Once any residual smugness about having procreated has died away, and you have managed to get your kids beyond the stage of crapping into their hands and rubbing it in their face, one’s thoughts turn to the skills, wisdom and values you are going to impart on the next generation.
You envisage your progeny having a love of fine art, an appreciation of global mores and culture, a firm (but not obsessive) grasp of algebra. But most importantly, above all, one hopes they will develop the ability to perform a miller flip on a trash can, and instinctively know how to colour match their gloves and goggle strap.
I am a dad, and I am very proud to have created three little snowboarders. My daughters - Daisy (9), Mila (8) and Sukie (5) – are all shredding with style, courage and panache… and they also know how to claim a trick with just the right amount of irony.
Here is my 13 step guide to getting your kids slipping sideways and inculcating them with the values of the global cult of snowboarding, with as little pain and stress as possible.
Some dick-splash, almost certainly a French ski instructor with a protectionist agenda during the snowboarding explosion of the mid-90s, started a (very effective) rumour that kids have to be eight before they can snowboard.
This is complete horse shit.
Having seen my kids pick up snowboarding within three days, aged four, I can firmly dispel any myths about needing strong back muscles, or having to learn to ski first or any other un-informed hoodoo that stops your groms shredding before they get the chance to blow out eight candles on their birthday.
As a parent, you have probably already worked out that there is little point trying to do what you want any more, it just ends in tears. This now extends into your snowboarding life.
Hot laps, deep powder and backcountry charging should be put inside the same box as hard drinking, spontaneous European mini-breaks and casual, meaningless but explosive sex. Your ambitions must be subjugated to allow room for your kids’ progression and enjoyment.
Initially that is going to mean visiting mellow resorts, sticking to the blues and greens and going pretty slowly most of the time. You will feel pain like never before when you watch a crew of buddies bombing under the chairlift in knee-deep powder a-hootin’ and a-hollerin’, whilst you are trying to de-mist your child’s goggles and preparing yourself for a 30 minute falling-leaf descent on the beginner slope.
Deal with it, and don’t sulk.
Get Them Cool/Proper Gear
Firstly, if your kid looks like a dork, it reflects badly on you.
Secondly (and only slightly less importantly), it doesn’t matter how warm and dry you are, if your kids are cold and wet. Push crack at the school gates, steal from charity collection boxes in old people’s homes… just do whatever it takes to get the money together to buy your kids decent gear.
Having seen my groms go bat-shit crazy because of cold hands (and thereby halting a day’s riding at 10.30am) I soon realised that maybe I should have spent more than £2.99 on their gloves.
The same goes for hardware. Having a board that is the right size, boots that fit and bindings that are easily on-and-off-able will make a massive difference to your progeny’s progression and enjoyment.
Watching your kid scorpion on a ghetto rental board, then look up at you screaming with blood pissing from their nose will focus your mind on finding them the right setup. All my kids have ridden Burton gear and it comes with my wholehearted endorsement (dear Jake, please send me free stuff).
Finally, helmet (obviously), knee pads and wrist guards are a must. Your kids’ pain is your pain. You don’t want pain.
Make Sure That You Are Fit
All sensible riding folk will, of course, spend at least three months leading up to a snowboard holiday squatting (not sitting) when they go for a shit, doing 100kg leg presses in the gym and strengthening core muscles with daily yoga sessions.
If you were not doing this before you had kids, you need to get with the programme because it is WAY more physical teaching kids to ride than just shredding on your own.
You will lift your child up out of the snow 100-200 times a day. You will be walking back uphill, a lot. You will be carrying them down the slope when they go into meltdown. You will be dragging them through the flats. You will be pushing them uphill. You will be heaving them onto chair lifts and pulling them up drag lifts.
Basically, you need to be a cross between Thor and Mo Farah, so hit that StairMaster, bitch.
Re-Think Your Own Set-Up
If you already ride a rocker board in soft boots with the laces barely done up, whilst you probably don’t know how to turn properly, you are at least in the right kind of kit for teaching young kids.
Over the last five years I have progressively softened my boards and boots, as I realised that while teaching my groms I wasn’t charging steeps or hitting big kickers, rather going fairly slow and walking/scooting through flats quite a lot.
If you are not too precious about being core, you may also want to consider some kind of speed-entry bindings (I can recommend the Fastec system) because you are going to be getting in and out of your bindings A LOT – so you want this to be as painless as possible.
My carbon-stringered-corduroy-and-booter-munching board is still in the quiver, but I (and my feet) have discovered the joy of soft jibby flex for the days when I am pootling around with my 5-year-old.
Stuff Your Pockets, And Your Kids, With Chocolate
As everyone knows, chocolate becomes healthy once you are 1000m above sea level.
It is also one of the most effective negotiating chips/bribery mechanisms that a parent possesses (along with the cancellation of the Disney channel subscription).
Having several hundred grams of chocolate about your person means that you can rapidly rectify any of your kid’s inevitable blood-sugar related meltdowns, but also means you can force the wee nipper to straightline the mogul field so you can capture it on video and upload it to YouTube.
