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Should child ski ?

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Sam Morishima
I am often asked by parents, should my child (ages 3 to 7 years) first learn to ski or snowboard?

Unless, there are strong peer pressures from friends or family insisting the child snowboard, it would be best if the child have at least one year of skiing prior to snowboarding.

Skiing as their first feet bound snow sport allows several advantages. First they are going to learn to stand up faster on skis. They can maneuver to the chair lift easier, and move through lift lines smoother. Getting use to the logistics of handling the snow environment of a ski resort the first year can grease the runway for snowboarding in later years.

Balancing with feet attached to something is going to be a key element to whether a child is going to have fun or be frustrated with the sport.

On skis they can move both feet independently, making it easier to stay balanced. In the earlier stages of skiing having the legs and feet in the pizza slice position for balance, slowing down and stopping doesnt involve having the ability to make independent lower and upper body movements which is critical from the start in snowboarding.

Anatomical reasons for why a child may take to skiing easier than snowboarding is that the childs head is larger in proportion to the rest of the body than in an adult. Therefore, the childs center of mass is higher up in the upper chest compared to that of the adults lower center of mass in the abdomen area near the belly button. This high center of mass can easily throw off the balance of a snowboarder which already requires greater ankle and foot strength for balance.

Also, young children commonly have difficulty flexing their ankles to put the snowboard on edge.

If you are uncertain and your child doesnt have a strong preference for snowboarding maybe the best first choice is skiing.

If however your young child goes snowboarding it is important that adults assist them.

Here are a few guidelines for the assisting adult:

Have the child wear wrist guards to minimize wrist injuries. Show them how to spread the impact of the fall to minimize injuries.

When the assisting adult is also a snowboarder, make sure the child is to their toe side when getting on the lift. This way if the adult needs to give assistance to the child for example, getting off the lift, the adult is already facing the child and doesnt have to twist and contort their body to hold up a falling child, which would be the case if facing on their heel side.

Assist a small child to the chairlift loading area by gently pushing or pulling the child while both the childs feet are strapped to the binding. Small children who try to scooter kick their way are very slow and awkward.

Also, having both feet in the bindings makes it easier to unload. Small children often dont have the strength and coordination to unload with just the front foot attached. Remember with a small board the bindings are placed close together and that there is no place to put a loose foot during unloading.

Whether the child is skiing or snowboarding with adults stay on terrains that is appropriate for the childs level. Even if a child seems to be able to handle the terrain, if its beyond their level it can create very lasting bad habits.

What I found to be the most important experience builder with small children is to go at their pace allowing for stops at the lodge for a relaxing warm-up with a hot chocolate and conversation. The time spent warming up at the lodge with them is just as important as the time spent on the slope.

The ideal way to introduce the child to either sport is before you go to the snow. A go on the Endless Slope at SnoZone is a perfect way to observe the ability of your child to adapt to the sport. Able to watch close up at his or her progress as they learn the proper way to negotiate the skis or board and begin establishing the correct body placement and habits required for good fundamentals that allow the child to grow and advance in the sport. Get them off to a great and enjoyable start on an Endless Slope.

Sam Morishima

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