NOTE FROM SUSAN: I am not a skier or a snowboarder. (I dislike cold weather, and I’m afraid of heights!) But I know that a lot of you are much braver than I am and will be heading out to the slopes this winter with your families. It’s great to get outdoors and enjoy the snow, but always remember that safety must come first. Please read these tips by snowboarding pro Ken Achenbach so that your next ski or snowboard experience will be a great one!
Tips for a Fun and Safe Ski Season by Ken Achenbach
1. If possible, buy a season pass at a ski area near you. Season passes allow for skiing or snowboarding every day -- after school, on weekends... The best cure for “too-much-tv-osis” is a season pass -- plus, you get a wicked goggle tan! You won’t think about the price of skiing anymore. You think, “Let’s go for a few runs” instead of “It’s $50. I can’t go.” And make sure to keep all of your old season passes. They will be some of the best snapshots of your life.
2. Make sure to get ski/snowboard clothes that fit well and are waterproof. If you’re a kid, it’s no fun being wet five minutes after you get outside. Wear layers. You’ll be warmer and more comfortable. Get some good long underwear as well. You want the kind that wicks sweat away so that you stay warm and toasty all day. If you are buying both a jacket and pants, buy the same brand because there is often a jacket-to-pant interface system that makes wearing the clothes even better. Don’t forget goggles. Not only do they protect your eyes from the elements, but they block a large part of your face from the weather, keeping you warmer. I wear Oakley’s because of their superior optics and fit. Most brands come in kid and teen sizes.
3. You don’t need new equipment to have fun. If the decision is between a season pass or ticket and new equipment, always go for the pass or ticket. However, if you ARE buying new equipment, don’t buy the first thing that you see. Do your research. You are spending more than just a couple of bucks, so don’t buy stuff just because “it looks rad.” Burton makes amazing kids’ snowboard equipment.
4. Having said that you don’t need new equipment, keep in mind that you DO need equipment that fits. Putting a kid into equipment that is too big or too small just keeps the experience from being fun. Most stores have programs for junior equipment -- either a one-season rental, or you buy it and get half back the next year and trade for the next size up. With correctly sized equipment, your kids will have more fun, learn faster and develop a love for the sport they won’t lose.
5. The most important piece of equipment is your boots. Get boots that fit and are designed for the kind of skiing or riding you are going to do. Badly fitting boots can make MMA fighters cry. Choosing wrong will quickly ruin your day. It’s better to have good boots and an OK board than the other way around. If your feet aren’t happy, neither are you.
6. Parents: don’t be a hockey/soccer mom or dad. Yes, it’s exciting that your kid is doing well. Going snowboarding is a great way for kids to make friends, gain some independence and learn life skills. When a kid learns a trick on his own, he’ll be so stoked it’s worth the parental worry of “they’re on their own out there, anything, ANYTHING! can happen.” 99.9% of the time the ANYTHING! is a happy new experience. When kids come home from The Camp of Champions, parents tell us that for the next 11 months, all they hear about is how much fun they had, how many friends they made, and how many tricks they learned. Keep that feeling alive in the winter and let them loose on the hill. Drive your kids to the hill when they ask. You’ll be glad you did. Also drive them to the hill when they don’t want to go. Sometimes it takes a bit of a push on cold days to get kids going, but after the first couple of runs they forget. A ski area is the best day care anywhere.
7. Know your limits and have common sense. While I often tell parents to turn their kids loose, this is also a good time to teach your kid to know their limits. Learning to ride with common sense is a great thing. Teach your kids that there are steps to progression. They can’t just do that “Big Trick” without learning all the steps needed to get there. Videos are great for inspiration, but learn the baby steps. Having said that… after learning the steps, the only way you are going see if you can do the big trick is by “Sending it.” Learn when to Send it -- and when not to.
8. Andre the Giant has a posse -- you should too. Always ski with a buddy. It’s good to have another voice of reason as well as to have someone to share memories with. Having a posse of friends to ride with makes the sport more fun. The other great thing about skiing with a buddy is that you always have a person who can back up your stories!
9. Avalanches -- The best prevention is avoidance. If you have bought your season pass and use it religiously, you will find yourself skiing on “the perfect day.” After a big dump, use your common sense and stay where you know it’s safe. Snow is sneaky. Always ride with a partner, and if you are going to be in mountains where avalanches can happen, use your common sense and have backcountry equipment -- and know how to use it. Another option is to go with a guide. Guides have spent years in the mountains and know every inch, nook and cranny of the mountain -- and that means they know where and when to ski certain areas. There is nothing more fun than a great day of safe skiing with a guide when the snow is fantastic.
10. Take a lesson. As a Canadian snowboard legend and former pro rider puts it, suffering is optional. If you can shorten the learning/suffering curve, you will sooner learn to love the sport forever. Camp of Champions Founder/Director Ken Achenbach is one of the original instigators of the snowboarding curse that now afflicts mountains worldwide. He started the first exclusive snowboarding store in the world, “The Snoboard Shop” in 1980, and campaigned tirelessly to get snowboarding accepted in Canada and other countries. He was inducted into the Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2001. Whether you are 13 or 31, the Camp of Champions summer snowboard, ski and mountain bike camp at Whistler Blackcomb offers the opportunity of a lifetime -- the chance to train with the pros and spend a summer in the snow! Whistler Blackcomb will be in the spotlight next year as a host venue for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Register now to learn from the top pros at the best summer terrain and bike park in the world, and number one ski resort in North America. For more, visit www.campofchampions.com
DISCLOSURE: I will be receiving a Camp of Champions beanie as a thank you for posting these tips.