Just when he’d got confident with skis, Pete Coomb’s son decides to switch discipline and try snowboarding…
Kids on Board!
Top tips for tiny boarders:
Go late, stay warm!
The Mini Shred weeks run at Easter, so while not assured, the weather should be warmer and hopefully sunny, therefore sunglasses and sunscreen are essential.
Wrap ‘em up!
Gloves with removable inners are a good idea as is a windproof jacket and fleece/hoody rather than a thick winter jacket. The kids will spend a lot of time sitting on the snow, so good waterproof/breathable snowboard pants are vital.
Think a head!
A well-fitted helmet is also a must, as while children don’t seem to take the knocks that adults do whilst learning to board, they will take a few hard falls.
Don’t buy: rent!
The other great thing about the Mini Shred week is that Burton snowboard and boot rental for your child is included. So, no need to invest in snow boarding kit, which is a definite plus given the rate that kids grow!
Both my kids love zooming down a mountainside on a set of skis. And my son, the eldest at six, has now managed to reach a standard where he can tour the mountain with my wife and I, without having to be constantly cajoled and picked up. So when I suggest a Mini Shred snowboard week with Rude Chalets, I’m surprised that he is happy to change disciplines and become a beginner again.
Decision made, we sign up for the week with Rude Chalets, who are now entering their 13th season in Morzine, and have also recently expanded to Chamonix .
I meet Helen, the co-founder of Rude, over a coffee and she explains that as the mother of a young child who loves snowboarding, it was a no brainer to add the mini shred weeks to their programme.
“It’s brilliant to see the buzz both the kids and their parents get out of the week. Seeing your kids shred their first turns is priceless. The moment I saw my son link a few turns, I thought I’ve got to help other boarders get their kids on a board too.”
Historically, it’s been near impossible to organise snowboard lessons for young children, with many ski schools - both in the UK and resort - still refusing to teach anyone under seven years old, and as for renting a suitably small snowboard in resort – no chance!
Fortunately, Burton Snowboards created the Burton Riglet system as part of their Learn to Ride programme. It’s basically a retractable lead which is attached to one end of a very young kid’s board, so that children as young as three can be pulled over a series of tiny features, or around the nursery slopes.
After dropping my daughter off at ski school, I ride the chair lift with Tammy, the founder of Mint Snowboard School.
“At Mint we all come from a snowboarding background first, so rather than being ski instructors and passing the French Ski Equivalence test, we’ve all gained the right to teach Snowboarding in France, either in boarder cross or half-pipe. Next season will be our 10th and we’ve been running the mini shred weeks for a few years now.”
“With kids who are complete beginners, we soon worked out that two-hour sessions are the perfect length: it keeps them wanting more, but doesn’t get them so tired they start making painful mistakes. We only ever have a maximum of two children with an instructor, that way it’s like giving them a series of private lessons..”
“It’s all about the kids having fun and introducing them to the sport we love, after which they can join one of our more advanced kids lessons, where we take them into the park to learn rail slides and jumps. As instructors, we love teaching the kids – they all pick it up so fast, and most are fearless, unlike many of their parents!
The little Burton boards (my son’s was 90cm) are perfect as they’re both short and light, and the kids stand centred over the board, making it easy to go in either direction. Adults get all hung up on whether they’re goofy or regular (leading with your right or left foot) but the kids don’t care, they just get up and set off.”
Ready for boarding
Picking up my son after his first 90 minute lesson, he is keen to show me how he can write a ‘J ‘in the snow by riding in a straight line before turning onto his heel edge, and coming to a controlled stop. After another hour of me dragging him back up the slopes we set off to pick up his sister from her longer ski lesson, putting him back onto a set of skis for the afternoon.
Before the holiday I was worried putting my son on a snowboard might knock him back. But my fear was totally unfounded – by the third day it simply all clicks into place, and he starts to link turns on his board, and even wants to try jumps.
It feels like we’ve pressed the reset button but it’s already paying dividends – not least because now my daughter, on skis, can easily keep pace with her brother on his board. This proves a huge encouragement for her to ski independently.
For the first time ever, and with huge smiles, we all set off down the mountain, independently and yet together as a family, cutting in front of each other and hitting the same little jumps. It’s a magical afternoon and one I hope to relive again and again – well, at least until my daughter wants to try snowboarding too!