You, your family and friends are likely to hold strong views on this topic as opinion is usually divided. And whether you think kids under eight should ski or snowboard will depend upon your past experiences, whether you prefer one plank or two and what you read…..including this blog.
Up until recently most kids you saw snowboarding were of the teenage variety, and very occasionally you saw those aged ten to twelve. But never did you see any little ones and as for toddlers, forget it. The general consensus was that children under eight were not physically strong enough to snowboard. It would damage their joints, they had too little core strength and their balance was underdeveloped. It was just accepted practice that those under eight skied. I never questioned the dogma, as I could see the logic: I knew how hard and steep the learning curve was with hours spent on my backside having fallen for the umpteenth time. Why would I want to put my child through that at such a tender age? So when the time came for us to start family snow holidays I naturally assumed she would ski which is what she has been doing for the last four years.
However, times are changing and with it a shift in thinking. Technological development of equipment for children now means that younger kids have their own stuff which is tailored to their needs. Snowboards have been developed that are very short with catch-free edges and boots now have Velcro straps which fit into one strap bindings. This all makes it much easier for the kids riding the board as well as for parents getting children kitted up. There has also been the introduction of the Riglet Reel which is a small rope or leash which attaches at the end of the snowboard allowing a parent to pull their child along, like you would do with a sledge, but also allows a parent or instructor to control speed when travelling down a slope.
So what brought about this change? During the economic slump, over the last six years, snowboard companies were looking for extra revenue and wanted to extend their market. Demographics also played a part, as those snowboarders that ripped up the mountain ‘back in the day’ were now becoming parents and wanted their offspring to share their chosen snow sport.
Along with the hardware came development of the Riglet snow park which was developed by Burton for mini-shredders aged three to six years old. They consist of small features such as low boxes and tiny rollers. At the moment more of these exist in the USA (selected resorts in California, Utah & Vermont) than in Europe (Avoriaz, France). However, there are mobile Riglet Parks which feature at the Telegraph Ski and Snowboard Shows held in London and Manchester during October in the run-up to the start of each season. To get more information checkout the video below:
Despite advances in equipment and a change in thinking not all parents would agree with very young children snowboarding. The key appears to be motivation and a desire from the wee-ones as to whether they wish to start on one plank. Teaching strategies are different to those used with adults and is centred around play. One of the dedicated snowboard schools which specialises in teaching kids is Mint Snowboarding based in the Portes du Soleil, France: checkout what Tammy Esten, Head Coach and founder has to say and watch the little ones shred.
If you want to book children’s snowboarding lessons and know more click here.
Two years ago I sat on a chairlift which passed directly over an under eight child being taught to snowboard. A fellow chairlift companion commented on what was happening below and made no effort to disguise his negative views. Needless to say a pair skis dangled from his feet! Whenever there is a change in accepted practice in anything there will always be those who have firmly entrenched views. I sincerely hope snow enthusiasts, whatever their preference for skiing or snowboarding, will be open-minded and let individuals do whatever makes them and their children happy on the snow which is, afterall, what we all want. My daughter will be skiing this forthcoming season but what did she put on her list for Santa this year? Yes, you guessed it, a snowboard. Needless to say I think it’s unlikely one will be delivered by the white-bearded big man himself, as first she needs to have a lesson and see if she likes it but you never know what the future holds.
Until next time, ta ta for now.