By Andre Vippolis
Although it definitely takes a lot of effort on the part of the parent, getting kids snowboarding can be a lot of fun, no matter how young they are. It’s always been a priority of ours to get our boys to the mountains, and in nature doing activities we love as a family. If you don’t live in LA, the only specifics that will change for you with this post are the mountains and resorts you will take your kids to. Other than that, I hope you will find some valuable pointers to get your littles ready to shred. And, if you’re looking to teach your kids how to ski, I think you’ll still find value in the following and be set up for as much success as possible. Most importantly, remember to keep it fun!
PREGAME: An amazing tool to get your kiddo excited and acclimated to the body position and mechanics of snowboarding is the Burton Riglet, Handlebar, and Hover Cover. You’ll be able to pull your kid around any house with wood floors, giving them the feel and sensation of riding in the comfort of your own home. The Riglet comes with a reel that can have the length adjusted, so it is comfortable to pull. The Riglet can also be used on snow with the Handlebar. The Riglet board only comes in one length and is durable plastic, so it’s best suited for building the interest and feel of riding on a board. Living in LA, or any place where you can’t quickly access the snow, this is an awesome thing to have around.
WHERE: The best places close to Los Angeles to learn to snowboard are Big Bear and Snow Summit, both about 2 hours away. These resorts are just minutes from one another. There are other closer resorts, but Big Bear/Snow Summit has a long history in snowboarding and has very snowboard-friendly terrain. They offer group class programs and have “Team” snowboarding if readying your kid for the competitive circuit is the path.
WHEN: Weekdays are the best if you can swing it. Weekends get very crowded and bustling at both mountains. You don’t want that weekend pressure either. Rental lines can be super long and time-consuming as well. If your child is 4 and up, and you’ve signed them up for a lesson, allow lots of time ahead to get sorted before the lesson. The season in Southern California usually runs somewhere from November through April. Comfort is king with getting kids on the snow, so plan to take them on a nice sunny SoCal day.
WHAT: You’ll need plenty of gear, plenty of snacks and supplies, and plenty of treats! Rentals are available for helmets, boots, board, and bindings. If you plan to rent, allow plenty of time to get your kids fitted correctly and dialed in. If you plan to take your kid 1-2 times per season, renting for these items might be best, but know the trade-off is how long it might take to get fitted. If you prefer to get right up on the hill, then buying is the way to go. New or used is not important, but comfort and fit are the key.
HELMET AND GOGGLES – Giro and Anon are my go-to brands. Both companies have great fitting high-quality helmets and also make goggles for a snug fit. Buy separates, not integrated.
BOOTS, BOARD, BINDINGS – Burton makes amazing kids shred gear. And, it’s like a one-stop-shop for almost everything you would need. They have a great website with detailed sizing charts. If you are in LA, go to the Burton store in Santa Monica and tell them I sent you! They have great salespeople who are very knowledgeable and patient.
OUTERWEAR – Burton, Patagonia, The North Face. Under 3 yrs old, get a snowsuit. Over 3 yrs old, get a jacket and bibs.
FIRST LAYER – Burton, Patagonia, or any company making good quality SOFT baselayers. It’s good to have a thin synthetic set and a thicker fleece set. These should not fit tight but should be fitted with a slight amount of room. Never use cotton as a first layer. The idea is to disperse heat and sweat, creating breathability.
INSULATION LAYER – Burton, Patagonia, or any outdoor company making quality fleece, down, or poly-filled warming layers. These should fit right. Not snug and not baggy. Movement is key under outerwear, and we don’t it bulking up. Uniqlo also makes some nice insulators for kids. They tend to sell out quickly, so get them right in the Fall when the cooler temperature clothing starts showing up. No cotton ever.
MITTENS – Burton or The North Face make the best kid’s gloves. For kids under 3, get the kind that has zippers that run down the whole gauntlet so you can easily get their tiny hands in.
SOCKS – Soft merino wool, wool blend, or synthetic crew socks. Burton, Smartwool, and Rei have good options.
FACE MASK – Burton or Anon are great, but other companies like Blackstrap make good kids’ masks. This is a tricky bit of kit for kids and might take hunting down the right one by ordering many different brands online to get the right fit. Anon makes a goggle combination with a magnetic face mask that would be my pick if it works within your budget. They have various weights in the magnetic masks that you can purchase separately for the goggles depending on conditions.
HARNESS – For kids under 3, MDXONE is the way to go. Even just the ability to grab the handle and pick up your child makes this worth it. It’s a great tool to have on hand as it allows for a few ways to help teach your kids. It works for teaching skiing as well.
TREATS AND SNACKS– Critical element to keep the kids stoked! I like Haribo gummy treats and usually get the variety pack to add some fun guessing into what they will get. Carry one or two of the large bags in your backpack or pocket. Whenever you get on the lift, dole out 2-3. If they take a big fall, make sure they are ok and ask them if they want a gummy treat to keep it positive! Yes, I bribe them. Also, have some snacks in your bag to avoid low blood sugar and keep spirits high. I like bringing things like goldfish crackers and granola bars for them to eat throughout the day.
ADULT BACKPACK – A good snow-specific backpack to carry water, snacks, treats, sunscreen, etc. A snow-specific pack will not get in the way and will be more low profile than a regular pack. A 20-liter pack will carry all you need for a day of teaching in SoCal.
TIPS (in no particular order):
1) For kids under 3 yrs old, put the mittens on before you get the snowsuit top on.
2) Pee break right before heading out!
3) Keep the bellies full with snacks; hillside snacking is great to do.
4) If your kid is ready for lifts, be sure to tell the lifty to slow the chair when loading and have them relay to the lifty at the other end to slow the chair when you are offloading as well.
5) Sun, mellow temperatures, and soft snow help make the experience fun and comfortable.
6) Comfort is king! Keep the kids comfy and dry. Cover all exposed parts that snow might enter.
7) Take your kids up the magic carpet. Then, have them stand in between the bindings while you wrap your arms around their chest. Ride down! This creates the excitement and sensation of the glide.
8) Crab Grab or some other stomp pads between the middle of your board will help immensely to keep the little one’s feet from sliding all over the place when they are riding on your board with you.
9) Start slow with snowball fights, high fives, and fun. NO PRESSURE environment. It might be 5 minutes, an hour, or might be 3, but keep it positive and fun.
10) If your kid takes to it quickly and can go down the hill on their own, stay behind them as much as possible to protect them from any wild uphill traffic flying down.
11) As a parent, you will be working hard and moving a ton. Wear less than you think or stash layers in your pack as you start to heat up.
I hope this helps and I can’t wait to see all of your little ones shredding too!
First photo shot by Todd Robertson