How to Raise Snowboarders vs Skiers

By Mountain Mama Feb 23, 2016
When Brennan turned 4, he decided he'd had enough with skiing and was ready to snowboard. Learn the differences in raising a skier and a snowboarder.
How to Raise Snowboarders vs Skiers

Word on the street has always been "your kids must ski before they snowboard".  My question is "why?"  Wondering who wrote that rule and if you did your own "unofficial" poll, you'd probably come up with the same answer-yes, skiing  must come first!

I am going to disagree. Why not let your child decide? If they want to play soccer, do you tell them "no, you need to play basketball first?" I'm guessing not, so if they come to you and want to learn how to snowboard, let them do it. With that said, the learning curve is a little more challenging. Little fellas have weak ankles and little legs, so the muscles it takes to turn that snowboard is a bit harder. If they want to do it, they'll learn. I did a lot of lessons that first year and it was totally worth it.

Here we are on season number 5-yep, he's turning 9 in a few weeks—and life with Brennan the snowboarding has certainly been interesting. I have learned that snowboarders often times get a bit of a bad rap and are really a much more carefree group in general. That describes this child for sure. Emily is a beautiful skier; goes down the hill so effortlessly, quietly with perfect lines. Bren-has to hit every jump, go around every tree, try a new trick or spin on every trip down the mountain. 

Differences in clothes:

1. Longer jackets are key. Over the bum certainly helps when they are sitting down to latch into their bindings after getting off the chairlift. My favorite is Killtec. This is carried by many different shops and comes in bright colors. It tends to run a little longer for that "over the bum" effect. Em tends to wear a "cute" fitted type jacket while skiing. Maybe it's a girl thing too.

2. Good insulated board pants. There is a lot of time sitting on the ground, so make sure you have good waterproof pants as you'll find a wet bum on a cold day on the chairlift is no fun. I prefer more of a bib pant for kids 5 and under and then just the pants for the older kids. I like the 686 pants as the waist is pretty adjustable.

3. Mittens. Always my biggest challenge. This year I went with a leather glove with a built in liner from Swany. After years of searching, yes, I may have finally hit the jackpot. Bren prefers the gloves as he can buckle his bindings without taking his gloves off. Emily prefers mittens as they keep her hands warmer. Both have built in fleece gloves inside and for the first time....warm hands!

4. Face mask. Emily still prefers a neck gaiter. Bren likes to be like his teammates and have a thin balaclava. My new thing this year is the balaclava made by terramar. Super thin so fits under the helmet and can stretch over the face. On a cold day, I'd still throw a neck gaiter in the pocket.

5. Socks can be thicker. In a ski boot, thinner socks fit better. In snowboard boots, thicker is fine. Burton makes all kinds of fancy fun socks and they are comfy.

Differences in runs down the mountain:

1. As I alluded to above, there is no straight shot down the mountain. Bren is always scoping out some jump to hit, tree to go around, rock to jump over. You'll hear a lot of "dude, did you see that".  Did you notice all snowboarders have a gopro? Even Bren has one. Yes, skiers do as well, but for some reason boarders are filming all this "big air" that is happening. 

2. Terrain parks. Can I tell you how much time I've spent in terrain parks? Not actually doing anything but skidding along the side, but watching the line Bren picks as he eyes every rain, box, pipe... yes, having to learn the names of everything has been fun. 

Different snowboard disciplines:

Not to say skiers don't do these things, they absolutely do, but Emily doesn't have the interest.

1.Half pipe: Shaun White became known for this. A giant "pipe" in the snow where riders can ride up either side and practice their flips, jumps... Bren not there yet.

2. Boarder cross: A course is built where riders race down together over jumps, banks and rollers to speed to the finish.

3. Alpine events: GS and Slalom which is a bit more common in skiing where riders race through gates and are timed.

4. Slopestyle: The newest Olympic event where riders jump over a series of jumps, rails, perform tricks that are judged. Bren had his first event in this and loved it! As mentioned in a previous blog, this is his dream.

Different things that are cool:

1. Stickers: Oh my gosh, what is with stickers. Bren has a zillion stickers on his board and they keep coming. We have to always have a sticker collection at all times. Em, nothing on her skis.

2. Sayings: Dude, that was sick, what is like there is a special language going on here.

3. Crashes: I can't even tell you the amount of unbelievable falls Bren has had and up he gets. Is it just me or can boarders absorb unbelievable falls and bounce up like nothing happened? I would be done for the year.

4. All the grabs and moves. Bren wrote a book on explaining all this lingo.

My favorite difference of all:

Going with the flow. Please take this with a perspective of a Mom watching a very disciplined ski racer vs a silly, jumping, daring snowboarder. This is not to say that all of the above cannot apply to skiers as well, but this is just my observation as I learn to be a "boarder Mom".   I love the carefree, try anything attitude. It has made me tough watching it with one eye closed. As I hear "Mom, I caught huge air today, did a front somersault, landed on my head and my goggles filled up with snow". Breath, will be a fun, scary, adventurous ride. As his competition turn has arrived with one Alpine event and one Slopestyle event under his belt, Brennan says "now it's my turn...."

One last note....I bought Brennan a motorcycle back/chest vest support. It slips over his head and gives him that little extra padding in the event he has a big fall on his back or chest. 

Please feel free to share your adventure stories with me.