Winter Sports



Teens and Ice-Climbing Towers

By Michael Kundu, SeaWolf Adventure Media

ice climbing towers

Sooner or later, your teenager might confide that your ‘run-of-the-mill’ family ski vacations have become too tame for his or her tastes. Don’t roll your eyes–mid-winter ennui appears in even the most adventure-hardened clan.

If that confession happens while at one of the few ski resorts that has an ice-climbing tower, you could easily turn boredom into an exercise in self-confidence. Climbing these monster towers—which may very well become the next “it” snowsport as resorts start adding them—provides some excellent growth opportunities for kids. It gets them out of their comfort zones while building self-esteem and a sense of personal accomplishment at the same time.

Ice climbing has been around for decades, but the rise of these new, human-made ice pillars (60-foot-plus wood-and-mesh structures soaked with water in sub-zero conditions), provide a controlled introduction to the sport for kids (even as young as five at Big White) . Gear and guidance is provided, and for safety, top-roping and controlled belays prevent neophytes (and experienced climbers) from accidents.

So hand your teens some cold, sharp steel, and them hack away to their heart’s content. Oh and...there’s one other thing. Your kids will love having the coolest Facebook profile pics in town for at least a week!

Tips for Teens by a Teen

Here is some first-hand wisdom, courtesy of our 15-year old son, Lars, who got his ice-legs at Big White.

Capture the moment. Most kids don’t know what ice-climbing is; much less get the chance to try it. This is definitely something you’ll want to ‘socially network’: consider a helmetcam, or taping a light, low-profile internet camera to your helmet. If you have to, use your cellphone vid cam, and be sure to narrate as you climb. That way, your friends can share the shrill terror in your voice!

Get Dad out of the way. Be sure that camera-toting parents don’t stand directly below – chopped ice chunks drop fast and hard, and shattered cameras (or heads) get you grounded pretty quick.

Shades help. Setting an ice axe means sharp ice frags flying at your face; ski goggles restrict peripheral viz, so grab your Dad’s Oakleys instead when he isn’t looking.

Pad it up. I don’t usually wear jackets unless it’s freezing, but extra padding (particularly around the seat harness area) can save your bottom. Wear padded cycling shorts under ski pants - you might as well have a comfy seat.

Trim it down. You won’t need serious insulation on your top for ice-climbing – a fleece jacket is enough. But make sure you have thick mitts on – you’ll want to protect your knuckles if you have to hack at the ice.

Chill out. Don’t be worried about taking a break when you need it – your friends are miles away. Your arms will be killing you afterwards, so there’s no harm in chilling when you need to.

Shake it. When climbing, the blood rushes out of your arms, making them get tired, faster. Shake them out by your sides and get the blood flowing back in.

No Pods Permitted. Parents, this tip is for you. If necessary, surgically remove your kid’s I-pod and MP3 players before climbing – seriously! I learned that the cords, even from ear buds, will interfere with the ice axe, and can whip back and give nasty welts.

Trust the tools. Your tools are like an extension of your body. Trust them, and they will not fail you (most likely). LOL.


Photo credits: Photo on home page and top photos above, courtesy of Big White Ski Resort.  Lower two photos of Lars Kundu by Michael Kundu.

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