Building A Backcountry Family

Jessica Baker would be the first to say she doesn't know whether her kids will take to outdoor sports like skiing, which she has built her life around. She just sees it as her role to make sure her little ones have the opportunities to be their best selves. For now, though, that means getting out—in the backcountry. Since this film was shot, Jessica gave birth to her second child—so we followed up to see what had changed. What's tough about being a guide and a mom? And what are the rewards? Here's what she said.

On skiing pregnant.

It’s really hard to move fast up a mountain when you are carrying an extra 30+ lbs., especially when it’s all focused in the front half around your belly. And considering the fact that on average your blood volume increases by nearly 50% while pregnant, while lung capacity remains the same, yes, I was having a tough time managing my oxygen intake while hiking up hill. Everyone was so accommodating, and patient with me. I would be like, “Go ahead, I’ll catch up.”  And all my partners were like, “Yeah sure you’ll catch up…we’ll wait for you instead.”

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The coolest thing about skiindg and guiding while expecting.

By far the coolest part about skiing and guiding while pregnant was picturing that little baby inside me going for the ride, feeling the sway and swoosh of the ski motion, the energy from me and the natural environment we were playing in. Really it was about forming a bond with my little one inside the womb. There would be times that I would tell her stories on the skin track, or talk to her to let her know how beautiful the surroundings were. And no doubt she would feel the excitement of a ski descent with perfect powder, or even the occasional small jump off a pillow. And there was just this sense that I wasn’t alone, we were two, moving together in the mountains. It was a special time.

Her absolute favorite things to do outside with the kiddos.

The obvious answer would be skiing, but that is just one facet. What I truly love the most about being outdoors with my littles, is the sense of wonder and awe that come out. Whether we are exploring a beach for shells and treasure, or finding brightly colored mosses on the forest floor. Or touching the bark of hundred-year old trees, or smelling the fresh scent of the forest after rainfall. Or searching for water-skippers in a marsh, or fish in the river. Or marveling the perfectly rounded rocks that the river has sculpted and polished over time. Or the excitement when the first snow falls, and the snowman making frenzy that follows. There is just so much magic to experience in nature, and kids are the first to point it out.

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Her hard-won advice.

Share your love of the outdoors with them. Show them how to connect, respect, and honor the earth. This vast playground that sustains us needs the support of the next generation. Teach your children well, and expose them to the outdoor world as much as possible.  We don’t need toys and physical possessions, we need the playground that is nature the most. I have found that no matter how many trinkets, dolls, blocks, etc. we own, the most engaging environment for my kids is outside in nature.

And ... the biggest surprise.

No matter how you structure their lives, they still have their own personalities and traits that surpass your expectations. I am not here to make them a certain way, I am here to provide the many paths to help them find their best selves. I cannot control the outcome, but rather provide the best possible platform for them to explore and engage in this life with respect and compassion.