If used correctly and safely, harnesses & riglet reels can be a fantastic, if not vital, part of learning to snowboard for a young child. But when and how should you use them and when isn’t it a good idea?
Using a harness to teach young children to snowboard (or ski for that matter) is a much discussed subject.
Some people feel that they are dangerous out on the main slopes as other users may not see the leashes/cables/cords that attach rider to guider. I think that used correctly they can be an invaluable teaching tool for very young children.
You should be a competent snowboarder or skier if you are holding onto the leash, and therefore the child. Also make sure you use a winter sports specific leash with a visible and not too long cable.
Once a child has mastered standing up and sliding a little on their board they should be ready to try using a harness. The aim of the harness is to get them up and riding around with a bit of speed, experiencing the mountain, but within the safety of the attachment of the leash.
Having a little extra speed with the safety net of the harness encourages kids to get a good feel for their boards. It also can add to their days riding as they are able to travel further and maybe go on lifts, keep up with siblings etc. It will increase their confidence when they try riding independently.
Whilst in a harness they can try turning, practice using edges, getting a feel for riding and getting about the slopes too!
Harnesses can take a little getting used to for the rider and the guider! Take it gently at first but don’t be afraid to go on longer runs. Don’t worry if at first your child is just going straight! They will gradually get used to the idea of using edges to stop and turn. But do guide them through this and have them watch older siblings or other parents.
There are different designs available, but the ones that come with handles front and back are ideal for picking the kids up from snow, lifting them on and off chairlifts and keeping a handle on them (quite literally!) whilst they ride the chairlifts.
For 2, 3 and 4 year olds a harness can be brilliant for getting them up and running initially – as they get older you will probably find that they won’t need a harness to learn. Although if you have a nervous learner or a child wanting to keep up with older siblings, it may be very helpful at times! But try to keep it for a limited amount of time and focus on independent riding.
“We used a harness with both our daughters to brilliant effect. At age 3 our youngest rode from the top of the mountain to the bottom on the very first day of the season using a harness – being able to follow her older sister around the mountain and go up on the chairlifts really ignited her interest in snowboarding. She learnt edge control, turning, carving and jumping that winter all initially whilst riding attached to the harness – and Mummy or Daddy! When we took off the harness she was used to riding with speed around the slopes and so it wasn’t long before she was riding confidently and technically without the harness.”
Designed by Burton to fit with their kids boards from sizes 80 to 120cm, a Riglet Reel is a retractable leash that attaches to the front or back of the child’s board so that they can be pulled around and guided through turns or slowed down from behind by an adult.
They are an excellent idea and work superbly in conjunction with the Burton Riglet Parks. However, they may be harder to use outside of a contained beginner area.