Are you a family of snowboarders eager to get your little ones out on the slopes with you? As parents of toddlers and boarders ourselves, we understand the desire to get your kids sliding sideways.
We’ve gathered all our best teaching tips and gear recommendations so you can learn how to teach kids to snowboard yourselves…and have fun doing it!
If you’re looking for tips on teaching toddlers to ski, check out this post from TMM team member Jessica.
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Should Kids Start With Skiing or Snowboarding?
We are a family of snowboarders. I grew up snowboarding in Colorado in the 90’s, and taught snowboard lessons for 15 years. My husband also grew up snowboarding on the East Coast, and has been an instructor and trainer for instructors, for nearly two decades.
When we had kids, there was never a question of whether our kids would ski or snowboard. We don’t even know how to ski, so putting our kiddos on skis was out of the question.
That said, we definitely had friends (and family members) who looked at us with raised eyebrows when we said our kids weren’t going to ski first.
Isn’t It Easier to Learn to Ski First?
I get the isn’t it easier for kids to ski first comment all the time. Like, every time we go to the hill. And to that, I say no!
It’s a common misconception that kids have to start on skis before learning too snowboard. But our experience has been that with developments in equipment, and the right teaching tricks, kids as young as 2 years old can snowboard.
We’re a family of snowboarders. We never considered putting out kids on skis first, and at age 3 and 5 they are on the same skill level as their peers who started on skis.-TMM Member Sarah
Toddler’s are masters of the “squatting position”, so they’re quite comfortable assuming that position while strapped into a snowboard. And those same little muscles that make a “pizza” on skis can pressure a heel side edge to stop a snowboard.
What’s the Right Age to Start Snowboarding
For our family, the “right age” was when the kids were about 15 months old. They should be walking well before you strap them into a snowboard.
Before going on snow, we spent lots of time snowboarding around the house and yard. This helps them get used to the feeling of sliding sideways. We used the Burton Riglet reel to pull the kids around, but any strap used as a leash works.
What Gear Do I Need to teach my Kids to Snowboard?
For recommendations on all winter gear such as base layers, snowsuits, helmets and mittens check out TMM’s Best Winter Gear for Kids post.
Proper gear is essential! Hand-me-downs are awesome, just make sure that they are the correct size.
I haven’t had great luck finding little boards at our local ski swap, but I occasionally see used toddler snowboard gear on Facebook Marketplace and Ebay.
Burton is our go-to company for all things toddler-snowboard related. Burton makes a 70cm. snowboard that’s only available in rental shops, and 80cm boards are available for purchase. We love the Burton After-School-Special because it comes with the board and bindings together.
The base of the board is designed to minimize edge catches and assist with those first turns. All boards in the 80-110cm range are Riglet Reel compatible, meaning they come with pre-drilled holes.
Our kids wear regular, hard sole snow boots for their early snowboard experiences. Click here for TMM’s snow boot recommendations.
Once your child is ready to learn how to use their edges, which for us was around 3 years old, it’s time for real snowboard boots. The smallest snowboard boots available are the Burton Mini-Groms.
A proper fitting helmet is a necessary piece of equipment once your kiddo is ready to hit the slopes Click here to check out my gear review of the Anon Define Helmet.
This is our favorite helmet for a lot of reasons (lightweight, super adjustable, etc). but my favorite feature is it comes with attached goggles! That’s right – they don’t fall off. Mom win!
For other youth helmet suggestions, check out Amelia’s Best Ski and Snowboard Helmets post here.
Teaching Tools That We Love
The Riglet Reel
The Riglet Reel is a retractable leash that is compatible with Burton toddler boards. The Riglet can be installed on the tip or the tail of the board, or both – which is what I like to do.
Don’t have a Burton board? You can purchase the Riglet and drill the holes yourself. Detailed Riglet Reel info can be found here.
The Handlebar is a super fun tool! Our kids love to use it on the sledding hill. There’s no bindings, so anyone can just hop on and go and the bar can be adjusted to accommodate different size kids.
How to Teach Kids to Snowboard Teaching Progression
The goal for ages 1-3 is having fun while sliding on snow, and for ages 3-5 is all about independent edge awareness. Here the basic progression that we have used successfully for both kids.
It’s important to note that most of these tasks are much easier to do if you yourself are not strapped into a snowboard. It’s so tempting to strap in and shred with your mini-me, but your back (and your patience) will thank you if you hold off at least until they can stop independently.
Pulling toddlers around the yard (or the house) on a snowboard is a great start, and you can start them really young! Have your child strap in to the board (with snowboard boots or regular boots) and pull them around corners, up and over mounds and at varying speeds. If you don’t have the Riglet Reel, a strap works just fine.
At this point in the game, it’s all about exploring the environment. Point out icicles, snowboard underneath the trampoline, and under tree branches. As you do this, try to incorporate as much undulation (up and down terrain) as you can.
When your child can stay relatively balanced while being pulled on uneven terrain, they’re ready for the next step.
Assisted Straight Glides
Utilizing a short slope (10-20 feet in length), position your child directly down the fall line. Use the Riglet Reel (or leash of your choice) to manage their speed from behind.
Independent Straight Glides
We love the sledding hill in our neighborhood for straight glides, because there’s a slope that ends in a long flat runout. This allows your child to come to a standing stop independently, rather than having a “catcher” person.
It’s important to be careful with the distance you select as you move to an independent straight glide. 10-20 feet is optimal; you want your child asking for more, not less. It’s really easy to scare them off with one high speed wipeout, or speeds above their comfort zone.
This is where things get really fun! Have your child assume a squat position, with their snowboard perpendicular to the slope. Stand in front of them to coach them down the hill. Words like stay low and lean back will guide your child towards slowing down.
For toeside, your child can face back up the hill, in a crouched position, with their hands on the snow. Like heel side, the snowboard should be perpendicular to the slope. Ask them to try and slide backwards while keeping their hands on the snow.
The low, crouched positions on both heel side and toeside will foster a sense of safety.
Progressing to an S-Turn
So when is your kid ready to start making turns? It depends on the kid. Our son was perfectly content with heel side slipping until he was 5 years old. Only when he discovered tree runs were we able to coach him into linking turns.
Our daughter, on the flip side, is three years old and will likely link turns by the end of the season.
Whatever their age, once your child is confidently controlling their speed on both edges, it’s time to move into turning.
Toddlers are all about playing and having fun, and snowboarding is no different. Check out the video below to see our families snowboard progression!
We would love to see your families snowboarding adventures! Tag us @mtnmamatales
Resources to Check Out
Looking for Inspiration? Check out these snowboarding families on Instagram
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