Board Up Your KID (Snowboard That Is)

Board Up Your KID (Snowboard That Is)

The runaway growth of snowboarding has slowed to a mere canter, few can argue that the majority of youngsters now entering the world of alpine sports want to do so on a snowboard. While the ski industry has bought itself some time with hot-looking shape skis with upturned tips that go fakey in the terrain park, the writing’s been on the wall since Salamon, K2, and Rossignol, and other brand icons bought themselves snowboard companies of their own.

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Board Up Your KIDEven as ski products get better and more exciting on the strength of the shape ski, a new generation of boarder wannabes is baking a new market share pie.

Smart ski companies hedged their bets or faced famine. Maybe not this year, or the next decade; but some day the alpine skier goes the way of the leather-lace binding.

Oh, you’ll still find kids bustin’ iron-crosses and backscratchers as they emulate the Johnny Moseleys of the skiing world, but they’re just the product of a powerful ski industry firing their best, and maybe last salvo, to infuse romance and cool into the sport.

Ask any ‘old-school’ skier with kids. With few exceptions, the youngsters want to board. And in increasing numbers, mom and dad are joining them.

Its taken time for the retail and rental industry to re-tool inventories for kids weighing less than 110 pounds. It was this relative scarcity of small boards and boots that kept the lid on an even bigger boom in the sport.

Kids wanted to board. But availability, and often cost, kept them on skis as mom and dad, not to mention group leaders herding busloads on ski trips, battled the tide.

The cost factor hasn’t changed. Board rental is still double that of a pair of skis. But inventories for rent and purchase are on the shelf in greater numbers than ever before. There’s no stopping the young disciples now—not once they’re properly fitted on their new decks.

Ask any ski school director. Instructor candidates at pre-season clinics draw as many boarders as skiers. Resorts now need as many snowboard instructors as they do ski instructors.

It’s what your kid wants to learn to do.

Don’t Be Afraid:

High Country retailers provide lots of insight to the task of selecting board equipment for your child.

“Find a board that stands between his chin and nose,” advised Greg Parker of Edge of the World Board Shop in Banner Elk. “And if you’re worried about his feet changing, buy him some rubber duckie boots at Wal-Mart.”

Parker noted that you don’t have to put a lot of money into a kids board.

“A lot of them are foam cores, which are lighter than wood cores and cost less,” he said. “Kids boards are lighter and smaller. The smallest look like mini-snowboards.”

Weight and length of the board is critical for the youngster.

“Weight distribution is important to consider when choosing a board,” said Donovan Carrol of Alpine Ski Center. “You want comfort and a board length between the kid’s chin and brow, but you can go shorter for the smaller ones. Select a boot that’s good and comfortable and make sure they like the color.”

The retail industry is repositioning inventories to better fit the seven to 14 year-old boarder.

Jeff Kattner of FirstTracks in Boone is fitting children as light as 60 pounds.

Board Up Your KID“Snowboarding’s not the rebel sport anymore,” he observed. “Even if dad’s a skier, he’s coming in with his children to find them the right board and he’s ready to give snowboarding a try, too.”

Both Kattner and Parker are “cross-over” boarders—skiers who later took up boarding. Parker began skiing at the age of four, but dumped his slats for a deck at the ripe old age of 13.

“I may ski once or twice a season, but its just not as fun anymore,” Parker said of the old discipline.

Kattner reverted to boarding because it was easier on his knees.

“But when the snow’s right I go back to what I do best and that’s skiing,” he admitted.

But both agree that kids don’t need to learn to ski before mounting a snowboard.

“They just want to play and snowboarding’s what’s cool,” Kattner observed. “And they can get better quicker on a snowboard. In a dozen days of snowboarding, kids can be carving turns and doing great. It would take a hundred days to achieve the same level on skis.”

Added Parker, “it’s harder to become a good skier than it is to become a good snowboarder.”

But everyone in the business suggests you buy your budding boarder a lesson in the beginning.

“Get them a lesson immediately and in an hour they can learn the basics,” Carroll said.

“The first day’s the worst day,” Parker remembered from experience.

New snowboards for children start at about $150. Boots and bindings can double the investment.

Kattner doesn’t suggest substituting the snowboard boot with a pack boot.

“It’s a question of support and performance,” he said, and offers suggestions to keep costs in check.

“They certainly won’t outgrow the board that quickly, and even if they do, we have ski and snowboard swaps every summer and fall around here,” he said. “You can sell and swap boards and boots as they grow. With more and more kids coming into the sport each year, you can find a buyer for your old equipment.”

The answer for most parents, however, will be to rent in the beginning. Rental inventories for kids are better than ever.

“We’ve picked up more kid’s boards over last year which was a year when we picked up more boards than the year before that,” Parker said describing a definite trend. “But if there’s a day we run out of kid’s boards to rent we’ll pull one out of retail and make it a rental.”

Parker and his colleagues are betting that’s one board sure to find a home in a hurry.

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