was unavailable to kids
younger than 7 until Burton Snowboards developed first
timer-friendly snowboards that are soft with flexed convex bases
and beveled edges. These boards are easier to turn for a youngster and they
resist catching an edge helping to prevent falls.
The Riglet Reel is a retractable cord attached to the front or nose of the snowboard for instructors or parents to tow kids during their initial rides on the snowboard. These rides might be on the snow or on the carpet but they give the young snowboarder a successful feeling of sliding, achieving balance and control.
Burton is also extending its boot line to smaller kids (size 7 with corresponding mini bindings). Jeff Boliba, Burton’s global vice president of resorts commented, “If a kid can fit in the boot, he or she can snowboard.” He also revealed that the smallest-ever Burton snowboard (70 cm long) is new.
The development of terrain-based instruction areas and Riglet Parks at ski areas is another successful development to make it easier to learn how to ride. Riglet Parks are specifically designed for kids aimed at 3-6 year olds with fun-friendly kids-sized terrain inside a small snow bowl.
There are more than 40 ski resorts using Riglet Parks and many others that are using terrain-based instruction areas, which are similar to the contained bowl kid parks. These areas are created with machine-made snow and can be shaped quickly with a snowcat. This terrain keeps the learner from leaving the park area and removes fear from sliding out of control. The concept has shown to allow faster technique learning progression.
Mike Chait is the Snowboard Manager at Smuggler’s Notch Resort in Vermont, which was an early adopter of the Riglet Park. Chait said, “The boards allow turns to be linked easily and the curved base helps control and completely eliminates “slam” falls. Our park has a tree house, and we don’t use any industry jargon while helping the kids have fun. The instructor/student class ratios are 4:1 and 6:1 and most of all “the kids are not crying.” The indoor program also introduces kids to snowboards on a carpeted area. There are various indoor exercises that emphasize the balance and sideways stance associated with snowboarding.
Boliba also developed a snowboarding introduction program in elementary school physical education classes at his son’s Williston, Vermont school. This PE program is on Astroturf and incorporates props to impact student core strength and balance. PE teachers can view it as new age fitness that will engage the kids. According to Boliba, expansion of the PE snowboard program will be undertaken with the SkatePass, which is a skateboarding program already in many schools.
Boliba commented that PE program concept is to “make snowboarding more accessible and build youth participation.” Getting more kids familiar with snowboarding and providing a successful introduction to the sport could very well reinvigorate the statistics, which have shown a decline in the number of snowboard population in the last few years.
One of the things he’s noticed is that parents are getting pumped when their little offspring discover the “standing sideways experience.” Many riders got away from the sport as they began jobs and families, and as they see their kids learn to snowboard they get excited about snowboarding all over again and get the opportunity to create family memories snowboarding together.