To ski or to ride? A choice for the ages. Adults can make the decision on their own, but what about the kids? It’s an easy choice for toddlers, but then it comes down to factors like balance and what they really want to learn.
New advances in both ski and snowboard equipment for children make the choices easier, but you know your kids best. What do you think they would enjoy more?
The younger the kids, the less the balance. Yes, toddlers. That might suggest starting out on skis. Once the balance improves, it might be fun too try snowboarding,
Skis vs. snowboards
There’s no competition or right or wrong. Chances are many, if not most, parents learned on skis. That’s changing, of course, and “only riders” are catching up. You can bet most grandparents started on skis and many never switched. Most resort ski schools just have a goal of getting kids into a sport they’ll enjoy for a lifetime. It’s always best to let then professionals teach kids to ski or ride. Don’t do it yourself.
Experts weigh in
Hailing from Sydney, Australia, Ben Boyd has held many positions in snowboard instruction and coaching throughout his career. He is also the father of young twins. “I had them skiing the first two years. It’s hard for them to ride sideways on the snowboard as they don’t have the balance yet. They have a massive big head which tips them over easily.”
Once his son was skateboarding, he put him on a snowboard and pointed him down the hill. “If they’re skating or something with balance like gymnastics or ballet, something that helps with their coordination, they can get snowboarding easier because it’s a lot of balance.”
Being one of the top snowboard coaches in the country, Boyd’s kids will more than likely be boarders; but he says it’s not bad to get them on skis when they’re really little. “It gives them the sensation of sliding and they get used to sliding on the snow. Then getting on a snowboard is not as hard because a lot of the concepts are similar.”
Also heavily credentialed on the subject, Jon Casson is the Coach Development Manager for the United States Ski and Snowboard Association. He advises parents to draw out and stick to whichever motivates the kids more between skiing and riding. “You’re on vacation. Let them do what they feel like. But understand that with real little kids, they’re not going to be ripping down blue runs in one hour. Talk to the instructors and see what they will be capable of. Set the expectations right at the beginning.”
Casson adds, “Depending on a kid’s physical development, I would say generally between the ages of 6 and 8 is the best time to start snowboarding.” He says the younger kids don’t really have fine motor control and can more easily steer skis. “If I get really little kids and they’re just riding down the hill, I’ll ride in front of them and catch them. They’re not really learning the proper way to turn. But if they’re smiling at the end of the day, who really cares if they turned or not?”
Snowboard school supervisor, Mark Markowitz says he can start kids on a snowboard as young as three years old, but in a private lesson with one-on-one attention. He credits this to new technology. “In the past, these kids were using adult equipment. Now, Burton makes some incredible stuff for these little kids that is truly tailored for them to help them learn. As the industry evolves, the ability to have gear for these little guys has increased. These smaller snowboards make it easier for a kid to roll from edge to edge. You don’t have to be a full-sized person.”
Involved in snowboarding for 20 plus years, Markowitz marvels at the progression, calling it amazing and incredibly fun to see. “It’s much easier to walk around in the boots and not carry poles. Kids don’t have to worry about crossing their tips. Sometimes for little bodies, it’s hard to keep the tips from crossing and they want to go where they want to go. In snowboarding, we don’t have to worry about that.”