Ready to prepare your young child for a great winter snowsports season? Below, Smugglers’ snowboard program manager Mike Chait shares his thoughts on that topic. Mike was instrumental in bringing the Burton Riglet Park to Smugglers’ to create the perfect on-snow playground for teaching young riders. And as part of his efforts to promote the joys of snowsports, Mike captures the wonderful images on the resort’s Instagram @smugglersnotchvt
Let’s face it, kids can be picky. Introducing a young child to a new activity like skiing or snowboarding can certainly lead to parents walking on eggshells – nobody want to take their first trip to the mountain, only to see their kids back off when faced with an unfamiliar setting and activity. A successful start to the season is all about the winter prep, and that doesn’t have to be hard, and can certainly be FUN. Just remember the power of play as you use the following methods to introduce kids to the movements and sensations they will experience on the mountain.
Dress up time! Make children aware that snowsports clothing and equipment can feel silly compared to their everyday experiences. Put a fun twist on it and incorporate their winter wear into their costume play at home. When you head to the mountain, pack a tutu or a ninja outfit so kids continue to associate getting dressed for their ski or ride day with play and adventure. Bonus points if you include an extra item for a new-found friend in the group!
Groove and move. This is where things really start to get fun! Plan activities with desired outcomes. For example, play a game of Simon Says that requires the child to bend at the knees and ankles – they’re being introduced to proper stance. Incorporate a prop such as a hula hoop to then take it a step further. The hula hoop can help the child begin to separate upper and lower body movements. This will ensure success in completing the movements as well as start to build muscle memory, especially in those late-to-develop shin and ankle muscle groups, essential to skiing and riding.
If weather allows, play a tag game outside. Tag is very useful in building muscle strength in the legs. The quick changes in direction and the movements necessary to avoid the tagger will help to further develop critical muscle groups. Make a rule that in order to be “safe,” the child needs to squat down with knees and ankles bent (stance again!), shouting a mountain-related term like “chairlift” or “snowcat.” This helps create interest in the mountain setting and lifestyle and gives you many opportunities to refer back to the terms once you arrive at the resort.
How about balance games? Create a few props using whatever you have around the house. You might set up a “bridge” to cross to encourage agility and balance.
Or, take a piece of 2-inch PVC pipe and a wide enough piece of wood to stand on. A snowboard with no bindings will work great, but a 2×6 will also do just fine. Place the wood perpendicular to and on top of the PVC. The idea is to stand on the wood with the pipe underneath it, while balancing.
Since the PVC is so low to the ground, if things start to get shaky, the child can simply step off. Parents can assist with hand holding if necessary. To step this one up, have the child practice the same movements from Simon Says, squatting down to get close to the wood, or even touching it.
The Riglet Board offered by Burton Snowboards is a flexible edgeless snowboard that can be used with or without bindings. These little boards work great when pulled on carpet, grass, and even wood chips. These boards are durable and can be used in conjunction with PVC or wood dowels to simulate a balance board. The best part is how well they work when you get that first light dusting of snow! Talk about a great way to get kids pumped up for a family trip to the mountain.
There are companies that make equipment specific to off-snow activity. Vew-Do Balance Boards (pronounced VOO-DOO) has a long line of products that have basically perfected the PVC-wood concept. Spooner is another option for balance boards that make it easy for even the littlest little ones.
Adopt a mantra: Instructional programs like Smugglers’ Snow Sport University are structured around a few very simple concepts – safety, fun, and learning. Stick to this mantra when getting prepared for your trip to the hill, and you too will see success. Above all, preparing kids for a trip to the mountain should be fun. After all, isn’t it activities like this that keep us all young at heart?