By Michael Lanza

On the day I first took my son, Nate, backcountry skiing, when he was 12, he made a quick mental calculation before we even left the house of the effort-to-payoff deficit inherent to this activity. I told him to expect that we would spend the first two hours climbing more than a thousand feet uphill before skiing back down. He contemplated that quietly for a pregnant moment, and then asked the logical follow-up question: “And how much time do we ski downhill?”

With two friends and regular backcountry-skiing partners of mine, Nate and I headed out to Freeman Peak, in the Mores Creek Summit area of southwest Idaho’s Boise Mountains. On a March day when the sun burned atomically from a sky polished to a flawless blue, and new snow cloaked the boughs of the ponderosa pines and blanketed the ground—powder so light you could scoop into your hand and blow it away like feathers—Nate and I skied up and down some easy, open glades on that mountain twice.

Even as I constantly weigh issues of safety when doing things outdoors with my kids that entail a certain degree of risk, I was eager to show my son why I far prefer skiing up and down mountains under my own power over skiing at a resort. We’ve since enjoyed more days of skiing wild snow together. But on that first out together, I think he began to grasp the joy that comes from an activity requiring much effort. Read my story, “A 12-Year-Old’s First Time Skiing Wild Snow.”

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