Did you do yourself the disservice of procreating? Do you miss the hill and shredding pow-pow so desperately that you’d face it with your little angels? Don’t forget, Lucifer was an angel at one time. And you, you brave and desperate soul, can teach your kids to snowboard… or die trying. I’m honestly not sure what’s worse.
The major steps of teaching your kid to snowboard:
- Start them young (a Burton Riglet is your friend)
- Start them skateboarding in the summer
- Snowboarding equals fun – this has to be the case more often than not
- Bring snacks
- Buy decent gear for you and your offspring
- Teach them to handle speed from day one
- Teach them to stop
- Get up facing uphill
- Toe to heel turn
- Heel to toe turn
So, how young can you start? How often can you go? Is there anything that will magically make your child an artist at black diamonds so that you can actually have fun at something you used to do before children?
The answers are: as young as you can take it, the more the better, and hell no – you asked for this life of doom.
So, here’s a step by step guide for teaching your kid to board. Because maybe, someday, they’ll be old enough to shred with you. And that could actually be a good time (I’ve heard… we have not gotten there yet).
Table of Contents
Start Them Snowboarding Young
The Burton Riglet (Amazon link) A small yet mighty piece of equipment that acts as a board with no edge. It has a retractable lead that is hooked on to the front of the board.
You can get a skin for inside use, and it has the options of putting on some small and adorable bindings.
My son was on it at the age of 1. He would stand sideways with someone else holding him up by the arms and I would rip him around the room. This introduces that a board equals fun and starts them on the balance that they need to rip around.
If your kid can walk alright, you can skip pre-school and go straight into kindergarten by renting or buying them a board with an edge straight out of the gate.
Renting can be a good idea. Maybe your kid is a skier at heart, and you can cry your way to the therapist. Or, worse yet, maybe they will be in love with cross-country skiing and you can just leave them at the door of a fire department (I’ve heard they still take kids in, don’t quote me).
So, before you make the commitment to snowboarding, consider renting something. You can pop them on a board with edges around 3 years old. Even younger if your kid takes to it. I’m not their parent, you are.
Start Them Skateboarding in the Summer
If it’s the summer and you have a skateboard, that helps you with the balance as well.
Again, grab them by the arms and let them steer around, trying to keep them sideways (emphasis on try… my kid screamed at me every skateboarding session over a one-month period because he wanted to sit and push himself backwards).
Remember that board equals fun, so leave the power struggle at the door.
Snowboarding Equals Fun
I’m going to say this a lot, and I know it’s easier said than done. Snowboarding has to equal fun.
If you have a preconceived idea of how a day is going to go, trust me it’s going to go the opposite.
We started snowboarding because it was a way to get an adrenaline rush and to feel free. Snowboarding was started as a movement, as a way to push the envelope beyond skiing.
So, when your little Lucifer is throwing yet another tantrum because he wants to do the thirty-year-old tow rope by himself, let it be.
Once the power struggle starts, it’s tough to stop. And it’s tough to redirect if they absolutely want to do something. So, try to keep track of when your kid needs a break.
A chalet hot chocolate at the end of the day can go a long way to bribe your kid into thinking the entire day was a good time.
This brings me to snacks. Your kid (and you, for that matter) will thank you for packing a ton of snacks.
Hungry kids don’t want to listen. Hungry parents don’t want to teach. Chalet food is expensive, so you might as well pack your own food for cheap. Plus, you get to eat your feelings, which is ideal when your kid is throwing a tantrum on the floor because their hands are wet.
Take a backpack, this will act as your magic bag that can produce an energy-boosting snack, a fresh pair of socks, or even just a drink of water.
Anything you can think of the little rugrats might need, it goes in the bag (within reason of course) and this ensures everyone has a great day.
Nothing is worse than having hungry, cold children that want to go home, and on the other hand, nothing is better than seeing their eyes light up when you produce a kid balaclava and a tasty snack and they realize they’re going to be okay.
Snowboarding as a Parent Means the “Cool” Factor is Gone
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure your time in High School popping 720’s off of the big kicker at the bottom of your local hill was fun. But that time is done.
It’s in your past. Now is the time to accept that you’re not as young as you used to be. Hitting that big kicker now just means a broken shin and shame as Ski Patrol is talking gently with you as you try not to scream in front of your kids.
So, live through your children. If they look cool, you look cool. Trust me, it’s the only way you’re going to sleep at night uninjured. Don’t let them board in a bike helmet, get them a proper snowboarding helmet. Please buy them decent gloves and some goggles. Their coolness is your coolness. Make sure they’re dressed appropriately.
Snowboarding in Good Gear Makes it Easier to Parent
That goes for you and your kids. There’s no point being cold the whole experience because you refused to get new ski pants.
Or, better yet, not trying your gear on after a long gap and the dad-bod has taken hold and realizing the day of the big trip nothing fits.
Sure, squish into those pants and jacket. That’s great until you split your pants from one side of the crotch to the other bending over to pick up your kid.
