Ask a Snowmama: Should my 9 year old learn to ski or snowboard?

Posted by Mary on November 3, 2011

I will be traveling with my 2 boys – ages 21 and 9 to Park City Mountain Resort for the first time.  My older son and I have enjoyed our father son trip to SNOWBIRD every year since he was about 11.  I've heard great things about Park City and thought we would try that this year. My older son and I are once a year skiers and ski mostly BLUE routes. My youngest will be a first timer, and we hope to ski as a family after a couple of days in ski/snowboard school.

Do you have a recommendation on whether to have my 9 year old learn to Ski or Snowboard?

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If you have some influence, and your son wants to be able to be on the mountain with yourself and older brother ASAP I would definitely push him toward skiing, and here’s why. He will become mobile much faster, and on the average skiers can manage all of our green terrain easily after a few days of lessons. Skiing is quick to learn to an intermediate point, challenging to master.
Snowboarding is much the opposite, challenging at first, then much easier to become skilled after some time learning the basics. I usually tell people to plan on 3 full days on a board before you even feel comfortable and starting to link your turns. On skis you can learn that in one day.
I’m so glad to hear that you have heard great things about our mountain, we sure love it! We have fabulous green terrain from the top of our mountain, the Summit, and much of it is very close/same lifts to some nice blue terrain. Our Signature 5 lessons will have your son mobile quickly, and my hope is that he has so much fun with us, he won’t want to ski with you guys. Ha!
I hope this helps, so many of the kids want to learn to snowboard over skiing, and if that is his real interest maybe consider letting him take a snowboard lesson before you head home too.


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Comment posted by Kate on February 27, 2012 8:27 PM MST

My daughter started on a board at age 10. It was what her friends were doing and it had a coolness factor that skiing didn't have (probably because it was what mom did). After 8 years, on our last trip she announced she wanted to try skiing. She loved it and said she felt much more in control than on a board. We'll be back to PC in a week and she plans on skiing again!

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Comment posted by Rene on January 10, 2012 1:31 PM MST

My son tried snowboarding at age 12 and age 15. Both times he returned to skiing after one day of lessons. He found snowboarding to be incredibly hard and was ready to spend time on the mountain (going fast, of course). He has been on skis each year since. But this year, guess what, he wants to try snowboarding again. This year the first day's lesson is on his nickel.

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Comment posted by Virginia on January 3, 2012 4:38 PM MST

I agree with Karen - let your son learn whichever he is more passionate about. Kids 7+ have the muscle development to learn to snowboard if they want to, and learning to ski first doesn't really make learning to snowboard easier. But internal motivation matters a lot in how fast he'll pick up either choice, so listen to what he wants.

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Comment posted by Cindy Granger on December 24, 2011 9:30 AM MST

I had two new skiers years ago. Their ages were 7 & 8. I made them ski first, because I knew they could pick up skiing quicker and ski with their dad and I within two days of lessons. And they did join us on green runs within a couple days. My 7 year old son did NOT stop pestering me to snowboard. I took him to a local small mountain in Ohio after our second Western trip for snowboard lessons. He has not had a pair of skis on in 13 years. You'll love PC. It's a family, fun town with or without snow,it's fun!

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Comment posted by Karen Sullivan on November 6, 2011 4:32 PM MST

I would recommend that you give your 9 year old the choice to make himself. That allows him to love what he is doing even more because he owns the choice. I would generally agree that skis are easier at first, but kids who have been skateboarding or surfing and are generally athletic seem to pick it up pretty quickly. Add to that the equipment is much less frustrating for a beginner. Walking up to the lodge in snowboard boots is much, much easier as is sitting down for a bit of a rest when the inevitable exhaustion sets in. The snowboarding instructors at PC are absolutely awesome and even with a single day of instruction they could have your son enjoying the snowboard experience.

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Comment posted by Eric Wagnon on November 5, 2011 9:38 AM MDT

The common wisdom I've always heard from instructors is that under the age of 10, skiing has a quicker learning curve. Over the age of 10, snowboarding has a shorter learning curve. The reason I've been told has to do with muscle development, core strength and such. From the anecdotal evidence I've observed, it seems to be a pretty good theory. I would also agree with Mary's point about intermediate skiing being relatively easy to achieve, but expert skiing being more challenging to reach. Just look at all the skiers on blue runs for evidence!

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Comment posted by Jacqueline on November 4, 2011 9:59 AM MDT

I have to agree with the Snowmamas...Skiing should definitely be the first thing your younger son learns! Once he's comfortable skiing, then I would say it's time to get him out there with his older brother for some snowboarding lessons. Snowboarding is very hard and can be frustrating at first, but if you go into it knowing you won't be great the first day, then it can be a VERY fun activity and experience for all involved!

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Comment posted by Susan Janes on November 4, 2011 9:33 AM MDT

I agree..Start them on skiis first because you will be able to ski as together much quicker. Also, they may become frustrated with snowboarding because it does take about 3 days to feel comfortable. All 3 of my kids switch back between skiing and snowboarding but we made them learn on skiis first. You will love PC!

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