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The squeak of snow fracturing under my backcountry skis cuts through the silent blue morning as the chill pierces my nostrils. Ahead, I see my husband, Will, shouldering a huge pack and dragging a sled with enough supplies for a small army. But I’m carrying the precious cargo—our four-month-old daughter—and I’m worried. Although it’s bright outside, the plunging temps tell me a storm is brewing.
Pre-baby, my husband and I preferred extreme adventuring: ultramarathons through ankle-deep sand in Arizona and weeklong packrafting trips in Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve. So immediately after Liliana was born, life felt discombobulated. Instead of dawn trail runs and midnight ski tours, our schedule involved round-the-clock feedings and 3 a.m. diaper changes. Still, bit by bit, we got used to the routine, and by February we felt ready to merge our new life with our old one.
Tucked outside of Crested Butte in the ghost town of Gothic, Maroon Hut seemed like the ideal location to introduce Liliana to the outdoors. The four-mile skin track to the hut, where a group of our friends (including another baby) would be waiting, felt safe to Will and me—if things went sideways, we wouldn’t be alone in the middle of nowhere. Plus, Maroon requires that visitors book the whole hut, so we wouldn’t be mingling with strangers unenthused about a baby in the bunkroom. Maroon’s lavish living appealed to us, too. The two-story structure boasts in-floor heating, electricity, hot water, and a kitchen. Once, I would have scoffed at such niceties, but as a new mother, I knew they would help ease Liliana’s entry into her parents’ world.
Maroon was a test. If the excursion went well, I could envision a lifetime of high-alpine adventures with our daughter in tow. But if we spent the trip mopping up tears and warming frosty toes, well—I tried not to think about what that would mean. We prepared the best we could, but there’s surprisingly little on the internet about adventuring with a baby in snowy weather. So we made some educated guesses. Figuring warmth was the priority, we bought Liliana a waterproof snowsuit, fleece bunting, mittens, and two sets of fleece booties. Maroon Hut doesn’t come equipped with a crib—because who would be crazy enough to take an infant into the wild?—and we waffled on sleep systems. We wanted to keep her safe but dreaded carting a 20-pound Pack ’n Play through the snow. Eventually, we opted to co-sleep in the bed to allow for frequent check-ins.
Yet this incoming blizzard threatens to wreck our careful planning. Without a baby, Will and I would just pick up the pace. But with Liliana, every mile takes nearly an hour. So even though we’re almost to the hut when she wakes from her slumber, her cry alerting me that it’s time to eat, I know she can’t wait for the warm confines of Maroon. Snowflakes whirling around me, I unzip my base layer, exposing my bare skin to the frigid temps, and my baby girl nurses while I sit shivering in a snowbank. She doesn’t feed long, but the experience changes me. I now have an entirely new notion of extreme.
Having survived one of the scenarios I’d stressed out about, Will and I launch into the next two days with unbridled optimism. He shreds thigh-deep powder stashes while Liliana and I ski-tour. I miss the thrill of the steeps, but her happy coos make me feel content. Hours of fresh air mean Liliana drifts to sleep easily that night, a white-noise app drowning out the raucous adult laughter downstairs. As I sip from my mug of wine, I can almost see the months ahead: weekslong road trips, lung-busting climbs, and multinight paddling voyages—just the three of us.