How to set up your kid with an uphill kit for less than $50
My wife and I love drooling over gear as much as the next outdoor adventurer. So much, in fact, that we have been self-diagnosed with a chronic case of G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). But then we had a kid…
Allow me to rant, for just a moment, about a particular element of parenting in mountain towns: buying them gear. Durango, McCall, Crested Butte, Whitefish, you name the town; right now, there are parents making some hard (and silly) decisions. Due to the unstoppable problem of kids growing, we are faced with shopping for a whole new kit for them each and every year. With my own personal gear, one of my most common justifications to “overpaying” for a new pair of skis or boots sounds like this: “this pair could last me up to a decade!” or “if this thousand dollar setup lasts ten years, that’s only $100 per year.”
Okay, so let’s analyze that logic and the likelihood of whether or not we will actually follow through on that promise to ourselves in another post. The fact remains that with kids’ gear, this fiscal argument gets thrown out the door like a pair of soiled toddler’s pajamas. Adding to my frustration is the unspoken, but very loud, theme of competition among parents in mountain towns to outfit their kids with the latest and greatest gear as if we’re all attempting to have our families resemble the cover of the (insert any overpriced outdoorsy company) catalogue.
When I can, I try to resist overspending and keeping up with the Joneses. But with uphill skiing it seemed a daunting challenge. Perfect, I love a good gear challenge!
Two years ago, I set a goal to outfit my six year old with a complete uphill kit for less than $50. Somehow I’d have to find skis, boots, bindings, skins, and poles for the same amount I had just spent on my own single pair of boot insoles.
Bindings. First, I wanted to research my options. I turned my research to none other than WildSnow.com where I found this post from 2015 written by a dad on a similar quest who became the lucky heir of His Blogness’s 25-year-old setup. This led me to check out new and used Hagan Junior bindings, which is a nice frame-style binding sized for kids boots. Tempted though I was to just click ‘add to cart,’ my fifty dollar budget took priority. I scoured eBay, Craigslist and consignment shops with no success. I dug in vain through the “sporting goods” corners of thrift stores hoping to find a forgotten pair of kids’ Hagans. One month into my quest, all I had come up with was a pair of ski poles for one dollar.
With $49 and a small thread of stoke remaining for the mission, I walked into the last consignment shop within a 200 mile radius of our home. There, in a pile of skis, with a beam of heavenly light shining directly upon its $20 price tag (cue the angel chorus!) was a short pair of kids’ skis mounted telemark with G3 Targas!
I am one of the many traitors who begrudgingly left telemark a few years ago in favor of weight and comfort, so I was pretty excited to have an excuse to get my boy into a freeheel setup. First things first, adjust the bindings for a smaller boot.
Boots. During my treasure hunts at consignment shops, I had spied a pair of old Garmont Teledactyls (shout out to whomever at Garmont came up with that awesome name)…though I couldn’t remember exactly where. While talking about this with some of my parent friends who also suffer from G.A.S., I struck a pot of gold again. Their 7-year-old daughter had just outgrown her Teledactyls. Within minutes I had the pair in my hands for fifteen dollars. Don’t worry, I’ll do the arithmetic for you: I had 14 bucks left with which to figure out skins.
Skins. The solution to a good pair of skins came to me from an old ski buddy of mine who is a dirtbag to the core when it comes to thrifty gear solutions. He used to dig in the trash cans behind our local ski shop for skin scraps, you know, the part cut off of the end to make the skin fit to the length of any new ski. He would then take these scraps home and sew them together with (wait for it)….dental floss. Luckily, I did not have to dig in any trash cans for skins or floss since, due to my bad G.A.S., I have a drawer reserved for skin scraps in my garage shop. In another drawer, we have industrial strength thread and some massive needles. With four scrap pieces, I had enough for both skis.
With skins taken care of, I still had $14 left in my budget. So, on our way to the first uphill day of the season (and of his life), my boy, Walker, and I stopped at a gas station to buy a very necessary uphill tool: gummy worms. In the very same aisle was a bag of assorted bungee cords, which I impulsively bought as I remembered yet another important uphill tool: the tow-line. I wore a minimalist mountaineering harness to which I clipped a long climbing sling. At the trailhead, I fashioned a crude diaper-harness type thing from the bungee cords for Walker, then tied a single bungee to the ‘diaper’ with a bite-knot in the other end where I attached my sling.
Later, in the shop, I improved on the Gon-dad-ola bungee-sling system, making a harness for him out of old bike tubes. I discovered a harness-type system is much more pleasant for a kid when you’re yanking him uphill. I also made it quicker to un-hitch and roll-up as he went from wanting it, to not wanting it, to wanting it, to not wanting it….
Buying new gear is fun, and I’m certainly guilty of spending more money on my Chariot bike trailer than I did on my first car. But it’s worth stopping to consider our piles of gear once in a while, to think about what we’re teaching our kids, and why we do these sports at all.
So, here’s to another season of improvisation, tinkering, and embracing our inner dirtbag amidst the epidemic that is sweeping the mountain west: bad G.A.S.
Andy Sovick is a father, husband and Colorado native. He is the owner of Beacon Guidebooks whose publications include Lou Dawson’s Skiing and Light Tours of Colorado and forthcoming Off-Piste Ski Maps.
For parents on less of a budget, the options for kids uphill gear is growing. Check them out here.
Andy is the founder and owner of Beacon Guidebooks, a ski guide and mapping publisher. Author of Backcountry Skiing: Crested Butte Colorado, Andy has been skiing Colorado’s backcountry his entire life. Raised on cross-country skis pulled from a dumpster in Fort Collins, he started his ski career following his parent’s tracks along Cameron Pass. He moved to the Colorado’s western slope in 2000 and now resides with his wife and son in Gunnison. From woodworking to book writing, Andy is a craftsman to the core. He believes that sharing relevant information and photos about skiing the backcountry will help travelers spread out, get inspired to explore, and most importantly, make better and safer decisions.