By Adam Begg
Having two young children and spending a majority of my adult career involved in the snowboard industry, I am constantly asked these questions each season.
Should my kids ski or snowboard? Are your kids going to snowboard first or ski?
The answer I give is not what people might expect. I do not expect my children to follow my footsteps and live and breathe snowboarding, or aspire to be the next Torah Bright or Scotty James. I do want them to have fun and appreciate the great outdoors and hopefully gain a love for a sport that incites an interest in travelling.
So should your kids ski or snowboard first? It depends on the child and the parents and sometimes this could be influenced by what their parents do. If both parents snowboard it could be hard to convince your children to ski.
Ask yourself what are they are going to have the most fun doing?
I do have the opinion that skiing first is slightly more beneficial (not the answer you would expect from a snowboarder). My children are going to ski before they snowboard and here is why.
Facing forwards assists in their learning process. Kids learned to crawl facing forwards, they learn to walk facing forwards so it only makes sense that their brains can process skiing easily.
Most children under 5 tend to have large heads in proportion to the rest of their body. Add a helmet and there extra weight from their heads trying to pull them to the ground. This affects them in snowboarding more than skiing as it is more likely to throw them off balance, whereas skiing it will put them in the front of their boots and assist them in their progression.
I believe that kids can progress quicker on skis than a board. Kids can turn in a snow plough on skis almost as soon as they click in giving them a much quicker progression on skis than a board.
Most kids will achieve a high speed side slip or a hockey stop form of snowboarding at a young age, but it can take time.
Skye Walsh from Jindabyne has four year old son, Cody, who wanted to snowboard just like mum and dad. Her and husband Darragh are both high end snowboarders, Skye having also taught snowboarding lessons for ten years.
Skye said Cody had not skied yet, just boarded for two years, but is doing ok, mainly just on his heels.
“From a mum and a snowboarding point of view we would have liked him to do some skiing as well, just for that centre of balance and because of the ankle and knee flexion, they are just not built like that yet.”
AJ and Sarah Jones have a young daughter Annabelle who skis, and they have both worked in the snow industry for a long time.
“I would recommend starting off on skis just to build a good foundation,” said AJ.
“A lot of times it is a little bit easier for the kids that are quite young in regards to coordination and picking it up quicker, and at the end of the day it is all about getting on the mountain and getting out and about and I think you can do that a little bit quicker and easier on skis.
“Once you get up and running there (skiing) it is easy to transfer those skills that are already pre-established over to snowboarding.
“Everyone is different but I think there is probably a greater chance for some of those younger kids and the muscles that are developed in their body to possibly pick up skiing just a little bit quicker.”
So everyone will have their own ideas, but with progression comes fun. This is my main aspiration for me with my kids skiing rather than following in my snowboarding footsteps. Once kids are having fun skiing they will want to visit the snow more and in turn progress faster making family trips to the snow a more enjoyable experience.
Once kids are up and moving on skis they learn the other aspects of the sport such as learning how to ride different types of lifts, how to load and unload on chairlifts and how to ride solo on lifts such as T-bars and pomas. They learn how to negotiate varying types of terrain and snow conditions and navigate around their local resort.
It is these skills that once learned will then make snowboarding easier should they choose to switch. Snowboarding is easy for kids to pick up once they know their way around riding lifts and snow conditions, edging and all the other subtle nuances of the sport you don’t even realise you are learning.