We just got back from a ski/snowboarding trip that we’ve taken the past three years. My kids really look forward to this trip and it has become a fun family vacation that we plan on doing every year with them. We rent a house near the slopes with another family or two (which makes it a blast for not only the kids but adults too).
I’m not going to lie. Skiing/snowboarding with young children is a lot of work. When we started, my oldest was 6 years-old and my youngest was 4 years-old. Every year they get a bit better and more comfortable. They both really like snowboarding so that’s what we’ve been focusing on with them.
This was the first year that my oldest son (8 years-old) finally “got it”. You could see the motivation in his eyes and his eagerness to learn. He would make himself fall when he thought he was going too fast but that’s ok. He bounced right back up and went down again.
My 6 year-old did great for being so young. He went down a few times but then had enough. We didn’t push him. I actually took him back to our ski house after lunch while my oldest and my husband stayed on the slopes until close. It gave my husband more time to work with my son.
When your kids are young like mine, it’s important to remember at this stage it’s more about getting them comfortable with snowboarding than actually “snowboarding”. It’s going to be challenging for them, so it’s important to make the experience enjoyable so they’ll want to do it again.
Here are some good tips for getting your kids started with snowboarding:
1. Keep them warm. It’s so important to keep your kids covered up not only to protect them but to keep them comfortable. Depending on the weather, you’ll need to layer accordingly. This past weekend it was about 5 degrees, so it was important that we kept our boys (and us) completely covered including our faces. We were very prepared and thankfully everyone was warm and dry the entire day.
What do you need?
- A base layer; thermal underwear or Under Armour
- Insulating layer; lightweight fleece top and pants that go over the base layer
- Heavy winter jacket
- Ski pants or insulated bib pants (I prefer this for my kids)
- Ski socks (they are much different than regular socks)
- A good pair of gloves that are water and snow proof
- Hat and face mask
- SmartWool balaclava for extremely cold days (what we used and worked great)
- Goggles (generally around $25 and should last a few years)
- Warmers for both feet and hands
- Helmet (you can rent this)
Most ski resorts have lockers, so you can keep extra items in your backpack in case you need to add layers. We always keep extra socks, gloves, and hats in our bag along with extra feet and hand warmers.
2. Get there early. My best advice is to get there early. If the ski resort opens at 9am, plan on arriving no later than 8:30am. This will allow you time to get everyone settled without huge crowds. Plus, by arriving early you can get a parking spot close to the lodge. We try to snag a spot in the “slope parking lot”, which is only $10.
3. Rent equipment at a local ski shop. Waiting in a long line while everyone is bundled up is pretty much a nightmare. Usually by the time we are done, the kids are grumpy and sweating (and the adults too). This year we rented our equipment at a nearby ski shop the night before and what a game changer! It was a pleasant experience and when we got to the ski resort, all we had to do was buy lift tickets. I’ll never (repeat never) rent equipment again at the ski resort.
4. Take a private lesson. This year my boys took a private lesson, which helped tremendously. They received an hour of one-on-one time and learned the basics of snowboarding; starting, stopping, how to fall, clip themselves in, and got a few runs in with their instructors. It’s key to give them a foundation. I found that my 8 year-old was at a great age for this. My 6-year old is a bit young, but we felt that it was still important for him to take this class.
What to ask the instructor? After the lesson, take a few minutes to talk to the instructor to understand what was taught and the areas your child needs more practice in. Ask them for tips to help reinforce what was taught in class.
5. Keep it fun. It can be frustrating for your kids so it’s important to keep it fun and not stressful for them. If your child seems nervous, make sure you are upbeat and encouraging. I gave my oldest challenges to see how far he could go without falling and he really liked this. When he fell, I told him what a great job he was doing and how proud I was of him. Make sure to also let your child know they will not be graded while in class, it’s just for fun and to help them learn.
6. Stop for breaks. It’s a lot of work so make sure you build in time for breaks. You’ll want to stop for lunch and allow them to rest and refuel.
Note: I recommended NOT taking a lunch break during prime hours. The lodge will be packed and it’s hard to find a seat. I suggest going right before the lunch crowd (11am) or right after (1:30pm) to avoid big crowds.
7. Keep them hydrated. It’s so easy to lose track of time when you are on the mountain. Remember when you take breaks, make sure your child drinks plenty of water to help keep hydrated.
8. Practice falling. Your child will fall, so it’s important to teach them the proper way. If they can fall on their backside, that’s the safest way but not always practical. To prevent injury, teach them to make a fist and punch the snow with a straight wrist. It may take a few tries until they get it.
9. Friends can be motivators. When a child rides with friends, siblings, or cousins they tend to have more fun. We always go with another family so my boys have a blast riding down the slopes with their friends. If you don’t go with others, try connecting with another family during their lesson so you can meet up on the slopes.
10. Have patience. It can get very stressful at times. Your child may complain they are cold, tired, or their clothes are bothering them (like my boys do). Take a deep breath and remain calm. When you see your child (or maybe you) getting frustrated, it’s time to take a break.
Hope these tips help. Have fun!