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.
But how young can you teach a kid to snowboard, and how would you do so yourself?
I’ve seen tiny skiers bop their way down the bunny hill as young as two years old, and marveled as mini rippers 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 sliding sideways with our little ones. The gear gets smaller and better each year, to the point where my husband jokingly says he can hang the baby’s goggles off his rearview mirror.
- Our story of teaching our young daughter to snowboard
- Should kids learn to ski or snowboard first?
- But isn’t it easier for a toddler to ski?
- What’s the right age for a child to start snowboarding?
- Can you actually teach a baby to snowboard?
- What kind of gear do you need to teach kids to snowboard?
- Favorite training tools for teaching a toddler to snowboard
- How to introduce a baby to snowboarding
- How to teach a toddler to snowboard
- More tips for teaching your kids and having a blast together
- Common questions about teaching toddlers to snowboard
- Where to buy toddlers’ and kids’ snowboarding gear
Our story of teaching our young daughter to snowboard
When our first daughter 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’d been prepping her for that day since birth. She loved to be tossed in the air and hung upside-down, and some of her favorite days involved sitting outside eating snow.
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 20 minutes until she started to fuss for a nap.
She loved it. And admittedly, she couldn’t even walk on her own at that point. (She was starting to cruise 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!
Now that she’s 4 years old, Gemma’s making S-turns down the mountain by herself. She’s passing on her old snowboard to her baby sister Ember, who (at 14 months) just strapped in for the first time and will start lessons with us this winter.
Have we learned any tricks from the first round? Definitely!
Here’s our experience with teaching babies and toddlers how to snowboard and having fun doing it.
Should kids learn to ski or snowboard first?
As a family of snowboarders, we knew we wanted our kids to snowboard with us. My husband and I can ski (we especially enjoy cross-country skiing), but neither of us had a real desire to pick up downhill skiing again anytime soon.
Since we were teaching the kids ourselves, we felt it was easier to teach them not only how to snowboard, but to snowboard goofy. (Which we both are.)
This way, everyone could get off the lift facing the same direction, the kids could mimic our moves, and honestly, we’d have less equipment to carry!
If both parents snowboard, it just makes sense (to us) for kids to learn how to snowboard. If one parent snowboards and the other one skis, then take your pick of what you’d like your child to learn first.
One day we’d love for our kids to take up skiing as a new challenge, but in these early years (since we’re teaching them), snowboarding is where we want to start.
But isn’t it easier for a toddler to ski?
Yes, we hear it all the time: people insisting that it’s easier for kids to ski first.
Swayed by these opinions, I even bought a pair of secondhand skis for Gemma, thinking we’d teach her both activities and let her decide what she wanted to get into.
Luckily, she wanted to snowboard because we snowboard!
It’s a common misconception that kids have to learn how to ski first before transitioning to a snowboard.
That may have been true a decade ago, but with the latest advancements in snowboard tech for little kids and the right mindset, you can easily teach a child to snowboard as young as 2 years old. (You can start even younger, like we did, though the actual teaching doesn’t begin until about 2.)
In my opinion, it doesn’t matter if you start with skiing or snowboarding first. Go with the one that feels easier for you to teach! Since kids are developing so rapidly in these early years, they pick up motor skills quite fast.
What’s the right age for a child to start snowboarding?
This will depend on the child. For our family, we felt our kids were ready to start playing on a snowboard by the time their first winter rolled around. Our first daughter was 10 months and our second daughter was 14 months when this happened.
Ideally, kids should be walking (or at the very least, cruising and exploring their kinesthetic abilities by climbing, twisting, and rolling around) before you strap them into a board.
Can you actually teach a baby to snowboard?
Babies and toddlers are masters of the squat, so it comes naturally for them to crouch into that position on a snowboard, with no instruction at all.
The same muscles that help them do “pizza” on skis also help them put pressure on a heelside edge to stop a snowboard.
If you’re starting young, you pretty much have no choice but to teach babies and toddlers yourself. Most resorts don’t give lessons to kids younger than 3 (unless they’re fully potty trained), and some places require them to be at least 5 years old for snowboard lessons.
The good news is, it’s very easy to teach a baby or toddler to snowboard if you have the right gear.
What kind of gear do you need to teach kids to snowboard?
For the smoothest experience on the hill for everyone, proper gear is essential and it starts with keeping your kids warm and dry.
Fact is, your little ones will be much happier (and agree to stay out longer) if their fingers aren’t frozen or their baselayers soaked in sweat.
Here’s a post I wrote about dressing a baby and toddler for cold winter weather. The main takeaways are: no cotton, and layers are key! (I call it the Baby Sandwich.)
As far as hardgoods go (snowboards and accessories), kids will probably outgrow their board after two seasons, so hand-me-downs are great since they’re usually very gently used.
