Learning to Snowboard—Snowbasin's Riglet Park

By Mountain Mama Jan 23, 2014
Years ago snowboarding was for kids 7 and above. Nowadays they start them at 3! Snowbasin has a specific learning method starting at Burton's Riglet Park. The learning programs, the views, the food and the atmosphere makes Snowbasin one of my kids' favorite resorts.
Learning to Snowboard—Snowbasin's Riglet Park

I remember when Brennan wanted to learn to snowboard at 4 years old.  We got a board and learned about the challenges of teaching a child that young.  First off, don't do it yourself, get a lesson.  Burton developed a riglet reel that attaches to the end of the their LTR or learning boards and acts as a tow rope.  The smallest board is an 80 cm board and made for 3 year olds.  They have also developed a whole method of teaching by introducing Riglet Parks into various ski resorts.  Snowbasin is the latest resort in Utah to introduce this concept.

Snowbasin is located north of Salt Lake City.  Many people think it is a "world" away from the Salt Lake City resorts.  Au contraire, it is not that far.  In fact, it is all freeway driving and quick.  I have to say it is one of my kids' favorite resorts.  The crowds are normally lower, the views are so stunning it looks like a painting, the food is amazing, the runs are long and wide and the bathrooms...well, you need to check them out.  If you have kids, you normally spend a lot of the time in the bathrooms-they are marble, have private doors and couches-oftentimes voted in the top tier of bathrooms.  As my kids say..."it is a big hallway, these are nice." 

OK, so back to lessons and learning.  Snowbasin has made a huge effort to get the little fellas into snowboarding.  From 3-6 years old, kids start at the Riglet Park.  It is a small area with a couple of small box features, a small slope, Dino the dinosaur slide and some small arches.  The concept is to get kids balancing on their snowboards.  The lessons start at one hour and go up.  With kids that young it is about fun and learning how to balance, not about flying down the hill.  The classes are small and include equipment.  When they are ready, they move onto the Little Cat lift.  This beginner hill is one of my favorite beginner hills in Utah.  It is long and they have incorporated some awesome features for kids, with hills, boxes, rails, and features to get them turning without going into a huge terrain park with the big guys. I've included the video of a run through it.  Bren likes to rocket down from the top of the mountain, but this was his favorite area.  It forces the kids to turn and control their board/skis on a gentle slope while learning.  It is called terrain based learning...doing a progression from the Riglet Park to the beginner slope and then up based on the terrain they're on.  That way they are letting the mountain or terrain guide them down in a natural progression.  The key to teaching kids is not to scare them but to encourage them and let them feel in charge and safe on their skis.  If that happens, you will have happy, safe skiers.

I am blessed that my kids are really confident, strong skiers so after a few runs to warm up the legs on Little Cat, they were super raring to go and get up the Gondola.  If you are a beginner/intermediate skier, get yourself up the Needles Gondola.  The view are so stunning you may find yourself up on the top for awhile.  Heck, bring a book and camp out in the Needles Lodge and take it all in.  It is a 13 minute ride up the Gondola, so time to eat your granola bar and look around.  Snowbasin was the site of the 2002 womens and mens downhill.  Emily wanted to check that out, me...well I'll stick to the blue runs off of Needles.  I love the fact that the view are stunning all the way down.  It actually doesn't look real.  The wide views allow you to actually see Wyoming, Idaho and Nevada. For sure take a bunch of photos, could be your Christmas card!  The runs are very wide in many cases.  This is a good thing as the kids are learning.  They can practice their turns all the way down or in my case, not run into someone and get out of the way trying to turn.  For those types like me, I would recommend taking either Sweet Revenge or Dan's run down-a blue run which feeds into Bear Hollow-a green run.  It is a long run, which is one of the reasons my kids like Snowbasin so much, you can really get your rhythm going and the view is stunning all the way down.

Some other "favorite" things. . .food.  We ate at Needles Lodge and the new "kids" menu is great.  I say this because it was as big as an adult portion-note the photo.  You will never walk away hungry. 

Snowbasin has also adopted the Know the Code program.  It is a safety program to get to keeping everyone safe on the mountain. The kids each put on a button and it is printed on the backs of all the napkins as well.  Learning how to be respectful of others and skiing in contol is very important.

So after a full day of skiing/boarding we loaded up our gear in the little cart trolleys-note photo- and headed to the car. This will always be my favorite item at a resort.  Hello...after skiing do you really want to carry your skis all the way to the car?  Or in may case, 2 pairs of skis and a snowboard.  No...you put them in the cart and wheel it to the curb.  Snowbasin has a great pick up/drop off area and you can just shove everyone in the car and go.  Tired kids and happy Mom..we headed back to Salt Lake.  Visit the Snowbasin website for more about lessons and events, there is always something going on!