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.
Riglets, a reel that attaches to a snowboard targets ages 3-6, though some have seen kids as young as 18 months on them. To aid with balancing, young boarders have a reel attached to them for parents or instructors to tow and aid in establishing balancing techniques.
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 of balancing and standing sideways.
"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."
When snowboards were first introduced to the target age group of 3- to 6-year-olds, the board was stiff and boots were comparatively higher than equipment for adults, making them less flexible for youngsters.
"Burton has done a lot of work with the core of the boards to make them flex for the little kids," Cattanach said. "We thin out of the core and use softer materials, different fiber glass and the internal components that make a snowboard flex."
Adding the Riglet reel to gear allows parents and instructors to get children even younger comfortable on snowboards.
Last season at Steamboat, Nelson Wingard, the snowsports school director at the ski area, decided to try the Riglet on his 2-year-old daughter, Lily.
"She rode for maybe 20 minutes and was hugely successful," Wingard said. "The next day she woke up and her first words to me were 'Dadda, is the snowboarding place open today?'"
The success of Riglets and the reel have gained the confidence of snowboarders nationwide.
"Once we added the reel, it really showed people that kids down to 3 years old, and in some cases even younger, could get on a board and slide around and have fun," Cattanach said. "At the end of the day, that's all we're really looking to do: To get kids outside and into the winter sports mode. We are looking to get kids stoked on snowboarding as early as possible."
Avid snowboarders with children are a growing market, according to Cattanach.
"It's good for everyone in the industry to have kids engaged as young as possible, especially if they look at it as outside playing rather than having to work," he said. "
At home or on the hill, Riglets allow parents to expose their children to the winter sports environment and balancing techniques anywhere.
"Parents can create their own Riglet environment in their backyard," Cattanach said. "The goal is to have their kids go through the experience - other than doing it at home, the easiest way is to take them up to Keystone or one of the other resorts that are doing Riglets riding as a special event."
Keystone's brand new Kidtopia will offer a Burton Riglet Park and board rentals in the resort's Mountain House area this winter. Designed for the youngest snowboarders, Burton's Riglet board and park design operate under that mantra "if they can walk, they can ride" and introduces the basics of snowboarding in an interactive environment.
"Young skiers have been starting to ski at the age of 3 for years, so with the new Burton Riglet Park and equipment the sport of snowboarding can now tap into the youngest of snow tikes," Burton said. "We are incredibly excited about this new addition, and it really is a great example of the importance Keystone places on skiing and riding progression."
This season, Riglets will be featured at Copper Mountain. Burton is launching the Burton Mountain Festival tour, slated for Dec. 31 at the ski area.
For the youngest riders, every Burton Mountain Festival stop features a Burton Riglet Park where young kids can try the sport for free using Riglets and reels.
Outside, but close to the county, Winter Park and Steamboat will have Riglet parks set up on a special event basis while Vail will have a park set up during the U.S. Open at the end of February.