History of the tiny snowboard!

By Mountain Mama Dec 5, 2011
Way back in the day, snowboards were made by just taking an adult board and making it smaller. Not any more! Have you wondered how it is that boards are easier to learn on and why even at 3, kids catch on? I chatted with the Burton folks who made it possible.

Now that I have a little boarder in our family, I decided to do a little research into the history of boarding and how the little Burton LTR 80cm board came to be.  In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, don't worry...neither did I until I did a little digging with the help of Shaun Cattanach from Burton.  Shaun has been teaching snowboarding for many years and also has been with Burton for many years in the development of making the snowboard easier for kids as young as 3 to use.  I know nothing about boarding, but I do know the name Burton as one of the front runners in the snowboard business.  Since Brennan has his first tiny Burton board, 80 cm, the smallest one made, it has been a fun learning experience.

Regardless of who "invented" the board, it certainly ties closely with surfing.  After all, it's like surfing only on snow.  I did find this article and this article on the history which was fascinating.  If you have some fun links, please share.  It is an interesting history.

So, back to the present.  It is just in the last few years that boarding isn't only for kids over 8.  There are still some places that hold to "the old school" thinking that kids need to be 7 or 8 before they board.  If that was the case, why is there now all this technology for kids age 3?  And why all the excitement?  I've included a video of Brennan discovering he indeed had his own board.  Now, does that look like a reaction of a little guy that shouldn't snowboard?

In 1998, the LTR board came about.  It is the "learn to ride" board.  It has a beveled base, mellow U on the bottom..not a flat bottom, and a wider platform to stand on and roll.  According to Shaun, it is a "true twin", meaning if you cut it in 1/2, one side would be identical to the other side making it easy to twist and turn.  The wider platform is easier to stand on and roll.  The LTR board is found at resorts and rental shops.  It is made as small as an 80 cm length and a boot size of childs 10.  Once you get a little better, you move to a Cruiser board.  With the LTR boards in 80 cm, the kids haven't quite figured out which foot forward they want, so it can go either way.  For purchase in the little sizes, you can go the Chicklet or Chopper boards.

Can you image boarding on this?  The boards have certainly come a long way.  In the past when getting kids into boarding, an adult board was taken and just made smaller.  No big deal?  Oh yes, it is!  Kids are different.  A smaller board was invented by having a thinner, softer core that would allow the board to flex easier and it was much lighter.  About 7 or 8 years ago the 90 cm board came about.  It was a huge success.  So, why not smaller? Then the 80 cm came into play.  It was designed for 3 year olds.  With a lot of research and testing, the easier binding and boots were introduced.  I was so shocked that at 4, Brennan didn't even need me to help him with the bindings, he just knew.  They have a shovel opening and the bindings flop open for them to get the boots in.

Now for the topper.  The riglet reel.  A couple years ago Burton decided there was a way to get the little ones around the mountain without them having to step out of their bindings every time.  For the LTR boards, it can attach at one end or the other.  When you go into your rental shop, ask if they have any available.  They are also available for purchase.  They can be mounted on the 80,90 and 100 cm boards and are much stronger than they appear.  A way to pull the kids around.  The newer boards come with the holes already drilled and ready for mounting, so it takes just a few minutes to attach.

The Canyons Resort will have a permanent Riglet Park set up.  I asked Shaun what was so special about it.  He said it has rollers, banked turns and gentle terrain to teach kids how to turn and slow down.  It is about utilizing the terrain to build balance. Something I've learned already with Brennan...he wants to go straight down and then just fall.  Is that really how to board?  The Park will teach more technique.  Stay tuned for that blog.  Should be fun!

Also, Burton will be doing a cross country mountain festival with demos and educating the public on the riglet system and introducing them to snowboarding if they've not tried.  This will be held at Park City Mountain Resort Jan, 20-22.

Before I finished visiting with Shaun, his last statement was "I hope the next time I'm in Utah you will have enrolled in a boarding class so you can keep up with your son".  Well.....

For rentals in the Utah area, check out Ski' N See and go the reservation page. You can save 20% by reserving online!