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Current thinking on youngest age to start snowboarding?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

My oldest son turned four this summer, and I want to get him started sliding at resorts. The big question is snowboard or skis. What's the current thinking on the youngest age when it makes sense to start snowboarding? I'm familiar with the "wait until six or seven" arguments. I'm just wondering if anything's changed significanly in equipment or instruction in the past few years.

 

For the record, I'm a solid intermediate rider. I also cross-country ski some. I've only done alpine skiing a handful of times, and I have no current plans to pursue that further. I don't think I'd personally be very good at teaching my own son to ride -- that's one of the reasons I'm looking to classes.

 

For the record, son spent last two winters playing on some toy cross-country skis in the back yard. Did about as well on them as one could expect. He balances very well on a run bike, but I'm not planning to put him on a pedal bike until next spring. He tends to have an "ok, I've tried this once, now let's move on" approach to things rather than my "practice many times until you get it just right."

 

I'm really looking for him to spend a few days in all-day programs at a resort. (We'll probably do two one-week trips east this season.) That heavily skews toward skiing, because it looks like few places do snowboarding for children in group/all-day classes before six or seven, and I'm not interested in lots of private sessions. (If I recall from some previous sleuthing, Smuggler's Notch will do children on boards at four, Stowe and Okemo at five, and other places in the east at six or seven. Sugarbush and Whiteface are my two most common destinations in the east, and their programs seem to suggest starting kids on skis.)

 

Locally (Michigan), I'll spend all the time with him on the snow he wants, but when we go on "big trips" I'll want him in a program most days. I'm looking for the classes to teach basic technique and me having the "hey, let's go have fun and explore" role. (I also, selfishly, want some "me time" at the big hills.)

 

I thought I was set on starting him on skis, but at two stores I've visited lately scouting out equipment the salespeople have said they sell equipment to kids his age/size "all the time" and he'd be fine snowboarding. I'm not sure I believe them.

 

Thoughts?

post #2 of 18

I'd put him on skis.  They just don't have fine muscle control developed at that age that's required for snowboarding. Skis require much less fine muscle control  Don't expect him to be able to turn even on those new kid snowboards.  Most resorts will only do privates at that age.

post #3 of 18

Start him on skis and he can switch later.  Thinking about the future, skiing will probably be the one that keeps him coming back.

 

I am very biased, however so keep that in mind. 

post #4 of 18

+1 on starting with skiis.

 

My rational is that sooner or later they'll probably want to try snowboarding as it is the 'cooler' thing to do among mainstream youngsters these days, but if you get them started on skiis, they'll at least have that as a foundation. 

 

Not sure it would work the same the other way around... my stepson for instance started on a board, and now I'll never get him on skiis

 

My youngest son is 3 1/2 and I was planning on trying to get him on skiis this winter.  Is there some conventional wisdom about what age it's good to start them at?  Is that too young?

 

post #5 of 18

Michael,

 

The standard line is to start riders at age 7 because kids grow from the center out and their ankles are not strong enough to control a board until age 7. Burton's LTR program and gear for kids is designed to start riders at age 4. There is no right answer here.

 

I've taught two lessons to (cough) 3+ first time riders. They were basically just surfing (riding on the back foot & going straight) and were good for only about an hour before needing a break, but they both had a blast. I've seen successful groups 4-7 YO kids and I've seen unsuccessful ones. I don't have any kids, but if I did I'd start them on saucers/sleds/tubes their first winter, on backyard skis in short bursts their second winter, at a resort on skis at age 3 and riding at age 5. I'd also be doing off season cross training to help them be successful with "early" starts on snow. I've seen a 9 month old successfully learning to ski and I've seen 7 YO's not yet ready for snow sports. So no matter what the "rules" are, there are always exceptions.

 

Your kid could be fine on a board. My 2 cents is that, in general, there is less risk of failure putting him on skis first. You want to be making sure the intro experience is fun.

post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 

 


Thanks for the advice, everyone. What you're saying confirms what I've read elsewhere. So skiing it will be this winter.

 

Originally Posted by TheRusty View Post
<...> I'd start them on saucers/sleds/tubes their first winter, on backyard skis in short bursts their second winter, at a resort on skis at age 3 and riding at age 5.<...>

 

 

That's essentially what we've done so far -- sledding for three winters now, and toy skis for two. He didn't really get into the skis until the very last time out last winter. Generally he'd prefer building snowmen or crawling around in the snow pretending to be a polar bear hunting seals. I've taken great care not to push, and just follow his lead, but he does seem psyched about going with me to a resort this year.

post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Jones View Post
<...> Thinking about the future, skiing will probably be the one that keeps him coming back. <...>

 

 

Or not.

 

I dabbled in alpine skiing -- about a dozen days spread out across a dozen years. But it was snowboarding that I fell in love with, and that's what keeps me coming back year after year.

post #8 of 18

Nope, not if they like the snow and cold.

 

My son slid down the bunny hill on plastic skis in snow boots at 2 1/2. Next season we had real metal edge skis and plastic boots. He started skateboarding at about 7-8 and started talking about snowboarding around 10-11. I finally broke down and got us both snowboard packes 3 seasons ago when he 14. Now on epic powder days he wants to go skiing...Mainly likes to ride when his high school friends go up.