Make sure your stuff is good. Especially mitts. Because you will not be dry by the end of the day.
Your kids are going to fall. A lot. It doesn’t matter if they’re 4 or 40, they will fall all day their first day. And most likely their second day. At least get them good mitts and a decent set of ski pants and a jacket.
If you pay for lift tickets and rental, you don’t want to leave after their hands are cold in the first fifteen minutes. Shelling out that money at the beginning means that you might actually get use of the lift tickets you scrimped all month to buy.
This brings us to gear. Make sure your own gear is good, although you honestly might not get a chance to use it, especially in the first few days. Walking your kid halfway up the bunny and pointing them towards a partner who’s on catching duty might be the best and easiest way to start.
So, your gear might not get used. If you want to rip laps in powder, leave the kids at home. Because you’re just in for disappointment if that’s your goal.
If your kids are a bit more advanced in age and take to it a little easier, you might get a chance to actually go up the chair lift. Then, quick release bindings are a good idea.
You’ll be in and out of your bindings a ton on this adventure. So, something quick is a good idea. Especially when your child gets out of their leash and makes a spectacular entrance into the trees.
Snowboarding With Your Kids Means You Don’t Need to Work Out for a Week
Seriously. You will be tired. It’s a whole new level of body exhaustion when you’re teaching your kids to board.
Don’t CrossFit that morning. No runs. No squatting. Because everything will burn. Your back will kill you from bending over eight thousand times that day.
Your legs will burn from going so slow. Carving is way easier than sideslipping, but those days of pointing and leaning are over. Sideslipping is your life now. Those quads and calves are going to be burning. No need to overdo it with something that morning.
Teaching your kids also means they are going to be falling a ton. So, you’ll be picking up an awkward, squishy mass with a flailing edge most of your day.
Lift with your legs and not with your back. Technique. Sounds stupid or obvious, but it’s tough to remember on your forty-seventh fall going down the green run with lots of uphills. Lift with your legs. Your back with thank you.
Snowboarding is Speed. Teach them that at the Beginning
Now to some actual tips and tricks for technique. If your kid is terrified of going fast, they need to learn how to gain some speed and not freak out. You don’t want them to be sideslipping their entire life. Especially when they’re older and their friends leave them in the dust. Plus, the whole point of boarding is to feel free outside. They can’t do that if they’re scared to gain a little speed.
So, we started the kid young and with two adults. One would hall him up the bunny hill a little way. Then we’d point him and let him go.
If you’ve worked on the balance a bit using a riglet and a skateboard, then your kid should get the hang of just letting the board do the work relatively quickly.
If you haven’t had the chance to work on the sideways balance, prepare for some spectacular falls. But, the awesome thing about offspring is that they’re resilient. And they get balance stuff really quickly. So, keep hauling them up the hill and pointing them.
Start at five feet, then gradually work your way up. It gives them a bit of confidence at the beginning (we all start riding a bike with training wheels), then lets them build up to going “fast” and pointing the board. This makes your next steps in teaching easier. And means you may actually get to use those lift tickets you bought for you and the wife.
Snowboarding is Stopping and Control. Teach Them That Early
Having your kid get away from you and pointing down their first green run is terrifying. Will they knock that old couple skiing together over? Will they hit a tree and get a stick in the face? Will they take out the lady who is just trying to have fun with her friends?
You don’t want a lawsuit, and nothing can prepare you for that sinking feeling of looking up from doing up your bindings to see your offspring fifty feet away and picking up speed.
Remember that snowboarding equals fun. And yeah, going too fast is fun. It’s the hard stop at the end that you have to worry about.
So, after you have pointed your kid a little at the start to get them used to speed and balance of standing sideways on a moving board, you need to teach them how to stop.
Because stopping properly is really the most important part of boarding. Using your heel edge is the easiest way to start. So, hips guide a board. Where the hips go, the board follows.
Point them and have them turn their shoulders perpendicular to the hill gradually. The hips will follow the shoulders. Then the board will follow after that. They should hopefully be leaning back as the board turns, giving them the start of sideslipping and the basics of stopping and going slow.
This is going to take time. Learning to get over the fear of leaning backwards onto the heel edge is one of the hardest parts of boarding. It’s unnatural for us to put our weight on our heels.
This is where starting them young is beneficial. They don’t know that it’s a weird balance because they still can’t walk with a high efficiency. My kid falls daily walking and trying to talk. So, he took to the heel edge faster than I did when I started boarding at thirteen.
Heel and Toe Sideslipping, the Precursor to Carving on a Snowboard
Your kid can point it for a bit without freaking out. Awesome, high five, time for a beer. Seriously. If that’s all you get out of the first few sessions, then you are ahead of the game.
Then you taught your kid to move their shoulders perpendicular to the hill to stop on their heel edge. This is the call for another beer and celebratory fist bumps. Now, your kid should be able to get up the tow rope (or magic carpet if you’re lucky) to the top of the bunny hill and the real lessons in boarding can start.
