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Ski Resort Life

My Kid. My Liability.

Would you ski with your baby on your chest? This dad did.

Just before my daughter was born, I received a gift in the mail from a ski buddy containing a pink Flylow onesie that read, “Two inches of powder is knee deep to me.” It was the best gift I got. With the impending responsibilities of fatherhood hitting me hard, this small swatch of soft cotton was a psychological parachute telling me that my life as I knew it wasn’t (completely) going to crash and disintegrate.

When my daughter turned six months old, my wife and I planned a trip to 
the mountains. On the giant ledger of parenting, instilling my love of skiing in our daughter was one of the top entries
in the credit column. So a few days before our first time on the slopes, I called every ski area within a three-hour drive to check out the rules. And nearly every one—A-Basin, Eldora, Copper, and all the Vail Resorts—explicitly prohibited skiing with a kid who can’t ski on her own. I had no idea I was being so radical.

I get it. Skiing with a kid in a chest pack is absolutely more dangerous than not doing it. But we added up the risks, and they were squashed by the benefits.

If I want to ski with my daughter in
a chest pack, why shouldn’t I be able to? Certainly resorts prohibit it as a way
to prevent crappy skiers from literally hitting the slopes with their strapped-in kids. I get that too. And there’s no doubt resorts are worried about liability despite the blanket lift-ticket waiver.

But aren’t newbies with beat-up old gear more of a realistic liability than an experienced skier lugging a six-month- old down an empty green cruiser at 5 mph? In an industry correctly obsessed with replacing aging Boomers with kids, shouldn’t resorts be encouraging people to introduce their little ones to the slopes?

We took our daughter skiing for the first time on Thanksgiving at Winter Park, Colo., whose phone staffer hadn’t directly told me I couldn’t ski with a kid. “We leave it up to the parents,” he said. “Zero restrictions.” My season goal was two ski trips with two daddy-daughter runs each. (Hey, baby steps.) That first day, we completed four laps down an easy green run before she got cold. The next time, Super Bowl Sunday, we made three laps down those same green trails.

“Am I even supposed to let you on?” the liftie asked me as I shuffled to the line for our first ride. Apparently he didn’t see skiers with babies in chest packs every day. But by our final lap, he and other lifties were offering words of encouragement, sharing tales of when their parents first took them on snow.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to create the next Mikaela Shiffrin. I’m just trying to ensure my daughter has the same passion for the sport that my parents infused in me—albeit three years earlier than they did.

The comments and looks our trio received appeared to be mostly positive. To be sure, there was plenty of “I’d never do that”—to which my wife responded, “Neither would I, but my husband can.” We even got a few double takes turned puzzled looks turned thumbs-up from patrollers. But mostly we got smiles and side-glances of bewilderment. Of course, our best friends couldn’t resist weighing in with the ridiculously obvious “Be careful with her.” Our families were more blunt: “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

But I would. And now, when we talk about going to the mountains, she sways back and forth, saying, “Left turn, right turn,” and talks about hot chocolate.

I once read that minivans have strong safety records but that the vehicles themselves aren’t inherently any safer than other cars. These family transporters aren’t frequently involved in accidents because the people who pilot them tend to have kids inside and therefore tend to drive extra cautiously. The same phenomenon applies to skiing with a baby on board. Bunny slopes. Low speeds. Spidey sense tingling.

My advice: If you plan to ski with your baby, pick a day that’ll be uncrowded (like Thanksgiving), leave your poles at home, and play the ignorance card at the lift. It should get you a few runs, which is all the kid is good for anyway.