The snow conditions were absolutely perfect.
The fresh snow glistened in the trees and there wasn’t even a hint of breeze.
Boxing Day dawned bright and clear and enough snow had fallen to open the cross country ski trails.
Yay! This would be a lovely, invigorating break after all the pre-Christmas craziness!
My daughter and two of her friends wanted to come along, which made me super happy. I so enjoy my kids’ friends and feel honoured that they want to do things with me.
So, off we went to the ski trails.
Hardly anyone was out.
It was wonderfully peaceful when all of a sudden… the peace of the day was shattered by the loud, piercing cry of a baby.
I looked up to see a parent, with a baby in a frame carrier on the parent’s back, skate skiing full speed ahead.
I couldn’t believe my eyes!
I saw a distressed baby screaming loudly. The child looked about 10 months old – but the parent was moving so fast it was hard to be sure.
His little head and body were being jerkily thrown from left to right to left to right to left to right to left to right – and on and on.
Skate skiing is extraordinarily fast paced; the skier’s body moves so fast from side to side. Skate skiers just fly by you on the trail if you are a regular (classic) cross country skier.
Check out this image to see how fast skate skiing is, and the way the skate skiers body moves from side to side.
Imagine a baby in a frame pack on the back of the skier. Frame packs are not designed for that kind of movement.
Now picture what was happening to that baby.
We were all stunned.
The baby was obviously frightened, probably cold, completely out of control of his body, possibly in pain, very possibly getting his head shaken too hard back and forth, and possibly even getting a concussion.
My hope was that the parent would stop, comfort the baby, take off their skis and walk back to the trailhead. Since we didn’t pass them along the trail, I don’t think that happened.
I kept wondering…
What were they thinking? What was the intention? Was it to share the love of the outdoors with the baby?
Was it their afternoon to be with baby and they really wanted to get some fresh air and exercise?
Did they want to build up their ski technique and stamina by carrying extra weight on their back?
Did they even think about what the baby was experiencing or were they so caught up in their activity that they forgot?
They couldn’t have missed the fact that the baby was miserable. So why did they keep going?
In addition to the shaking of the baby’s head and body, when a parent moves at skate skiing speed, the parent becomes the “wind chill factor” for the baby – another danger.
So many concerns…
And yet my hunch is that this skier was a pretty involved, loving, active parent who just didn’t bring their consciousness to the activity and didn’t think through the very serious implications of what the baby’s body was being subjected to.
As you know, I am a great believer in getting outdoors with your babies and kids, sharing your love of nature and your love of outdoor activity.
But I am also extremely concerned about babies’ safety, well being and comfort. It is essential that parents keep those factors at the very centre of any activity they do with their little ones. Safety MUST be the number 1 concern.
I have seen many parents happily cross country skiing with their babies; classic regular cross country skiing.
But I have never before seen a parent skate ski with a baby on his or her back, and I hope to never see another baby in that much danger again.
If you are a skate skier and you want to go out with your baby, the baby must be securely harnessed into a pulk (Chariot, KinderShuttle etc.) where his or her head and body are held securely in place and low to the ground.
If someone you know is new to outdoor winter activities with their little ones, please take a moment to share this post with them.
And please let them know that I’m always available to offer advice for the best ways for parents to spend time safely and comfortably doing outdoor activities they love with their kids.
Let’s never risk hurting our babies out in the beautiful outdoors.
I have put in a call to the cross country club and they will be putting a notice about baby safety in their next newsletter.