As many of you know, we made the decision (in reality she made her own decisions) to have the Bean start snowboarding last winter. A bit unconventional by most standards, but if she likes it and is comfortable, who are we to disagree?
My background includes a stint as a ski and snowboard instructor at Sunday River. There we taught a variety of kids, but we always felt it was tough to teach kids under 5 to shred based on the weight transfer skills involved with the (at the time) current board technology.
Fast forward to 2013. Technologies and what is possible for snowboarding has taken a giant leap forward. One of the benefits of the whole reverse camber / rocker trend is that it actually makes snowboarding easier for beginners. Remember all those catching edges and scorpions? For the most part, rocker eliminates that issue. Rocker also allows for easier turn initiation (think being able to rotate off a curved surface instead of a flat one). Plus board weights continue to decrease. An example of this is a board like the Burton Chopper with Flat Top and Easy Rider, offering a convex base that lifts the edges off the snow and a super soft flex, these boards make it easy to learn balance and board control. All these things make snowboarding easier for everyone, including kiddos.
Secondly, Burton Snowboards introduced the Riglet. This device is basically a glorified retractable dog leash. The trick is that unlike those skier leash things, the Riglet is attached to the front of the rider not the rear. With the Riglet, you can pull your grom, but you can also start to work on things like turn initiation (which should start in the front not the rear) without destroying your lower back!
As someone who grew up snowboarding in the “hey day” when “snowboarding wasn’t cool”, I can’t express the stoke and excitement that I get watching my daughter carpet board in the living room, fully strapped in or listening to her giggle as she points it down the bunny hill or “hitting a rail” and then asking “can I do it again?”.
Thanks to the efforts of some ski resorts and brands like Burton, there are grom specific programs popping up all over the country. Of course, this is still a work-in-progress. I was reminded of this when I tried to participate in some group lessons or kids programs for my daughter. I was surprised and taken aback by the combination of disbelief and negative attitudes when I discussed her interest and experience in snowboarding with the ski school staff. Thing like “her little muscles won’t be able to handle it” or “we won’t refund your money if she only lasts five minutes” literally left me with my jaw dropped on the floor. What was even worse, was thinking about how I might explain this to my daughter, who only sees blue sky and not the walls that confine us. She doesn’t need to go through what we went through in the early days of snowboarding with bull$hit tests, spitting and the hate. Luckily, with a few calls and a little bit of research, we were able to find her an excellent snowboard instructor at Gunstock.
Also much love to my friends. They reminded me that we’re not the only ones doing this. Many of our friends (some who skied first and others who only shredded) are also starting their kids on snowboards. As the ski and snowboard industry faces some serious obstacles like a poor economy and global warming, it seems like a no-brainer that resorts and the greater industry would embrace getting kids on snowboards. I’m sure over time the negative attitudes and discrimination will fade, but right now, it’s definitely a trial at times. But then I watch my daughter go crazy over the littlest thing like her instructor’s pink helmet, and it reminds me that it’s just snowboarding. Soon enough there will be packs of mini-groms destroying the mountain.
Want to see more? Check out this post on Burton’s Riglet Parks for inspiration or one of the many videos on YouTube by searching “toddler snowboarding”.