As a parent you want your child to have fun, play, explore and learn but you also want to make sure they do so safely.
Any winter sport has an element of risk, so, although they don’t need to be wrapped in cotton wool, there are things you will need to think about with regards to their safety whilst snowboarding.
Safe snowboarding can be pretty much broken down into two categories: – Equipment and Etiquette.
Although keeping them safe is important, try not to restrict their movements by overdoing the body armour initially! Having said that, it is always advised to make sure they have a helmet on.
You may want them to use wrist guards, knee pads, impact shorts, elbow pads – this is for you to use your judgement and depends on the stage of snowboarding they are at. If they are having lots of high speed wipe-outs maybe think about some wrist guards or knee pads. Obviously once they are hitting the jumps and rails in the park you would be very wise to consider increasing their body armour!
So things you will need to consider:
- That they have snowboard, boots & bindings that are well maintained and the correct size. Make sure binding screws and bolts are tightened before every outing and make sure their boots and bindings fit well together. Once on the snow check that they remove excess snow from the bottom of their boots before they strap into their bindings to avoid binding straps becoming loose.
- Helmets are a must have – especially in younger children as their heads are disproportionately large compared to their bodies which can increase the likelihood of injury in a fall. Make sure the helmets are fastened correctly and the helmets are ‘snow sport’ specific.
- Warm and waterproof clothing (or layers if it’s warm) with no dangling ties or belts ie. make sure they don’t have anything that can get caught in chairlifts/bindings etc.
- Body Armour – back protectors, wrist guards, knee & elbow pads and impact shorts are the main pieces of body armour and these are widely available, even in kids sizing.
- Also make sure that you have (or have access to) water or a drink – if you are at altitude be aware that children and adults can dehydrate a lot quicker, especially if exercising.
- If it is very sunny and warm make sure your child has sunscreen/lip-balm and sunglasses/goggles to protect them from the sun – sunlight and sun glare is strong at altitude.
It is REALLY important to instil mountain safety rules and slope etiquette in any children that are going to be snowboarding – for their safety and for others too. You will have to repeat yourself and remind them – a lot! But hopefully, eventually, they will take it on board.
With young children it is important to supervise them continually – they won’t be aware of other slope users at first so you must be aware for them. Although, inevitably, collisions and crashes will happen it is still important to try to explain to them what they need to look out for.
Don’t be too fierce about ‘the rules’ or overload them with info at first, but explain things as they become important e.g. lift safety when you start using lifts, snowpark etiquette when they visit or use the snowpark etc.
It is essential to let them know the importance of:-
- Putting their board bindings facing down when they are not using it (no-one wants a runaway snowboard!)
- Holding onto their board whilst strapping in
- Understanding that people below have the right of way
- When stopping, go to the sides of the slope, don’t stop in the middle of the slope, below a roller or drop off or somewhere where you can’t be seen by slope users above
- Looking before you set off
- Being aware of the blind spot when completing a heel edge turn (especially if learning)
- When they are up and running let them know the importance of regulating their speed at the appropriate time – show them the ‘slow’ signs and explain why slowing at junctions is important
- When you visit or start using the snowpark go through the etiquette of waiting your turn at jumps and features and explain how you can call or raise your arm to indicate you are about to set off
- Explain that they must wait until the previous feature user is clear of the landing before they set off
- And obviously, make sure they know not to stop or wait on or near jump or feature landings. Or on top or before jumps ar features!
- And if you fall move from the landing area as quickly as possible
Other things to be aware of in the mountains are changing weather conditions – the clouds can close in in a matter of minutes meaning visibility can go from clear to nothing very quickly!
As your children get older and more experienced on their snowboards you may want to have a plan for if you become separated – maybe a designated meeting point, or tell them to just stay where they are or think about walkie-talkies. Also make sure they have your contact details with them; so a name and phone number somewhere accessible but not likely to get wet or smudged!
By being aware of safety issues and etiquette, as parents, you can help your kids enjoy riding whilst keeping safe. Thankfully, most responsible slope users will slow down near young children and be aware that they can stop or turn in very random places!
Be aware but don’t get hung up on the safety issues! And remember to have fun and SMILE!