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Skiing Versus Boarding

The on-snow debate continues: should your children grow up as kids on skids or board-babies? Rachelle Matheson gives a motherís view.

This is the million dollar question for every parent when they first decide if their children are going to start out as skiers or boarders. You hear all these stories from different people on the risks of boarding at early ages, so decide to place your children in skiing lessons rather than snowboarding lessons.

But is this the way to go? One of the deciding factors is the ages of your children when they first learn to ski or board, because the older they get the harder it is for you to make choices for them without the children complaining. Letís face it, as parents we tend to go with the easy option of no arguing rather than the harder option of going head to head with the kids because when it comes to the crunch we want every family member to enjoy the holiday.

I find that if the parents are boarders themselves, this tends to make the decision easier to let the children learn to board at earlier ages. However, it is worth noting that some ski schools do not offer children lessons to board before they are seven years old, but they do offer skiing lessons from three. This is sensible as some osteopaths feel that twisting into the position required for snowboarding is not ideal for growing bones. Indeed some experts put the ideal age for learning to board as high as ten.

My twins first started to ski at seven years of age and I was fortunate enough to be able to negotiate with them and strike up a deal that once they could ski competently they could then change to boarding. However, I had an older child of 11 years of age and there was no negotiating with him, he was going to board - skiing was definitely not cool enough. The twins are now turning 16 years and do not have any desire to change to boarding, while my older boy definitely has no desire to ski.

I personally think they donít want to go through the whole process of learning to be a beginner again. The twins also say that they are having far too much fun skiing to swap to boarding and they believe itís much easier to get around the mountain on skis, especially if they have to get on and off lifts several times. Sometimes you can see that waiting for their brother and stepdad to strap on and off at lifts really annoys them, and then to top it off, they also have to listen to them complaining about T-bars and cat tracks!

I think that children who choose skiing find the initial stages of learning easier. Skiers in their first lesson learn how to stop and link turns down a green run on the first day, whereas with snowboarding lessons, it takes two to three days depending how quickly they pick it up. However, when the children advance to the next stages, snowboarding becomes easier to master than skiing and kids will be exploring more of the mountain sooner.

Advancement in the technology of skis and twin tips has really started to level the playing field in the terrain parks between boarders and skiers, which is all the children are really interested in at the end of the day - they just want to be as cool as the other kid. Skiers can now ride Ďfakieí and land jump switch like boarders, so this is definitely bringing skiing back into vogue, especially in the terrain park. Now when we are deciding as a family which ski resort we are going to, I am always asked several questions by the children about the standard of the terrain parks and if they have more than one at the resort.

All this aside, when the boys are all out on the mountain together, we never have an issue about who is skiing or boarding, they are just there to have fun. The most important thing about snow holidays is that we can all enjoy the runs together. We compromise - learn to find areas that are more suitable for everyone in the party. To tell you the truth, I find the easiest thing to do is give the children the ski map and I just follow, this way if we do end up on a cat track or a flat area, I canít get the blame!

Whichever choice you make for your kids in the ski versus snowboard debate, one thing is certain - they will be faster than you in the long run!

Rachelle Matheson is managing director at mogul ski world which specialises in organising snow holidays worldwide.  

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