Snowboarding Safety Tips for Children

Snowboarding is a great way for kids to enjoy themselves while getting some exercise. It can certainly be more productive than sitting in front of some video game(s). Snowboarding is easy to learn but it also presents some dangers including; frostbite, sunburn, blown knees and head injuries. As always, think in terms of safety first.
Even though skiing and snowboarding are clearly different activities there are many similarities starting with equipment considerations and safety rules that must be observed. Let’s start with equipment:
  • Helmet. There is no argument, no debate here. A helmet is mandatory. Make sure the helmet fits properly and remind your children that wearing a helmet does NOT give them a license to snowboard recklessly.
  • Use Protective Equipment and dress your children in layers. Most people only think of helmets when they think of snowboarding safety equipment for children. In fact, protective equipment includes; hats, headbands, gloves, goggles with built-in sunglasses, hand warmers and boot warmers too. Absolutely think of hand and foot warmers as protective equipment. Why? Because you are protecting your child from frostbite.
  • When you dress your child in layers you can always add or subtract depending on the weather. Be sure your children wear sun protection, even on cloudy days. The sun reflects off the snow and is stronger than you think, especially in late winter. A snowboarding vacation with a sun burn is no fun.
  • Snowboard pants should be the right size while allowing your children’s legs to move freely. Getting pants with a little extra padding in the seat would be real helpful for beginners. They are going to fall on their rear ends a few times. When you purchase snowboarding pants make sure they are waterproof or water-resistant.
  • The best jackets will have multiple pockets so your children can store gear and of course all the usual things that somehow find their way into kids’ pockets. Down jackets tend to be the warmest but thin shells with extra intermediate layers can work just as well. Remember, with layers you can always add and subtract. Just like snowboard pants all snowboard jackets should be waterproof or water-resistant.
  • Make sure you get your children boots that fit properly. The boots need to keep their feet comfortable and warm and should always be buckled up snugly to give feet and ankles the proper support.
And now for some rules of the road, or ski trails:
  • If you have a child that is a beginner identify a snowboarding instructor so they get it right from day one. Children’s instructors know how to teach kids, it’s their business. Then everyone will enjoy the experience.
  • Make sure your children understand the rules and follows them. Insist that your children knows they are not to never venture past the ski area boundary or ski into a closed area. These areas are off-limits for a reason and they’re not patrolled by the ski patrol. In many cases those areas contain hazards that children don’t need to deal with. Remind them to pay attention to any warning signs they might see. If a sign says, “Slow skiing area,” they’ll want to go slow to avoid other snowboarders or skiers. If a sign says, “Cliff,” they’ll want to go another way or stop before they go over the edge.
  • Always snowboard with a friend. I don’t care how talented a snowboarder a child is they can take a bad fall and possibly could become unable to continue snowboarding. If the child is alone this could become an extremely serious issue, even if they have a phone. By snowboarding together each child can look out for each other (it’s called teamwork) and if necessary summon the ski patrol. You know this is much safer than snowboarding alone. BTW, make sure at least one child has a cell phone with them and absolutely make sure they have an emergency number to call in their phonebook. Also put contact information in a secure zippered pocket inside their jacket.
Teach your children to practice snowboarder etiquette:
  1. Skiers and snowboarders in front of them or below them on the trail have the right of way.
  2. Never stop in the middle of a trail or anywhere where they can’t be seen from above, such as below a dropoff.
  3. Look uphill to make sure no one is coming toward them before they start down a trail or merge onto a new trail.
  4. If they’re passing another snowboarder or skier on a catwalk or narrow trail, have them call out “On your right” or “On your left” to let people know they’re approaching.
Make sure your children are aware of and honest about their snowboarding ability. If they’re beginners, have them stick to the beginner slopes until they feel comfortable enough to move up to something steeper. Most ski trails are clearly marked as green circles (beginner terrain), blue squares (intermediate terrain), or black diamonds (advanced terrain). If a trail says it’s for experts only, believe the sign, they are serious. Skiing terrain that is beyond a child’s ability is no fun and a really good way to hurt themselves. Help them understand that it is OK to stop when they get tired.
Your children will see all kinds of amazing stunts done by snowboarders during the Winter Olympics or just from surfing YouTube. Those stunts are done by people who have been snowboarding for years and have accrued a significant amount of practice and training hours getting to that level. Please make sure you understand that those stunts are not nearly as easy as they look and are potentially very dangerous, especially for amateurs.
Impress upon your children the importance and value of taking breaks. The probability of injury increases when a child is over-tired. Also, make sure you provide them with healthy snacks and water. Snowboarding is a physical activity and they will need to replenish energy and hydrate.
Follow these suggestions and rules on safe snowboarding and you and your children will have a great time enjoying a terrific activity.
Reviewed by: Kathleen B. O’Brien, MD
Date reviewed: February 2010
Kids Health – Nemours
Frostbite is always a potential danger with outdoor wintertime activities. Download this outstanding guide on Frostbite from Nationwide Children’s Hospital of Columbus Ohio.
To learn more about snowboarding safety please click the “Video” tab at the top of the page.