Standing up. The bane of all beginner snowboarders. It looks easy enough, but the whole pushing up with the legs trapped in bindings can be a really hard thing to master.
It’s easier the steeper the hill, making a bunny hill less than ideal for this lesson. But your kid should not be trusted on a green yet. And is now throwing a fit because they can’t stand. Now what?
Stand them up on their toe edge. So, get them to roll onto their stomach and stand up.
This will then introduce the hardest to learn turn in snowboarding. The toe to heel turn. If they can grasp this, then heel to toe should be a breeze.
The easiest way to explain to a kid how to move a board is to think of your hands having strings that attach to points at the front and back of the board. This makes kids keep their shoulders (and therefore hips) in line with what their board is doing. It also makes them bend their knees to give them a lower and more stable center of gravity. This is key. Shoulders move, hips move, board moves.
So, if they are sideslipping on their toe edge, they are facing up the hill. Putting weight on one foot (or pushing down slightly on the “string”) will push them in a direction across the hill.
Yay, your child is sideslipping all on his own across the hill. Ten points. Now, to introduce a toe to heel turn.
Fair warning, this is going to suck to teach because it’s scary. But, if you’ve taught them how to point it downhill then stop on their heel edge, then this should be an easier time. So, child sideslips. Then, you get them to turn their shoulders downhill.
Then get them to keep turning their shoulders to “stop” onto their heel edge.
They are going to catch their toe edge and scorpion sometimes. Have the camera ready, because a viral video may pay for this new and expensive hobby you’ve decided to start with them because it’s “fun” and they will “learn something”.
Goofy vs Regular on a Snowboard (and How to Figure out Which One Your Kid is)
Okay, so most of this article has been written for a person that can or used to be able to board. If you’re new to this and your kid wants desperately to snowboard, and you’re a committed parent who supports them in their dreams (gross way to live, but you do you), there’s some language you need to know.
Regular: Riding a snowboard with your left foot forward (right foot dominate)
Goofy: Riding a snowboard with your right foot forward (left foot dominate)
Bunny Hill: The small hill for newbies who are learning to ride. Often does not require a chair lift ride to get to the top
Kicker: A giant jump, usually at the bottom of a trick park. If you don’t know the name, you shouldn’t be doing it (rules to live by).
Think you’re all caught up on some of the language I’ve been using. Now, you’re asking: How am I supposed to know which foot on my kid is dominate? I have answers, as I do. Walk behind your kid and push them… hard. Okay, so not so hard they are sent sprawling, but hard enough that they step forward. Whichever foot they step forward with is the foot they need to be riding with at the front. So, to recap, if they step forward with the left foot, they’re regular. If they step forward with the right foot, they’re goofy.
Why is this important? A snowboard looks the same from both sides, can’t they just pick which side is more comfortable on the hill?
No. No they can’t. The reason is that the bindings are at a slightly different angle depending on if it’s the front or back foot. So, if you’re renting, they will ask. And if you buy the little rugrat his/her own board, the people setting it up for you will ask too.
Teaching Your Kid How to Carve on a Snowboard
Your kid is a snowboarding genius that takes to sideslipping on the toe or heel edge quickly. Quit bragging, the rest of us see you and your cool kid. Relax, they’re probably really bad at math or something. But anyways, now your kid can turn from toe to heel edge.
So, they can get up alright from the front, can point it, then can stop and sideslip on their heel edge. Next step in the carving journey is the heel edge to toe edge.
This has the same type of lessons as the toe to heel edge. Strings to each hand (imaginary) to the ends of the board. They are already on their heel edge facing downhill.
Now, have them turn their shoulders to point it with the front foot, then continue the shoulder turn until they are facing uphill. This should be easier than the toe to heel turn as we are accustomed to falling forward towards our toes. Meaning that the balance is easier to grasp from heel to toe than from toe to heel.
So, now your kid can get up on their toe edge, go from toe to heel edge, sideslip, go from heel to toe, sideslip, etc.
You, my friend, are ready for a green run with the offspring. Congratulations, you’re off the bunny hill.
Now, carving. It’s pretty easy and your kid will dictate when this happens. Pretty much you just speed up the above process until they can use the edges without having to full stop and sideslip in between. You don’t have to teach this, if you rip your kid will learn on their own.
From Beginning to End, Snowboarding with your Kids is Worth it
Tough to believe that, after the tantrums and tears, the injuries and scorpions, your bad back and the knees that flare up post snowboarding session, that this will all be worth it.
But it is. Seeing your kids shining face as they tell everyone they know about your epic fall on the green run makes it worthwhile. Their pride when they finally get that toe to heel turn they’ve been working on for hours. The snowball fights, the chats on the chair lift, the completely exhausted kids sleeping on the way home from the hill. It’s all worth it.
Your kids will remember this for the rest of their lives. They will remember that you took them and that you tried to teach them one of the most valuable lessons in life: that often, when something is hard, it’s worth doing.
So, teach your kids to snowboard. It’s worth it.