, plus crying and complaining from little g who was rapidly approaching naptime. At one point E was lying on his back on the snow, wrestling his skis around and one ski popped snow onto his face.  Needless to say, he was not happy about it and from that point on I decided to take things into my own hands. 

Although I want E to learn how to ski on his own, the stress of two crying children was too much.  From that point on I did everything I could to keep him from falling down. I wanted him to have a positive experience and that just wasn’t happening. So, I held his hand, pulled him up, eased him down the downhill sections and pushed him up the uphill parts. I stopped giving him pointers and just let him move however he wanted.  If he fell I just grabbed him and pulled him back up, which was not an easy task with a baby on my back.

We finally made it to the end of the trail and a miraculous thing happened.  Little g stopped crying and Big E started laughing.  That’s right, true laughter at the thrill of going down a slope on skis.  For one brief moment he understood the joy of skiing and I couldn’t help but smile. That joy is exactly what I experience every time I’m on the mountain. More than anything I want my kids to experience it too.

We headed back to base to pack up our gear.  We had only been on the snow for 30 minutes, but that was enough. Little g was ready for naptime, Big E was tired from falling and I was exhausted from carrying 30 pounds on my back while lifting, pulling and pushing my 4-year-old.  The trip was short and stressful, but at least by the end we were finally all smiling.

Nordic Skiing with the Ladies

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I usually go cross country skiing on groomed trails at Soldier Hollow or Sundance Resort.  But when my sister-in-law Chelsea invited me for a ladies Nordic ski trip up South Fork Canyon I thought it would be fun to try it out on the untamed snow.  I didn’t quite know what to expect since I’m accustomed to just moving into the ski tracks if the trail gets too tricky.  
Chelsea and I got to the meeting place first (Vivian Park in Provo Canyon) so we got out our gear to practice a bit before the other ladies arrived.  The snow was falling thick all around and several powdery inches covered the path.  All the powder slowed the skis down, even with the fresh coat of wax on our skis, but the slower pace was fine by me since I was still unsure of what to expect from the trail.
Soon Chelsea’s old college roommates, Hannah and Liz, arrived and we all piled into Hannah’s SUV to make our way up to the trail head.  Big Springs trail head is up South Fork Canyon, an off shoot of Provo Canyon and a beautiful area.  All around were pine trees and aspens, everything covered with thick fresh snow.  We unloaded in the parking lot and headed toward the gate that crossed the road.  The trail follows the unplowed road for a while then loops to the left, through a large meadow and down some steep switchbacks until you’re back at the trailhead.  
Here Liz and Chelsea are all ready to go, but once they get going it doesn’t go so well for Chelsea.  


I have quite a bit of experience on the snow.  Usually it’s downhill snowboarding which is quite different than cross country skiing but I assumed some of the skills would cross over.  On the beginning incline we all did quite well, although the snow conditions didn’t allow for great kick and glide technique. The uphill route was an aerobic experience leaving all of us sweaty under our snow layers.  Chelsea, who was the least experienced skier in the group, fell quite a bit, but she wasn’t alone.  

Halfway through the trail, we made it to a meadow with enough slope to try a little downhill skills.  Liz, Hannah and I hiked up a little bit and staying in single file slid down the meadow, each of gaining more speed than the last.  Since the snow was soft it took several trips to pack it down enough to pick up real speed.  I went third and the speed I got was enough for me to know that I didn’t want to go again.  The problem with cross country skis is that they are skinny and long which makes them awkward when you try to slow down via snowplow.  Not to mention that once your skis are in the tracks of someone else the grooves make it difficult to move into a snowplow.  My attempt at downhill skiing left me feeling out of control with my speed and although I didn’t fall, I didn’t want to try it again.

Once we moved on from the meadow we began the descent back to base.  This part of the trail had more twists and some steep side drop offs that made cross country skiing a little tricky.  I was grateful for the powder to slow me down because once I got going fast there wasn’t a lot I could do to stop myself.  I snowplowed, tried going in the power, even pointed my skis toward the mountainside so that I would stop without falling.  All of these tricks helped some but it did not prevent me from spending some time sitting in the snow.  The worst part about falling isn’t suddenly finding yourself flat on your back or spitting snow out of your face.  It’s trying to coordinate the huge sticks strapped to your feet so that you can stand back up without tripping over yourself again.  Liz, who had taught Nordic skiing before, suggested the following for standing up with skis on.

