How to Teach Kids to SnowboardPublished on 12/02/2020 · 8 min readSnowboard expert Aniah Warne runs through how to spark a love of snowboarding in your kids and enable them to ride by your side on the mountain.
Photo by Lex Valishvili
If you love to snowboard, you are probably going to want to get your kids into the sport as well. Teaching young children how to snowboard can be a bit of a challenge, but it's well worth it to be able to get your kids riding by your side.
How to Prepare
Before anything else, the best place to start is to get the kids excited about learning how to snowboard! If they are excited to learn and genuinely want to get better, it's going to make teaching them a way easier job. Show them how awesome of a sport it is, and they will want to do it themselves.
If you can, let the kids help in picking their own gear. They will be even more excited to get to the mountain and use everything they got and helped choose. Of course, make sure they are still getting the proper gear! But when teaching kids, anything you can do to get them excited and ready to learn how to board is going to help in the long run.
As far as equipment goes, there are a decent number of items you will need to get together before the kids go out in the snow! First and foremost, a good thermal base layer to make sure they stay warm all day long; good socks are probably the most important part! You will also need a jacket, snow pants, goggles, a helmet, a neck gaiter to keep their face warm, and well-insulated/waterproof gloves or mittens.
First Day on The Mountain: What to Expect
The first day of snowboarding, no matter how old you are, is pretty rough. Kids can struggle with this because they really want to get everything right on the first try. Realistically this rarely happens, even with adults. It's going to take a lot of doing the same thing repeatedly, which will take a lot of patience from both the kids and the parents.
If it’s the first day ever for your kiddo on the mountain, try to pick a day that won’t be super busy. Trying to learn how to ride in general is difficult. Adding a bunch of people to the mix is just going to make the process a bit more chaotic.
Make sure to take breaks throughout the day as well! Snowboarding is a super tiring sport, especially when you are first learning! With kids, take them out for maybe an hour and a half at a time and make sure to get in a few hot cocoa breaks at the lodge.
The First Skills for New Riders to Learn
Before even going on a magic carpet, there are several skills that new riders are going to need to learn on the flat ground! First, show them what the basic parts of their snowboard are. The nose, tail, heel edge, and toe edge, plus the ankle and toe strap on your bindings as well as the highback. This is pretty much all they need to know for now, and it will be enough to help them learn to ride!
Next, it's a good idea to figure out what foot they want to lead them. Note that this isn't always their dominant foot! A good way to do this is to have them stand with their feet shoulder-width apart, then give them a little shove. Whichever foot they step out with to catch them, have them try using it as their lead foot! If they want a little more snowboarding trivia, left foot forward is called regular, and right foot forward is called goofy!
Skating around on the flats and at the top of chairlifts is something every rider has to do every single day. This is an excellent skill to get comfortable with as soon as possible. Have the kids try pushing themselves with their unstrapped foot in both the back and front. Neither way is wrong; it really just depends on the rider!
Now it's time to go to a little slope, not up to any lift yet, but just an area where you can get just a little bit of speed going. This is where the kids are going to learn how to “straight glide” with one foot strapped in. This is simply using the unstrapped foot to give themselves a little push, then putting the unstrapped foot on the board, gliding down the hill, and then using the unstrapped foot to slow down again. This will give kids a bit of an idea as to what snowboarding is actually going to be like!
When learning how to straight glide, make sure that the kids practice the right beginner snowboard stance: feet, hips, shoulders all in line with the knees slightly bent! It's basically just an athletic stance, but incredibly important on the mountain!
At this point, you could go to an area with a small magic carpet. With just one foot strapped in still, practice stopping and turning both toeside and heelside. With turns, try to have them think about three keywords: balance, pressure, and rotation. First, be balanced, then apply pressure to the toe or heel depending on which direction you are turning/stopping, and finally, allow the board to rotate until it is on edge. After a few tries, have them try it strapped in! This will help them get a feel for their toeside and heelside stances!
Once you feel like they have gotten enough practice under their belt on the magic carpet area doing stops and turns, then you can move on to the chairlift. It's beneficial to have the kids watch a few people get on the lift before they try it themselves. That way, they can know what to expect. Of course, the first few times, they are definitely going to need some help along the way!
Taking a Lesson
A snowboarding lesson is a really great way to get kids into riding and also a way to get some riding in for the parents! Lessons can be beneficial, especially with a great instructor. There are so many tips and tricks instructors can teach kids that can really help them develop their skills.
Beginner snowboard lessons are offered at pretty much any ski and snowboard school. Depending on the mountain, there are usually options for group or private lessons. Group lessons are great for those who are very beginning because usually everyone is at the same level. For kids who have a bit of riding under their belt, private lessons are a way to get one-on-one help from a qualified instructor. This one-on-one help is really beneficial because the instructors can focus their attention on just one kid and figure out exactly what needs to be done to help them improve.
If you are interested in lessons, most mountains offer them through a ski and snowboard school! Every mountain is different, but most offer similar lesson options to make sure you pick the right snowboard lesson for your child.
Tips and Tricks for Teaching
Teaching kids how to snowboard can definitely be a challenge, but there are ways to ease the process. The biggest requirement when it comes to teaching snowboarding is having patience. It is hard to be doing the same thing over and over again, sometimes, and there are a lot of skills that need to be taught. Having patience and remembering you teach them how to do something you love makes it all worth it.
Teach kids how to fall on both their front and their back. When falling on the front, kids want to put their arms, but this can really hurt their wrists. Teaching kids how to fall properly is essential. Getting injured on the mountain is never fun.
When falling on your front, it's best to try to drop to your knees first and catch your upper body with your forearms rather than putting your wrists out. When falling on your back, you first want to try to bend your knees first, then you want to try and roll out of it. It's a great idea to have kids practice this on flat ground and make it part of their muscle memory.
A skill that might save some edge catches is teaching kids how to always be riding an edge. You always want to be riding either your toe or heel edge. That way, there is pressure on an edge, which gives stability for riding. In short, catching an edge sucks, but always enforcing to ride an edge will make them less likely to catch one.
With younger kids, a snowboard harness can help their balance and make sure they don’t get going too fast. This is only a good option for young kids!
If you need a little extra help, many great videos can help introduce a skill to kids. Snowboard videos can be a great resource. Some skills are a lot harder to teach than others!
More Than Anything, Have Fun!
Learning how to snowboard has its fair share of challenges for both the student and the teacher. Making this process as fun as possible for both parties involved is the best way to get the kids involved and make sure they enjoy learning.
One of the best ways to get kids involved is to make snowboarding relatable to them. Playing games on the slope to learn new skills is one way to get them a bit more involved with the sport, as well as getting practice in. Some games could be playing red light green light and having them practice stopping or setting up cones to try and turn around.
Getting kids up to the mountain is a bit of a difficult process. It takes understanding, willingness, and a whole lot of patience. Teaching kids how to snowboard is a challenging experience, but knowing you could teach them a skill they will know and love makes the entire process worthwhile.