Snowboards for Groms – What to Look For

While other kids might sit inside and play video games, or hang out and watch TV, groms in colder climates head to the hills.

Are you a snowboarder who cringes at the idea of your little one as a ‘two-planker’?  Maybe your ripper just naturally gravitates to the grace and beauty of snowboarding.  No matter what the reason, it’s a great time to be a snowboarding grom.  

Just because it's a kid's board, doesn't mean it should suck.  Choose a bad board and you could ruin the sport for life.

Just because it’s a kid’s board, doesn’t mean it should suck. Choose a bad board and you could ruin the sport for life.

In the 25 years since snowboarding hit the mainstream, the options for the smaller set have slowly increased. But, in the past few years the options have totally exploded!  This is more than likely due to the fact that so many first generation snowboarders are now parents.

When looking for a ride for your beginner riding buddy there are a few things to consider, outside of the normal features.

Size:  While the obvious consideration is that kids need smaller boards than full grown shredders, what’s normally overlooked is that they also need more precision in their board length selection.  Simply put, a 10cm increase in board length is a minor step in your average snowboard, say from 150cm to 160cm where the latter is only 6.6% longer, that same increase in a kid’s board, say from 90cm to 100cm, represents an increase of 11%.

The long and the short of it (pun intended) is that a grom needs a more precisely sized board than a full grown rider.  This is why you often see grom snowboards available in increments of 5cm rather than the usual 10cm.

Flex:  The skills of smaller riders vary a HUGE amount.  There are 80lb kids learning who need a forgiving flex to help with their turns, and 40lb shredders who spend all day shaming the adults in the terrain park, and everyone in between. These riders need vastly different amounts of stiffness in the their boards, and the wrong stiffness can cause havoc in their riding.  While there are all sorts of theories and designs about board flex, groms basically just need soft, firm, or somewhere in between.  A beginner board for lighter riders might feel like a wet noodle, whereas an advanced board for a future pro is going to have to be as stiff as any full size stick.  You just need to be honest about the rider’s need and ability level.  And don’t buy a board that your grom will “grow into” as that plan can easily backfire because they don’t have a good time on a board that they’ll eventually eventually enjoy if they “stick with it”.

Camber

The three main types of camber.

Rocker/Camber:  Take a board, put it base down on a flat floor, and look from the side at where the bottom touches the ground.  If the middle is sitting slightly above the floor, it’s got camber.  If the ends are elevated and the middle is touching, it’s rockered.  If it’s doing weird things, it’s got some weird hybrid of both features going on.   Camber is responsive and give a board that feeling of ‘pop’, but it tends to catch edges, especially when learning.  Rocker is a more forgiving variation for intermediate riders that has some great applications in powder and park riding.  The best approach for a beginner is to get a board with rocker, or some manufacturers offer boards totally flat which is still better than camber for the beginners.

Bevel:  Bevel is like rocker, but from edge to edge instead of end to end.  It elevates the edges a bit to prevent them from catching when you don’t want them to.  This could be the single greatest innovation in grom boards since…. um…. come to think of it, grom boards have mostly been developed in a trickle down sort of way.  If you’ve got a beginner, the value of beveled edges can’t be understated.  Not all manufacturers do this, but all of them should (As a side note, like in all things, Burton has to do things a little different and then call this “Easy Rider Technology”.  It’s just a beveled base by another name).

It's a simple device, but it'll save your day, increase their enjoyment, and possibly save your back.

It’s a simple device, but it’ll extend your day, increase their enjoyment, and possibly save your back.

Leash/Reel:  We don’t mean the leash that used to be mandatory for riding in resorts that went from your leg to your binding and was supposed to keep the board in check in case your binding popped off (see the logic there?).  Burton invented this little device which is basically a retractable dog leash that attaches to the front of the beginning grom’s board so you can tow them over the flat parts when just starting out, and then to the back of the board when they’ve progressed but need a little slowing down on steeper parts of the hill.  Burton’s beginner boards come with holes pre-drilled for this, but it’s a simple job for any ski tech to drill holes in any board, though it’d work best with wood-core boards.

$30 for one of little devices can seem a little steep, but they’re well worth it as they eliminate the need to strap your little one in and out of the board repeatedly.  It also extends the day and the fun because they’re not worn out from hiking up and down the hill.  Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the instructor, but hey, you’ll need to be in shape for when things ‘click’ and you’re playing catchup on the board.

There have been many misconceptions about snowboarding over the years, everything from “they can’t stop/turn” to “it’ll ruin your back/neck/knees/ankles” and every one of them has been disproven as riders and gear mature.  One of the last holdouts is “Kids should learn to ski first” when the reality is that if they can stand, they can learn to snowboard.  Getting the right gear can really accelerate that learning curve and help them enjoy ripping up the slopes in the method of their choosing.