Pre-parenthood, I always heard stories of babies that could swim before they crawled or run before they walked. It seemed that babies were built with instinctive reflexes that went beyond sucking or smiling — reflexes combined with a lack of fear and low center of gravity, two great advantages in the world of snowsports.
I’ve seen tiny skiers bop their way down the bunny hill as young as two years old, and marveled as kids seemed to get younger and younger with every YouTube video I watched. One friend put his son on a snowboard at 18 months, and another friend started his daughter at 12 months. These toddlers were barely stable on their feet, yet solid on their boards as their parents pushed and pulled them across the snow.
For parents like us, it’s an amazing time to share our love of adventure sports with our little ones. The gear gets smaller and smaller (and better and better) each year, to the point where Will jokingly says he can hang the baby’s goggles off his rearview mirror.
When Gemma was born, we knew we’d introduce her to snowboarding as soon as she could stand. (After all, she got her first taste of it at eight months in utero!) And I suppose we’ve been prepping her for that day since birth. She loves to be tossed in the air and hung upside-down, or sucking on ice cubes and sitting outside with the sun on her (properly suncreened) face. There was no doubt she was ours: a curious, alert, outdoor-loving adventure-seeker.
Avid snowboarders and skiers always say, “Start ’em young!” And start ’em young we did — at just 10 months old, we strapped Gemma into her very own snowboard and towed her around for a good 30 minutes until she started to fuss for a nap.
She loved it. And admittedly, she can’t even stand on her own yet. (She’s close, though.) The toddler-sized snowboard boots went up so high on her legs (almost to her knees!) that they naturally locked her in position, allowing her to balance as we pulled her around the base of the mountain. I was such a proud mama to see other skiers cheering her on!
She also hitched a ride in the baby backpack carrier as my husband hiked up a hill and snowboarded down to the parking lot, getting her used to the thrill of flying down a run and feeling the wind in her face. (There are ski resorts that let parents ride up the chairlift or gondola with their babies in backpacks, but the little local resort we went to didn’t allow it. It’s something we hope we can do this winter at the right place on the right day.)
By the end of the session, Gemma was tuckered out and nestled into her dad for an afternoon nap. It was a fun and successful first day, and we’re amped to take her out a few more times this season. (In the meantime, Will sometimes gears her up and pulls her around our living room during playtime.)
We don’t expect much with her “snowboarding” these first couple of years. At this age, it’s purely about honing her balance and providing a positive experience so she’ll be pumped to get out again.
By next winter when she’s 22 months, she’ll probably be snowboarding independently, and 5 years from now, she’ll probably be taking off down the blacks in front of us. My dream is that she’ll one day be asking for season passes for Christmas and hustling us out the door on powder days! And I am so, so excited for that.
What we use and recommend for introducing babies to snowboarding:
- We absolutely love this backpack carrier, which we’ve used on several hikes this past year, on and off the snow. But I should caution that for snowboarding, it’s not for everyone. It’s a super fun way to bring your baby with you if you’re an advanced rider, but is best on mellow days with smaller crowds on the mountain.
- Gemma’s boots, bindings, tow reel, and snowboard are all from Burton, maker of the smallest boots and snowboard on the planet. We bought the boots a couple sizes larger than she normally wears, in the hope that she’ll get three or four years of use out of them. Burton designed the boots in such a way that you can remove the liners and step up a size once your child outgrows the footbed. It’s a brilliant system.
- She also has these sunglasses (pictured above) and these goggles and helmet (not pictured).