But, getting the right size is important. Too small a board, and your kid’s stance might end up too narrow to keep him stable. Too large, and it could be cumbersome to put the snowboard on edge (not to mention your child’s legs might be too splayed).
Sometimes I luck out at our local outdoor-gear consignment shops, but I think the best places to hunt for toddler snowboards are Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and eBay (typically in late spring and early winter).
Snowboards and bindings
Burton is my go-to for toddler-sized snowboards, which start at 80cm and fit an average 2-year-old. I’ve always gotten the Burton Chicklet or Chopper (the only difference is in the graphics for girls or boys).
These boards are designed to minimize edge catches and help with turns, so they’re super kid-friendly (especially when your kids are too young to understand what catching an edge means).
Our first daughter (who’s slightly above average in height) used an 80cm board from ages 10 months to 4 years. Once she turned 4, we moved her up to a 100cm board.
I paired the Chicklet or Chopper with Burton Grom bindings, which have a single strap and oversized buckle that my toddler figured out quickly.
I like the Burton After School Special as well, since it comes with the board and bindings as a set (no need to buy and mount separate bindings).
All boards in the 80cm to 110cm range are Burton Riglet Reel-compatible, so they have pre-drilled holes for easy attachment.
I put my daughter in Burton Mini Grom snowboard boots (size 8C) when she was 10 months old. It’s not the smallest size that Burton makes, but not so loose that a doubled-up layer of thick winter socks can’t fix.
These boots are great as they come with Burton’s Room-To-Grow footbed, which can be removed to extend the boots one full size. So, we were able to use the boots from 10 months to 4 years.
Can you use hard-soled snow boots like Sorel? Sure, but I don’t recommend it unless you’re just playing around. Toddler boots are so tiny, I found they constantly slipped inside the bindings, which can only cinch down so much.
So, I suggest buying proper snowboard boots one or two sizes larger, and if they’re the Mini Grom boots, they’ll grow as your kiddo grows. (Which we know happens way too fast!)
Helmets and goggles
A properly fitting helmet is important, and my favorite is the Giro Launch. It’s lightweight, easily adjustable, and comes in tons of colors so my daughter can pick her favorite and feel the stoke of winter coming!
Favorite training tools for teaching a toddler to snowboard
Homemade ski accessories have moved beyond using hula hoops and ropes to reign your kid in as you guide them down the hill. These days, specialized training tools help little kids get the hang of snowboarding faster, and these two are our favorites.
We have the retractable Burton Riglet Reel attached to our daughters’ first snowboard and it makes it super fun (and easy) to pull them around the yard, house, and bunny hill as they’re getting used to sliding sideways that first year.
It’s also useful for pulling your kiddo back to the lift line so you don’t have to unstrap them.
We were introduced to the MDXONE by a friend and can say it made a big difference in how we were able to teach our daughter to snowboard.
Before this, my husband would snowboard right next to her (on her heelside) while holding her up—it’s a back breaker (for him) and not very effective in the long run.
With the MDXONE, he could snowboard naturally, stay as close or far as he needed to, and control her speed without tripping either of them up.
The MDXONE is a small backpack with a variety of attachments to aid in training: a grab handle, retractable leash, and bungee cords. Using it has helped us help her with getting off the chairlift, initiating turns, and slowing down on steeper sections.
And best of all, she can carry her own
bribes, I mean, snacks for the mountain.
How to introduce a baby to snowboarding
From ages 1 to 2, it’s all about having fun and getting used to snow. Sledding, snowball-making, and gentle introductions to the snowboard are key, and zero instruction takes place.
One of our favorite things to do at this age was seating Gemma on the board (between the bindings) and using it as a mini sled. That got her familiar with her own board, and piqued her interest in the buckles, straps, and graphics (and how they looked just like Mom and Dad’s boards).
As a baby, she also hitched a ride in this baby backpack carrier as my husband hiked up a small 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.
For us, the first year or two was simply about generating stoke, no matter what shape or form our snowplay took.
How to teach a toddler to snowboard
From ages 2 to 5, when kids are able to understand simple instructions and develop edge awareness, you can start teaching them how to snowboard.
This is the basic progression we used with our older kiddo (now 4 years old and snowboarding independently) and the same steps we’ll take with her younger sister.
Step 1: Pull them around the house.
In fall, we like to get the snowboard out and pull our kid around the house (on carpet) or around the yard (on grass) to introduce (or reintroduce) the concept of sliding sideways. Think of it as a guided exploration and turn it into a game!
This provides endless entertainment as you can pull your kid around corners, up and over mounds, and all over the yard looking for treasures. The Riglet Reel comes in really handy for this, but you can also rig something up with rope.
Try to vary your speed to get your little ripper used to riding on land. When your child is able to stay relatively balanced over uneven terrain and understands what it means to stay low (squat), you’re ready for the next step.
