Every keen skier wants their kids to share their passion and love the snow but as Hilary Doling discovered they don’t always want to follow in your tracks.

And then came the fateful day when he first saw a snowboard. I should have known. He was a skateboarder and a surfer – two planks were never going to win over one board. No way.

Plus the clothes bore more resemblance to American rappers on ice (no, not that kind of ice) so he was bound to find it more appealing. He was eight at the time and I held out for four more years before I gave in.

At the time the accepted philosophy seemed to be let them learn to ski first and then swap over. There was also much talk about what age this should happen. Plus where ever we went ski schools seemed more geared up for skiing than boarding and the littlies looked so much more vulnerable on their mini boards.

That was before Burton revolutionised it all with their Riglet Parks. Specially designed to teach 3-6 year olds to balance on boards, the parks feature small rollers and ramps to help build confidence on soft 80-125cm youth boards.

Plus the piece de resistence the Riglet Reel tow cable, which enables qualified instructors to pull kids through the course on mini boards, giving them the sensation of riding all on their own without the risk.

The programme has been running in ski resorts across the United States since 2010 but now they’ve landed on Oz. This season both Mount Hotham and Falls Creek Resorts have a full time Riglet Park.

To be fair ski schools generally have upped their game when it comes to growing young snowboarders and several now have programmes similar to Burton’s Learn to Ride program for older kids.

As for me I’ve changed my mind about the dreaded ‘others’. My son, now 14, took off down the mountain at an incredible pace the minute he jumped on a snowboard – and he was even (more or less) in control. He looks forward to heading up the mountain with a passion he never had on skis and we can still cover terrain together and have fun.

Plus snowboarding has benefited skiing too – terrain parks and freestyle have brought a whole generation back to skiing and given it a ‘cred’ it had lost. Who knows my son may one day find his way back too. As for me, I don’t think I’ll ever join the broads on ‘boards, learners spend too much time on their bottoms for my liking.

So skiing versus snowboarding; what’s it to be? Either really (sorry it took me so long to realise this son).

Because in the end being in the snow is all about following your passion isn’t it? Why else do we all go out in freezing conditions to strain our muscles – and our wallets – way beyond the bounds of rationality.

Heli-skiing anyone?

Burton’s tips on how to introduce your kids to snowboarding

1.    Find the right programme

There’s no question that the best way to learn to snowboard is to start with a lesson. Burton Riglet programs for kids aged 3 to 6 will get your child off to the best possible start, developing snowboard familiarity and balance skills. For older kids, a Learn to Ride program like Burton’s LTR will offer kids the best chance to improve. Check what programmes are offered at your local resort.

2.    Ride the right snowboard

Make sure your child is riding a snowboard that is right for them. There is nothing worse than riding a board that is too big or too small. Remember that a snowboard knows how much you weigh, not how tall you are, so avoid the old ‘board to the chin’ trick and pick a board based on your child’s weight.

If you are renting, make sure their board is in decent shape. Make sure it’s waxed, that the bindings are easy to manage and that you don’t have any ‘heel-lift’ in their boots.

3.    Layer Up

If your child is cold or wet, it doesn’t matter how good their snowboard is, they’re going to be having a bad time. Leave the cotton at home. Invest in some breathable first layers, a waterproof jacket, some gloves (or two) and socks. Keeping them warm and dry lets them focus on snowboarding and having fun outside.

4.    Ride as a family

Getting your kid into snowboarding isn’t just fun for them, it can be fun for the whole family. If you’ve never ridden a snowboard, now is the perfect time to try. Snowboarding is a great way to spend time as a family and build memories that last a lifetime. Get out there and ride with them!

5.    Have fun!

Most importantly, snowboarding is all about having fun. Let your kid know that learning to snowboard is about enjoying themselves and nothing else. With the right tools and a little willpower your kid will all smiles for many years to come!

Hilary Doling is the Editor of Ski & Snowboard with Kids magazine and founder of The Luxury Travel Bible. She knows kids and she knows how to travel in comfort and style.


  1. My husband and I are snowboarders but our three kids are learning to ski. I think when they started it was just accepted that they would go to ski school so that’s where they went…and they do enjoy it. The riglet park looks great though and with a week at Falls next week we might try our youngest on the board. My eldest (9) is asking to board but he broke his leg skiing last year and hasn’t been back to the snow since so we think he needs to do at least a day on skis just to get over the fear side of things. After that, happy for him to choose either way.

  2. My boys wanted to learn to Snowboard. I gave them permission to. After they could beat me in a race!
    Needless to say, once they could beat me the answer became. Why bother, I ski too well and can do everything and go everywhere a snowboarder can. Why bother to now!

  3. It´s a shame that nowadays there are many people who still think that we snowboarders are some kind of criminals. The most of the times, these people are just posh tourists, not people really involved in the snow and mountain. People who dont understand a thing. I am always riding with skiers and riders, just because they are my friends, and I enjoy every ride with them, no matter if they are on a board or two. We all fell the same, and enjoy the same. I´ve got relatives that are totally against to let their kids to learn or just try snowboarding. And its a pitty to hear those little kids saying stupid myths and nonsense cliché things about snowboarding that have learnt in their house from their proud parents. And the worst part is when you try to dialogue, because they are like religious fanatics, hooligans that say the same stupid things that they used to say 30 years ago, and don´t listen to you. Ah, and of course, they always are world ski champions, and pioneers of skiing… When you snowboard about 200 days per year, and they go to ski for a weekend every two years. But hey, they know everything about everything, and if they say that snowboarding sucks and its for crimminals, they must be right!
    Thanks for sharing this. And by the way, after 20 years of snowboarding I decided to learn to ski because knowledge is good and useful. And ski is so fun by the way, even though Im a sideways man. And when I have kids, they will learn skiing and snowboarding, and whatever they want, just as many of my friends´s kids in the mountain.

  4. The age a child should learn to snowboard is, unnecessarily and unfairly, a pretty contentious subject.
    There are lots of differing opinions, some based in fact, some not! If you are keen to share your passion for riding with your kids or they are keen to get on a board then, thanks to innovations in child specific snowboarding equipment and teaching methods, it is now possible for children to try out snowboarding pretty much as soon as they can walk!


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