Shred Mama: Getting Kids Started Snowboarding - Part 1

Kelly Vance

Interested in starting your young child on a snowboard?  This is the article for you.  Newer smaller equipment allows young children to try playing on snowboards starting as young as age two, and with some practice, you can expect them to learn enough basic skills to ride the lifts between ages three and five, depending on the child.  The most-asked question from parents is “do I need to start them on skis?” Not if they want to learn to snowboard!  (Or, not if you want them to learn to snowboard).  In my experience, the progression on snowboards for young children tends to be fairly similar to skiing, though some things are easier or harder for children to pick up. 
So, here are my tips on getting your small children started snowboarding,  In part one, we’ll talk about how to prepare - because preparation is, like many things with little kids, key to success.  Next week, I’ll go over some on-snow tips that I’ve learned working with my daughter and other small children.

Understand Your Child’s Personality

Think about how things will go beforehand so you can develop a strategy.
- How timid is your child?  Are they afraid of the big slide at the playground, or do they seem to have no concern for personal safety?

- How athletic is your child? Do they have a lot of physical endurance, or are they likely to need a lot of breaks?

- How motivated is your child? What can be used to help motivate them through the difficult parts of learning to snowboard?

- Do they listen better to other adults, or excel in group situations?

Consider a Lesson or Three

It’s certainly possible to teach your own children to snowboard, but you’ll need a decent understanding of how to explain snowboard, and a LOT of patience.  Lessons, if you can afford them, could get your kids through those initial whiny and slow moving stages and into the more fun part of snowboarding with your kids. 

Get The Right Gear
- Figure out what size gear your child will need.  Consult manufacturer sizing charts to help you decide what size board you should be looking for.  Charts like this one from Burton will give you a weight range for each size of board.  Be sure to also consider the width of the snowboard as compared to your child’s shoe size.  You don’t want a board that is too wide or too narrow for your child’s feet.

- Used gear is the best deal.  Craigslist and local used gear shops are both good options, and if you live in an area where snowboarding is popular, you should be able to find a full kids setup in decent shape. Look for something with a soft flex and a true twin shape.  Bindings with highback adjustments are also helpful.

- Rentals are definitely an option.  Many rental shops carry pretty small sizes, and some offer seasonal rentals, where you keep the gear just until your kid grows out of it.

- If you can afford it, new gear may be the easiest to find in appropriate sizes, as some manufacturers have recently made a push to get smaller kids on snowboards.

- Look for warm, waterproof clothing and warm base layers.  Try and get real snow gear if you can - that stuff at Target isn’t waterproof.  Get the best mittens you can find - something with a nice long sleeve is good.  Bring an extra pair, because kid mittens always get wet.

It would probably be better if the jacket sleeve just ended in a mitten, but at least there are mittens designed to keep snow from getting in at the wrist.

- Consider a kid towing system.  Burton makes a Riglet Reel for towing your kiddo around the base area, and pulling them up small hills.  For a cheap option, hook a dog leash to their front binding - and be sure to remove it once they’re ready to go on the lift or downhill.

Towing kids = less complaining and slow walking PLUS a quick way to get them to the bathroom = win!

- Safety vests and backpacks are super handy.  I never use the long straps (those seem to make my kids fall) but the handle on the back is great for lift loading and helping your grom find his edges.

- Get a helmet and eye protection. 

Plan a Healthy Breakfast and Lunch
Fuel those kiddos up, and balance out the sugar rush from the candy you’re bribing them with (ahem, if you do that sort of thing) with a high protein breakfast like eggs. I like to pack a healthy lunch also, but I let them pick out some sort of fun treat in the lodge at snack time.  Expect kids to need way more breaks than adults, and plan food accordingly.  They’ll be using a lot of energy, so personally, I don’t worry about giving them junk food they wouldn’t usually get! 

Watch the Weather
Kids have enough to complain about if the weather is nice (the sun is too sunny, snow got in that crack between their mitten and their sleeve, they fell down and they need a band-aid for their non-bleeding injury, etc), so it’s best to pick a weekend where the weather is nice and mild for your first few days.  Also watch snow conditions - 12” of freshies is great for you, but impossible for a small child to move in, and icy conditions will make falls much more painful and scary.  If you can, aim for a spring day with softer snow that’s easy to get an edge into.

Next week: teaching basic skills.

Posted by Kelly Vance on 02/20/15

Related Stories