Children love to play in the snow, whether making snowmen, having snowball fights, and going sledding. These are favorite activities for any kid. With that in mind, making the leap from snow play to snowboards or skis shouldn’t be difficult for the average child.
Skiing Or Snowboarding:
What should my child learn first: skiing or snowboarding? Inevitably, that’s the first question parents ask themselves. The answer depends largely on your child.
Skiing’s first basic techniques of skiing – using legs independently to balance – are already well-learned and developed by most children. Since legs don’t move independently on snowboards, balance requires learning several new techniques. For that reason alone many parents perceive that it is easier to learn skiing first.
As a result, snowboarding techniques can take a little longer to learn. But once those techniques are learned, snowboarding is much easier for most children to master than skiing. But ultimately the right answer is what’s the best choice for your child.
The Proper Age:
What is the best for any child to start lessons? There is no simple answer. Parents need to take into account many different factors, such as your child’s temperament, determination, stamina and coordination. Every child is different and the best age to start could be whenever your child is ready.
(For the purposes of this discussion, snowboarding is defined as a child wearing snowboard boots and being strapped on to a snowboard with proper snowboard bindings and riding down a slope on his/her own.)
Most certified snowboard instructors would feel that age one (and probable age two) is too young for most kids to start snowboarding. At three years of age, your child might be ready. Progress can be slow – especially kids under age five and most resort ski/snowboard schools require a child be age 7 to begin snowboarding lessons.
Teaching a young child to snowboard is very hands-on task as he/she gets used to the board and how to manipulate it. Progress can be slow – especially kids under age five. The important thing to remember is that every child is different. You know your child best.
Get The Proper Gear:
Snowboarding kids have different gear and apparel requirements than skiers. However, rule number one is the same: Keep them warm and dry. The proper equipment (a board that’s the right size, boots that fit and bindings that are easily on-and-off-able) makes a huge difference to your progeny’s progression and enjoyment. Here is a basic, bare bones list of what your kid’s snowboard outfit should consist of:
- Board: Smaller children should start with a soft, all-mountain board that reaches chest height, tail to tip. This shorter board is more easily maneuverable, while a longer board floats more easily in powder. Kid-specific boards usually range from 90 cm to 146 cm in length. Allowing your kid to pick their snowboard should make them more comfortable with the snowboard,
- Helmet: Kids should wear a helmet when snowboarding. The nature of the sport is that riders fall. Make sure the helmet fits well. A helmet should also have a strap or attachment in the back to secure goggles.
- Boots: Beginners need warm, well-fitting boots. Make sure the laces and buckles are snug. Soft boots allow the child to flex and move on the board. Quality children’s boots typically have a rip-and-stick strap that can be tightened or loosened to accommodate a growing foot.
- Bindings: Kids’ snowboard bindings are adjustable to accommodate several shoe sizes. Buy quality bindings, since a child can get several years out of 1 pair. It is critical that the bindings fit the boots and that your child can easily release and attach the bindings while wearing gloves.
- Wrist guards: Wrist sprains are a common snowboarding injury. Gloves/mittens are available with internal wrist guards, or you can buy wrist protectors separately.
- Jacket: Snowboard jackets are longer, roomier than a ski jacket — both for style and function.
- Pants: Snowboarding pants are designed to fit more loosely than ski pants. Key features are articulated knees, boot gaiters (to prevent snow from seeping in at the ankle) and insulation.
- Long underwear: Synthetic or merino wool base layers (make sure there is no cotton content). On colder days, kids can wear 2 sets of long underwear (one a size larger than the other).
- Neck gaiter: Protects the neck, ears and lower face from wind and sunburn.
- Socks: Stay away from cotton socks and anklets; should extend to just above the calf and be made of a blend of wool and synthetic fibers.
- Goggles: Goggles that are medium-tint styles are best for all-condition wear.
- Mittens: Snowboarders have lots of hand-to-snow contact, so get well-insulated, waterproof/breathable mittens or gloves (mittens are warmer).
- Warmers: Air-activated heat pouches can be a kid’s best friend on the slope.
Finding the Right Instructor:
Make sure your kids spend some time with a qualified instructor who spends all season coping with kids of all shapes, sizes and skills. Most ski/snowboard schools have instructors who are certified by the Professional Ski Instructors Of America (PSIA). They have been through a rigorous training program and are professionals. They know what they are doing.
Good instructors can handle any size group successfully. and divide the group group by ability not age. He/she will assign (and reassign) your child to a different group based on similar skills.
Focus on fun. Do not push the kids too hard when they are learning; keep them in their comfort zone and they will likely excel. And by all means stress the joy of snowboarding and that gift will be shared with you and others for years to come.