  1. Place the skis parallel to each other and on the ground.
  2. Curl yourself into a ball with your weight over your feet.
  3. Plant your ski poles on each side of your skis and push yourself to standing.
These tips were definitely helpful, especially to curl into a ball and put your weight over your feet.  I would’ve spent a lot more time on the ground if not for that.
The trail passed through trees, meadows and even some old farm equipment until finally we made the last turn toward the parking lot.  Hannah, Liz and Chelsea all headed toward the car as I attempted to ski under the gate.  After a day on the trail with fairly little problems I was surprised to suddenly find myself sprawled on the ground.  I had tripped while crossing through the gate and with no grace whatsoever I was rolling on the snow covered parking lot, skis and poles splayed out in every direction.  To make it worse another car was parked right by me with people loading in, watching me make a fool of myself.  With as much dignity as I could muster I unlatched my skis, gathered my equipment and headed back to the truck, my face red with embarrassment.  It’s one thing to fall while trying a difficult section of trail and quite another to fall in the completely flat parking lot.
Bruised ego aside, it was a fun trip and I would definitely try it again.  Now that I’ve gone on an ungroomed trail I’m excited for next time.  Hopefully I can make it without falling on my face.

Sundance Resort Blog

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A few months ago I contacted Sundance Resort to ask if I could guest blog for them.  Well I was finally able to make that happen.  Check out the post here: http://www.sundanceresortblog.com and let me know what you think!

Enjoy!

Island Park, Idaho – Day 4, The Long Road Home

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The final day of our Island Park, Idaho vacation was our last attempt to salvage a weekend gone wrong.  Mountain Dad’s broken ribs along with my and little g’s illnesses were shaping the trip into a negative experience.  We had such high hopes at the outset of enjoying the plethora of snowmobiling trails but unfortunately we had not been able to enjoy much of anything.  Because of this I decided that the last morning we would force some fun…at least for our kids.

Big E and his cousins had spent some time digging in the snow outside our condo.  The result of their efforts was a cool snow fort, complete with tunnels and penguin slides.  On our final morning the kids got all bundled up to enjoy some final sliding around.

After playing in the snow we tried snowshoeing. With the metal maws strapped on their feet they stomped around the field out back for about ten minutes before declaring that it was too cold and coming back inside.

By then it was time to pack things up so Heather and I loaded kids and stuff (including the puked on port-o-crib) into her car and started out.  Mountain Dad had decided to tempt fate and go on a snowmobile ride with my brother-in-law Jonathan.  After all, we drove the machines all the way out there and he didn’t want all that effort to be wasted.  On one hand I appreciate that sentiment, especially since I did all of the loading for the trip.  On the other hand his ribs were broken.  He had broken them by snowmobiling…how wise was it to go again?

While Mountain Dad and Jonathan snowmobiled out to Big Spring, Heather and I drove back to her place and started unpacking and cleaning.  One of the unfortunate truths of motherhood is that sometimes you have to handle disgusting things. This was one of those moments.  Despite rinsing out little g’s soiled bedding the day before, the stench of vomit was quite strong. Being nauseated myself, smelling the fumes wasn’t the best, but I managed to plug my nose and get everything into the washing machine without puking.  The real trick was how to wash the port-o-crib frame and mattress, since they were too large and bulky to wash by traditional means.  Had it been summertime I would’ve hooked up the hose and sprayed everything down outside. It was winter, however, so we had to come up with something else.  Thankfully, my sister inherited my mom’s MacGyver talents and using her jetted bathtub and overhead showerhead we created an oversized washing machine in her bathroom. I added some soap, let the jets run for 10 minutes and by the end there was no trace of little g’s mess from the night before.

Soon Mountain Dad and Jonathan joined us and reported that their trip had been successful.  Apart from his ribs being excessively jostled by every bump on the trail, Mountain Dad survived the trip, enjoyed the scenery and was finally able to snowmobile.  Success!

We left my sisters and headed home, happy to have had some good times amidst the bad.  At least Big E had a great weekend of playing with cousins, sliding on snow and swimming.  For him it was probably his best vacation ever.  For me…well, not so much.