What's the right age to begin teaching your kids to snowboard? Let's just say that if, at the end of the day, you ask them what their favorite part was and they say "Falling down!" then you're probably doing something right.
January is Colorado Ski Country USA's Learn to Ski & Ride Month, and I'm celebrating with a project close to my heart: Teaching my 5 year-old daughter and 7 year-old son how to snowboard. We had our first day on the mountain together yesterday at Winter Park.
Ski lessons at most resorts begin as young as age 3, but skiing is against my religion and I decided to wait out the snowboarding introduction until my kids could each handle some basic skateboarding skills and had some winter sledding experience under their boots. Most people seem to recommend waiting until about age 6 for snowboarding, so I split the difference in the interest of getting them both on the mountain together, the better to fit my fatherly fantasy of a lifetime of family snowboarding adventure.
Speed Boy, age 7, at Winter Park
Photo: Colin Bane
It should be said that my kids -- I'll refer to them here by their noms de superhero, Dangerg!rl and Speed Boy -- are adventurous spirits, and extremely athletic. If your kid's a wuss, you might want to wait it out a bit longer.
We took it slow and spent most of our first day on the magic carpet rides and bunny slopes at the base of Winter Park, but by the end of the day they were both carving heelside and toeside turns, bombing straight down, and even riding switch. If Dangerg!rl took a turn too hard and did a 180, she just took it in stride and kept on going: It turns out that concepts like "regular" and "goofy" are outdated old-timer notions: If your kid doesn't have a clear natural stance preference, don't try to force one on them.
Let me rewind a bit: It was important to me to get my kids on skateboards first, and mine have been playing on skateboards since before they could stand. Knowing how to push, balance, and turn on a skateboard makes learning to snowboard a whole lot easier (and cheaper). Some of what goes into snowboarding can be learned away from the mountain.
Drast!c Dad and his superhero snowboarders
Photo: Sarah Austin
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My next concern was keeping them warm: We cobbled together hand-me-downs from our friends, shopped for secondhand gear at Sports Plus (1055 S. Gaylord Street in Denver), and filled in the rest at the KidSport Outlet Store (613 E. Jewell Avenue).
Speed Boy and Dangerg!rl are repurposing their skateboard helmets for the slopes but other than that, all told, we got them each outfitted for the season with their own gear from head to toe (boards, boots, and bindings included) for about what three days worth of rentals would have cost us.
Kids 5 and under are free at most resorts, and Winter Park won't hassle anybody for a lift ticket if you're spending the day on the magic carpet rides, but you'll only get away with it for about a day. Snowboarding -- real snowboarding -- requires a little bit of a slope.