Shred Mama: Keeping Kids Safe

Shredding with kids is all about finding a good balance between keeping them safe, developing their skills, and most importantly having fun (including a little fun yourself so you don’t hate your life).  So, for this article, I’d like to focus on the first part.  I KNOW it’s not the most fun or the coolest thing to talk about, but some recent incidents have made me wonder if parents need some schooling in this area.

There are three important aspects to riding safely with kids:
1. Teaching your kids not to be idiots.
2. Terrain choice.
3. Riding defensively.

Teaching your kids not to be idiots
Think of your child as a blank slate.  A blank slate with poor judgement and a lack of awareness of what is going on around her.  And just as you teach your blank slate how to use the potty and brush her teeth, you have to teach her how not to get killed or maimed while you’re snowboarding.  The more you can teach a child not to do stupid things, the more you save yourself the hassle of having to watch her every move.  Or follow a ski patrol sled down.

Does she know there’s a lady beside her?  Probably not!  But you should! 

Teach her the basics of ski and snowboard safety like:
- Stop where uphill skiers and riders can see you.
- Don’t wrestle on chairlifts.
- Don’t ride diagonally across the terrain park cutting between the features like they’re a fun and exciting obstacle course.
- Stop where uphill skiers and riders can see you even if you’re really thirsty and you need to express that RIGHT NOW.
- Wait your turn and call your drop.  It’s like at recess when there are only 3 swings, we have to be fair.
- If it looks like a jump, but there’s a metal thing attached to the downhill end of it, it’s actually the ramp for a rail.  So don’t ride diagonally across the terrain park to jump it.
- Stop where uphill skiers and riders can see you, even if your mitten is has come out from under your sleeve and some snow got inside. 
- Look uphill before you suddenly stand up and start moving diagonally across any run (except for the terrain park, where you should look uphill before not moving diagonally).
- Stop above trail intersections. Don’t stop in the middle of the cat track and ask which way you’re supposed to go now.
- Look for people who don’t see you.  If they really don’t see you, dive out of their way.
- Know the basic arm signals.  An X means stop and O means go.  Watch for people frantically making X’s over their heads while screaming at you to stop.  Listen to these people.
- Don’t drop into terrain park features from weird places while adults are dropping in from regular spots (ie. don’t enter the halfpipe from the deck, enter it from the entry ramp).
- Don’t stand in stupid places.
- Don’t sit in stupid places.
- Don’t lie down for a brief nap in stupid places.

The list goes on… I’m sure you’re smart enough to think of some of your own and share them in the comment box below. Maaaybe.

Terrain Choice
I’m definitely NOT one of those people who thinks kids need to be kept out of certain terrain.  Kids can ride any and all terrain that’s appropriate for their skill level, and they can be awesome at it.  However, as the adults in the situation, we need to treat terrain differently and understand the dangers associated with certain terrain.  Meaning if you’re on a run where people are moving fast, doing jumps, and just generally may not be able to see your kid, it’s YOUR responsibility to keep your kid safe.  Because it’s pretty hard for everyone else to keep him safe if they don’t even know he exists until after they clear the knuckle.

This is not to say that you can’t have a relaxed day of riding with your young’ns, just that you probably shouldn’t be doing your relaxed day of riding on the big jump line at the terrain park.  The big jump line at the terrain park is the place for your super uptight helicopter mom day of riding.  For relaxed riding, look for runs where the pace of the other skiers and riders is a good fit for your little shredder.

Other terrain where you should probably pay attention to your kids and your surroundings:
- Any terrain park.  Even the kiddie mini park.  Because it’s still a terrain park, and people still can’t see your kid on the landing of the jumps.
- Any run where you used to straight bomb and/or ollie off of rollers before you had children.
- Anything around where the downhill ski racers like to hang out.
- Anyplace where you might see tourists skiing down the hill out of control (the ones with their ski poles waving in the air).

Riding Defensively
So what do you do if you find yourself in any of the above listed terrain and you want to take extra steps to keep your child safe?  You’ve learned to drive defensively, so now try and ride defensively.  Try and avoid bad situations before they happen, instead of reacting to them when they do.  Here are my tips:

- PUT DOWN THE GOPRO.  I know the snowboarding genius of your child must be documented, but if you’re riding somewhere where safety is an issue and the only thing you’re looking at is your camera and the only thing your kid is looking at is that super cool helicopter that just flew by, that’s when things get dicey.  Instead, pay attention to your kid, keep an eye on incoming riders, and know how to signal people to stop if your kid falls.  If you MUST film, it’s probably safest ride with another adult, so that someone is actually watching your child.  Maybe you can even get a shred mama club together and take turns.

It’s a struggle to focus on safety while filming, but chairlifts are a good place for those shots desperately you need for Instagram.

- Pay attention.  If you’re an experienced rider, you’ll be able to read approaching skiers and riders pretty easily if you’re paying attention.  Who is completely out of control and couldn’t stop if they needed to?  Who is riding fast in a controlled manner and could stop if you signaled them to?  Are there any riders who look like they’re planning a jump or a trick?  With the exception of the first, most riders will understand the basic X arm signal and will be relieved when they ride by and see that you’ve prevented them from crushing a little kid.

- Stand where YOU can be seen.  One of the biggest issues with kids is that they’re difficult to see, and they often fall or stop out of sight.  If you’re on a run that has visibility issues, make sure to stand where uphill traffic can see you.

- Know what to do if your kid falls and may be hurt.  In the terrain park especially, make sure uphill skiers and riders are aware that your child has fallen before diving out of sight to rescue him.  When the feature is clear, be polite and signal people that they can hit it again.  Don’t just take off and leave them wondering.

- Make up fun games that’ll help kids with safety.  Follow the leader is an obvious one that’ll help focus your child’s attention and make sure they’re not weaving haphazardly all over the run following whatever has most recently distracted them.  Simon Says, Red Light Green Light, and all sorts of other schoolyard games can be applied to snowboarding and used to wrangle your kids and keep them listening.

So there you go, safe kids, happy moms, and no one gets punched! It’s a win all around!

Posted by Kelly Vance on 04/19/16

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