 

One big advantage of the little ones skiing over boarding is that getting on and off the chairlift is much much easier on skis.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Yeffer View Post

+1 on starting with skiis.

 

My rational is that sooner or later they'll probably want to try snowboarding as it is the 'cooler' thing to do among mainstream youngsters these days, but if you get them started on skiis, they'll at least have that as a foundation. 

 

Not sure it would work the same the other way around... my stepson for instance started on a board, and now I'll never get him on skiis

 

My youngest son is 3 1/2 and I was planning on trying to get him on skiis this winter.  Is there some conventional wisdom about what age it's good to start them at?  Is that too young?

 

post #9 of 18

I took my boys snowboarding for the first time last year. I gave them the option to ski or snowboard and of course they went with the "cool" one. Prepayed 3 days of beginner lessons for them and my oldest (7 years old) did great. My youngest (5 years old) had to switch to sking after the 1st day because he just didn't have the leg mucles to flex the board to turn. He had a blast snowboarding but was upset about not progressing as fast as his brother. With only 2 days at lessons on the skis, he was doing great and even enjoyed sking better than boarding, just because I think it was easier for him. 

post #10 of 18

Skis would prob be better first its important to have a good first experience on the slopes and falling to much while snowboarding could put them off all together

post #11 of 18

 

I started teaching my daughter skiing at age 2 and she picked up snowboarding last year at age 4. My believe is children can enjoy the sport as soon as they are strong enough to run.

In terms of skiing or snowboarding, my opinion is to introduce your kid to skiing first. In order for children to learn and improve, they have to enjoy and be comfortable. This allows them to gain confidence quickly, which is key for any new skier/rider. Skiing's stance is identical to walking, something they are very comfortable with already. Also skis allows them to snow plow to control speed easily without falling while looking at the direction they want to go. Snowboarding on the other hand requires one to re-train the whole body to balance sideways by positioning the center of gravity between toe and heel, which is very different from the way a person balance while walking, riding a bike, and most other physical activities. 

 

By 4 years old my daughter has became very comfortable with the snow, the speed and the grade of the slopes. When she was introduced to snowboarding, although she has to re-train her body  to balance in a different manner, she was not intimidated by the slope, the speed and the countless falling. In 2 days she successfully picked up both toe side and heel side. She just needs a bit more practice to transition between heel and toe the upcoming season.

 

For anyone who wants to get their children to learn snowboarding, I highly recommend the Burton Easy Rider boards that have a convex base. The edge doesn't get caught in snow easily - meaning much less painful nasty falls for the kids. They don't go fast and they don't carve so they don't need the edge normal snowboards do.

post #12 of 18

I should add to avoid those children ski harness. They are for selfish parents who wants to go skiing at a slope too advanced for the child. If you want your child to learn quickly, find the flatest bunny hill run with magic carpet, take off your ski, stay with them on foot and introduce them "pizza" (snow plowing). If your child glides down the slope faster than you can run to catch them on your first day, the run is too steep for them to learn anything at all. You will just freak him out. 

post #13 of 18

I agree that those ski harnesses are totally useless for helping youngsters learn to snowboard. Hula hoops aren't bad though.

post #14 of 18

My experience with two kids is start them in ski school at the age the school will take them. Half days may be all the child is willing to take. It depends on their experience at the school and may have more to do with the other students than the ski school or instructor. Let the ski school use their training and tools, bunny hill, magic carpet etc. to get them started. Let them be the one to fight with them over how to dress,  carry their gear and how to get up when they fall. You'll need to provide your guidance on all of this but coming from two directions may help ingrain it more quickly. Then, after they've learned a few basics, you can ski with them the other half of the day, which will probably mean until the get tired or cold or hungry and ready for the afternoon break.

The more time and money spent on early ski school the better.

I think if you need a ski harness you're on the wrong slope -  it's too steep. Kids need to learn to stop and not expect an adult to be there to real them in.

post #15 of 18

I agree with the ski harness advice in general and for skiers. But sometimes, one's choice for terrain is limited and a harness can be helpful to get a child started. When I teach I prefer to ski backwards in front with my hands out and let them push their arms against mine if they need to slow down, but at the same time I turn them and give them the feedback that turning slows them more effectively.

 

But this is the snowboard forum....

post #16 of 18

I found my own personal experience to be very positive.  I started skiing when I was 2 years old, and I skied for ten years before switching to snowboarding.  I now have well over ten years of snowboarding and skiing experience, which is great because your options are never limited.  If I hadn't started with skiing, I doubt I would have gone back to it once I had started snowboarding, so I know my children are going to be learning to ski first, and then if they choose to take up snowboarding when they are a little older I can support them with that as well.

post #17 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Rumzie View Post

I found my own personal experience to be very positive.  I started skiing when I was 2 years old, and I skied for ten years before switching to snowboarding.  I now have well over ten years of snowboarding and skiing experience, which is great because your options are never limited.  If I hadn't started with skiing, I doubt I would have gone back to it once I had started snowboarding, so I know my children are going to be learning to ski first, and then if they choose to take up snowboarding when they are a little older I can support them with that as well.



My thoughts exactly! icon14.gif

post #18 of 18

I just gave my grandson his first pair of skis.  He turned 3 in September and is anxious to get on the snow.  I've seen snowboarders as young as 4 but I think that's pushing it. 

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