Paige Blankenbuehler
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December 16, 2012
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Summit County's terrain for tots a draw for families

Janet and Daniel Craig say that watching their son Jonathon, 3, on skis is the most fun they've had as parents. And now they've found the perfect place to foster what they hope becomes a family tradition.

Ace's Terrain Park in Arapahoe Basin is a venue for absolute beginners to learn the sport without feeling overwhelmed or judged by more experienced skiers.

"We love skiing, so we want our family to connect through the sport," Daniel Craig said. "Back when I was learning how to ski, there weren't features or parks away from really talented athletes. It's hard to learn, it's hard to get over the intimidation factor but this type of park makes it much easier for the little guys."

The demand for beginner parks has increased in recent years, said Austyn Williams with Copper Mountain.

"Every year we see more young riders - the demand for beginner features is increasing and we see a big crowd of young skiers and riders at Woodward taking advantage of those facilities.," Williams said.

Woodward at Copper offers a facility with trampolines and mats for the development of skills that translate to on-mountain riding.

"Woodward offers a safe venue for riders and skiers trying to practice certain skills before taking new moves out on the mountain - it's less risky and makes riders and skiers more comfortable as they learn new skills."

Typically a kid park has features modified to reduce risk and difficulty. The boxes usually sit an inch or two above the level of the snow and are more approachable.

"It's great to have this kind of setting to get the kids comfortable," Daniel Craig said. "When they're able to interact with features, even this small, they get more comfortable with the concept of park riding."

Getting young athletes into winter sports is also bolstered by the technology available now for young riders, skiers and their families.

New Riglet snowboards are equipping kids as young as 18 months to try the sport for the first time using a tow reel to focus on balancing techniques.

"If they can walk, they can board," said Tucker Vest Burton, spokeswoman at Keystone Resorts.

The new gear, similar to a tow rope for tots on skis, aims to get young kids out on the mountain to experience winter sports and learn the basics.

"We have been pushing down the barriers that kids need to learn how to ski first - we've adamantly said that that's a myth," Shaun Cattanach, global experience manager at Burton Snowboards. "We've been focusing on better gear for kids for over a decade and have continuously evolved the product through ongoing testing year round and introducing new idea concepts, technologies and programs that support it - all that make it easier for kids to learn."

Small children don't just ride, they also compete.

The Little Rascal Rail Jam concluded Frisco's Wassail Days Saturday.

The rail jam, which is for snowboarders ages 9 and under, was presented by Burton Experience Snowboarding and hosted by USASA.

"This is the first season that the USASA will host this type of event," Rocky Mountain Series director Paul Krahulec stated in a press release. "Instead of throwing all the riders together in a rail jam, Burton and USASA wanted this early age group to be able to have an event they could call their own."

The rail jam is also a first for the Frisco Adventure Park, which will host a second USASA rail jam in February.


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The Summit Daily Updated Dec 17, 2012 04:36PM Published Dec 16, 2012 10:23PM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.