(N.B. Haribo is a reasonable alternative during chocolate-melting spring sessions)
(DISCLAIMER: I am not a qualified instructor. Seek professional advice if you think I am talking shit)
Obviously the first step is to get your groms accustomed to side-slipping and working out where their edges are, but I found that the lightbulb moment only really came once they were comfortable with speed.
As such, from pretty much day two or three onwards, we started straight-lining greens and shallow blues (with me riding behind/in parallel, holding onto the back of their coats in case they caught an edge), rather than trying to execute perfect turns at low speed.
The holding-the-back-of-the-coat technique (patent pending) allowed me to initiate shallow turns and get them used to the sensation of carving – and I found that if anything went wrong, I was able to stop them falling.
Importantly, it also kept me out of their line of sight, so they were focusing on the hill (not me), and also allowed me to let go without them realising – so from early on I knew they were capable of riding solo, even if they didn’t know that was the case.
As per section four, it is super physical (particularly tough on your lower back) but I found it to be the most effective technique to building their confidence and independence.
It is so, so tempting – but don’t do it. Do not, under any circumstances hit the powder field.
What will happen is this:
You will get over-excited and speed off. Your kids will of course follow you (for the purposes of this example I am assuming they have now mastered the basic skills of riding), then bury the nose of their board after 10 metres.
You will have to climb 100m back up the slope in knee-deep snow (remembering that you probably have a backpack full of all your kids’ paraphernalia on your back).
If you are lucky, they will be alive and breathing, and not buried face-first when you get to them. You will be sweating so heavily that you will need to wring out your base layer, mid layer, and coat.
You will dig your kid out. You will push them off down the hill. Ten metres later they will bury the nose of their board and you will repeat this exercise for the next 40 minutes until they finally reach the piste again.
Work Tag Team
If you are lucky enough to still be with your spouse or partner, you need their help.
During the course of your time snowboarding, your kids will get on your tits roughly every 83 seconds. Goggle straps being too tight/too loose. Helmets being itchy. Being too hot. Being too cold. Boots too tight.
Running off and diving into the snow to do a snow-angel, getting soaking wet as a result, then bitching about being wet. Not actually wanting a chocolate pancake they just ordered. Deciding they want to ski.
It will go on all day, every day, for about 18 years. If you have one or more child per adult and they all start bitching, then I suggest you buy some good headphones, put Rage Against The Machine on at full blast and just ignore your kids as best as possible.
Watch Out For Dickheads
Although it was a respectable middle-aged Frenchman on skis that flattened my smallest child during our last holiday, the greatest and most ever-present risk to my little ones’ safety has come from the pube-sprouting, love-bite giving, spatially-spastic sub-group of humanity that are teenagers on blades.
All I can say is that if you see any blading teenagers anywhere near you on the hill, grab your children, move to a position of safety (you’ll have to use your own discretion here) and do not move until they have passed.
I have had at least 10 heart-in-mouth moments as a zit-ridden 14-year-old has bounced within a hair’s breadth of my 5-year-old whilst skiing totally out of control at about 40mph.
The only way to address this issue is to make sure your kids learn quickly and are riding faster than the bladers.
Focus On Fun
Chances are, your kids are not going to become the next Red Gerard or Ayumu Hirano.
Your goal should not be to have your groms podium at the X-Games before their 16th birthday, rather ensure that they see snowboarding as something fun to do, with their family. That is the greatest gift you can give them, and yourself.
I am not ashamed to admit that I have properly blubbed whilst carving down a blue slope with my three little girls, all a-hootin’ and a-hollerin’ like the tight crew of buddies I once thought I had lost, but now realise that I have gained.
You will, of course, lose your temper when they don’t execute their turns properly, or lie in a heap at the top of a run, but if your kids are in pursuit of happiness, your life will be infinitely richer.
Get An Agent And A Lawyer
If your kids are more talented than you, and looking like they might get to the X-Games, make sure you trademark their image and get an agent, pronto.
With any luck, your kid will hit paydirt, buy you a new SUV and take you on backcountry trips with Terje and Nico. You could make millions just from the lunch-box merchandising alone.
No more two week trips to French resorts staying in poxy 25 square-metre rental accommodation, you could be high-rolling in luxury lodges and getting a personal invite to play ping pong at the DC Mountain Lab with Ken Block.
Make sure you get Simon Fuller involved early on, so your groms can “crossover “ and before you know it you will have Jonathan Ross mispronouncing your family name in front of millions of fat people eating take-out on their corner sofas. One can but dream.
Get Them Lessons With Someone Who Knows What They Are Doing
Please make sure your kids spend some time with someone who knows what they are doing.
Having a properly qualified instructor (who spends all season coping with kids of all shapes, sizes and skills) guide your groms through the early stages of their snowboarding progression is an absolute must-do.
Instructors don’t lose patience like you do, they don’t get frustrated every time they see their own weaknesses manifest in their child, and they know the best techniques and methods for encouraging progression at the right pace.
But most importantly – they will give you a few hours to go and shred with your wife/husband/buddies, and remember what it was like to be a kid yourself.