Step 2: Give a gentle nudge-and-catch.
In the beginning, it’s much easier to teach your little one the basics of snowboarding when you, yourself, are not strapped in. Your patience will go a lot farther when you’re not constantly unbuckling your bindings to rescue your kiddo.
Look for a small, mellow hill where one parent can stand at the top (as the nudger) and one at the bottom (as the catcher). Position your child directly down the fall line and give a gentle nudge toward the other parent.
All you’re looking to do here is have your toddler glide down in a straight line, unassisted, into the catcher’s arms.
It’s important to choose the right kind of slope for this, as you don’t want to scare your kiddo with a high-speed wipeout or a glide that’s faster than your kid is comfortable with.
I recommend sticking with a distance of 10 to 20 feet at most; you want your kid to squeal for more, not less.
If you’re teaching your toddler solo, find a hill with a long, flat runout at the bottom. This allows your kid to come to a stop independently without a “catcher” person.
You can also manage your toddler’s speed by using the Riglet Reel from behind. Your kid will end up going switch (since the reel is attached to the nose), but at this stage, it doesn’t matter.
While we’re playing in the snow, we love to psych our kiddo up and have her do little hops on her board, or lean waaaay back and waaaay forward just so she has a good feel for how far she can take her board.
Step 3: Practice heelside slipping.
Once your toddler’s gotten the hang of gliding down, the real fun begins!
Start training your child to squat with the snowboard very slightly angled down the slope.
You can stand in front of the board and lightly hold your toddler’s hands to boost confidence as you guide the board downhill.
Use simple instructions like “lean back” or “stay low” to help your toddler slow down, and “hands out” to help with balance.
Help your kids do “falling leaf” down the slope this way and progress onto managing their speed with the MDXONE harness, if you have one.
Whatever you do, try to resist the temptation to hold your kids from behind for the whole lesson. They usually end up floppy like a ragdoll as they lean on you for support.
You want to encourage them to stand on their own, plus they’re always more confident when they can see you.
Once your kids are comfortable going heelside across the mountain, teach them to lift their toes so they can practice going on edge.
Lifting their toes also helps them prepare for the “hockey stop” (coming to a stop while balanced on their heelside edge).
Step 4: Practice toeside slipping.
For toeside, have your child face back up the hill and squat on the board.
Like heelside, the board should only be slightly angled down the slope. Help your toddler slide across the hill this way with hands in the snow for balance.
As your kids gain confidence in this stance, gradually increase the downhill angle of their toeside slipping to a point where they’re not relying on their hands in the snow as much, and are lifting their heels naturally. (And always remind them to stay low!)
Toeside is generally more difficult for anyone to learn, so remember to keep things fun! Take little breaks for snacks, and point out things like the graphics on your snowboards, birds flying overhead, other kids snowboarding, anything that keeps your kiddo curious and excited.
Step 5: Progress to an S-turn.
How do you know when it’s time to start making turns? This will depend entirely on your toddler’s ability and comfort level.
When your kids can confidently control their speed on both edges, they’re ready to move on to turning.
Our older daughter began understanding how to link turns when she turned 4 (in her third season). The MDXONE backpack helped immensely, and once she got her heelside and toeside down, we were able to shred the bunny hill with her leading the charge.
It’s awesome to watch your kids progress each winter, even if it’s off the slopes—like toddlers suddenly wanting to be like the big kids and carry their own boards.
Before you know it, they’ll be asking for season passes for Christmas and dusting you in the pow!
More tips for teaching your kids and having a blast together
We typically teach our kids on sunny groomer days. It’s just more enjoyable for everyone, as we (the grown-ups) aren’t frothing to get out there on a pow day, and the kids aren’t frozen and blinded on a storm day.
March through May is when we really pick up the pace on lessons, as all that slushy spring corn is soft and forgiving for beginners. It’s easy and positive to ride on, without the pain of falling on icy hardpack or the frustration of digging out of deep powder.
My husband and I love playing on natural terrain features and riding through trees, and it’s something we hope to instill in our kids.
Tree runs are really fun opportunities to make up stories about imaginary forest creatures, and natural gullies (or baby-sized halfpipes) are perfect places to help them practice going side to side and up and down the walls without fear of falling off a cat track.
If your local resort has a beginners’ terrain park, let your kids play and explore features that help improve balance and maximize their stoke of being on the mountain.
At the end of the day, one of Gemma’s favorite things is riding between her dad’s legs on his board so she can “Go faster! Go faster!” down to the parking lot.
There are definitely days when the kids just want to build snowmen, slide down hills on their butts, or head to the lodge for hot chocolate after just one run, and that’s okay too. As long as they’re smiling and begging to go back by the time we leave, I’m all for it.
Here’s a fun video showing our older daughter’s progression from 10 months to 4 years old. This winter, I think she’ll be ready for her first powder day!