Preschool snowboarders at the Mall of America

If you think that a child must be seven or eight–or older–to start snowboarding, think again. While it is true that some ski areas still have a higher minimum-age requirement for group snowboarding lessons than they do for ski lessons, Burton Snowboards is working to introducing snowboarding to the preschool set.

The Riglet program, which is present at resorts both in the U.S. and internationally, is geared for children ages three to five. It features boots, boards, and bindings that are are easier to use than gear meant for older riders. The boots, for example, have Velcro straps. The bindings have only one ratcheting strap (over the instep) and skip the strap over the toes. The boards, meanwhile, are extra flexible, and have a “riglet,” which can be used for pulling children into position for a short slide down a gentle slope.

Riglet is an add-on to Burton’s rental-shop program. Areas that wish to have a Riglet program must purchase a minimum number of snowboard packages, and align their programs with some Burton principles, such as limits on class sizes. In return, the company provides marketing and other support for this grow-the-future effort.

There aren’t any Riglet programs in Minnesota just yet, though Detroit Mountain will re-open this season after a ten-year hiatus. When it does, it will become the first home to Riglet in the state.

Resorts customize Riglet areas to their own liking. A few years ago, I visited the Riglet park at Sierra-at-Tahoe, California. It has a Star Wars theme, with Jedi knights sliding in the presence of Wookies, droids, and a Yoda.

You can get a taste of the Riglet park at the Ski & Snowboard Expo, which will be held this weekend, October 17-19, at the Mall of America.

A child gets the feel for riding a rainbow rail, indoors.

A child gets the feel for riding a rainbow rail, indoors.