A mountain trip is always a great experience to share as a family. Far from civilization and everyday life, and faced with extraordinary challenges, bonds deepen and trust is created. A mountain trip is a great way to plant a seed for the younger members of the family to begin valuing and enjoying nature and the outdoors as much as their parents.
Sarah and her husband, two outdoor lovers currently based in Paris (but originally from California), recently took their 9-year old twins on a 4-day ski touring program in Val d’Aran, in the Pyrenees. They initially had some questions regarding the kids’ skills and endurance but the trip ended up being an unforgettable experience for the whole family.
Roger, a local AEGM-certified mountain guide, was key to making this experience an amazing one. “Everything was above our expectations. He was great with the kids!” says Sarah. John, her husband, agrees: “Roger really made the trip memorable for us. He had a challenge every day to plan the route according to the snow conditions, temperatures (it was quite warm), our kids’ abilities and keeping it fun for all of us. It really showed that he put thought into planning each day!”
Sarah first contacted Roger through Explore-share.com, after checking out his 4-day ski touring program in the Pyrenees.
New challenges for the children
Sarah and her husband have always loved the outdoors and had done their fair share of skiing, climbing and running before their kids were born. Inevitably, they had to take a small step back when the twins were little. However, they always tried to encourage them to practice outdoor activities as they grew up.
Since living in France, they’d done several short hikes in the Alps and skied in different ski resorts, mostly within bounds. But last October the family traveled to Nepal for a 6-day trek in the Annapurna Massif. The kids had the chance to show how much they’d grown up and the parents realized they were up for new challenges. Then came the trip to Val d’Aran, in the Pyrenees.
The family started with a few days in Barcelona and then a short hike in Monserrat on their way to the Pyrenees. Once there, they met with Roger and took off for an exciting 4 days in the mountains.
“We chose to stay in the same spot. Because of the distance between huts, a hut-to-hut itinerary was not the best option for the kids, considering it was their first time,” Sarah explains. They loved the hotel Roger picked for them:
“Banhs de Tredos, was perfect for being in the backcountry all day and then returning to the hotel for a delicious late lunch, thermal hot tub soak and then a gourmet dinner all in a hut/backcountry setting. We felt very spoiled,” says John.
Despite the fact that snow conditions weren’t optimal, Roger managed to find great spots for them. “The first day, we did a 3-hour hike and then skied down in the most amazing snow. The kids were smiling from ear-to-ear,” Sarah recalls.
But the cherry to the cake came on day 3, when Roger proposed a heli-ski trip to make sure the family could enjoy a great ski day despite the snow conditions. “The kids loved it. We then climbed to the top of Montarto Peak (2,911 m) and ended up skiing back to the lodge,” she says. The climb even gave Roger the chance to give the kids a brief introduction to mountaineering!
The ski tour exceeded their expectations and Roger, says Sarah, was key to making it happen. “He knew the area really well. I’ve already recommended the trip to some friends who have an 11- and a 9-year old!,” she says.
A family adventure in the mountains
So how was the experience of taking the kids with them? “I realized they are fully-capable. They complained a bit and we had to push them a little. But once they were out there and skiing down, you could see they really enjoyed it”, says Sarah. Despite being tired after the first day, they were ready to go, with their ski boots on, at breakfast on the second day.
Roger also knew to push the kids a little but not too hard and was great at managing the ups and downs that any mountain experience entails. He was also essential to keep the group safe.
“The children showed again and again that a good mood gets you anywhere!,” says Roger.
For Sarah, getting to share this experience with her family was definitely one of the expedition’s highlights. “I believe doing this kind of trip teaches them a lot, makes them truly happy. Once the effort was over, you could see they felt really accomplished,” she adds.
The great weather, finding themselves “lost” in the middle of the Pyrenees and the surprise helicopter trip were some of the other highpoints.
For 9-year old Willy, “it was a great first time experience in the backcountry. Roger was really helpful and patient with us and we found really good snow. The hiking up was especially tiring when it was really hot. But the skiing was epic.”
His sister Maddy was even more categoric: “It was epic-ally awesome!”
The Pyrenees, a lesser known ski touring playground
Stretching for more than 430 kilometers, the Pyrenees separate the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of Europe. With some of its peaks rising higher than 3,000 meters, this mountain range serves as a natural border between Spain and France (with Andorra in the middle).
Although less renowned than the Alps, the Pyrenees offer amazing backcountry possibilities and are home to dozens of ski resorts and a wide variety of hiking and ski touring terrain.
Are you left wondering about the next challenge for Sarah’s family? They have hired Enrico, a local IFMGA mountain guide, for a hut-to-hut hiking and via ferrata trip in the Dolomites next summer!
Lessons learnt in the backcountry
Here at Explore-share.com, we believe that an adventure in the mountains is not only an amazing experience for children, but also a great way for the family to share some real quality time together. In a high mountain environment, kids learn to love the outdoors. However, they also take home an important lesson on the importance of helping and supporting each other during tough times.
Our advice? Start slowly and always propose age and fitness-appropriate options. Before taking on new challenges, make sure the kids are ready for it, just like Sarah and her husband did!
Would you like to read another inspiring story about families sharing a mountain adventure? Check out Climbing Aiguille du Tour: Father and son bonding time. You may also want to read about how a mountain trip could help keep your kids away from screens.