12-13-13Children's-Snowboarding-Cover-2013By Jon Barlow

You’re 3 feet tall and have never strapped a plank of wood to either of your feet. The reason for this is that you are also very young. Secondly, this is the first time you have been introduced to a world-class ski area. Now imagine, if you will, finding a magical log house that “slid” down the mountain and landed at its base where you can play while learning the basics in your newest sport on the snow. This is the basis for Holiday Valley’s Burton Learn to Ride Center and Riglet Park.

The Outpost, Holiday Valley’s terrain-based learning area, located at the base of Schoolhaus (it’s winter location), was inspired by a similar, cool structure — the first Burton Riglet Park in Smuggler’s Notch, Vt. The Smuggler’s park has the local, rustic feel and a playhouse appeal. Colorful adornments make it easy for kids to warm up to but the proximity to flat ground leads simply to the aspect of learning. A mock chairlift is set in place for kids to jump into the challenge of getting up the hill, too. Essentially, an exaggerated drop-in ramp, it is a focal point of safe learning that is a “distinct community” away from the open, advanced skiing areas.

And your  kids can have the same experience at the Burton Riglet Park at Holiday Valley.

Holiday Valley’s park was built last winter by local artisan, Jerry Cobado. With his knowledge, he infused construction of the structure with educating his helpers, students from Ellicottville’s BOCES program.

Ramps from all four sides gently slope down to introductory, freestyle terrain features. Grommets, or young learners, are encouraged to slide onto smaller versions of elements normally seen in most parks. Whether it’s a box, snow mound or rail, they can get comfortable navigating them in an intimidation-free and fun environment.

Qualified Holiday Valley instructors have received extra training from Burton staffers on the nuances of Riglet training. To get the fresh techniques just right, they pick up on the history of Riglet, to park design and maintenance, plus idea exchange and execution on the hill.

Riglet techniques involve a Riglet Reel in the nose of a snowboard. Through guided discovery, private or group lessons will get up-close attention using special equipment that has a retractable leash. This is gear the instructor can use to show the little shredders how to manipulate their boards. This also simulates the downhill motion not yet familiar to the new skier or rider. Specific methods include terrain-based learning that teaches weight transfer and body awareness.

The importance of learning these practices at a young age “is worth its weight in gold,” touts Holiday Valley Terrain Park Manager Pat Morgan. The program is mainly for 3–6 year olds, but sometimes even 2 year olds can fit into the mix. These on-hill features are always a main curiosity for any wide-eyed child.

Safety and etiquette also go along with the learning curve. When they start at a young age, kids “have confidence to progress and identify specific features” such as the larger ones at Moonshadow.

Holiday Valley’s Outpost is in the Ski Area Management Magazine Terrain Park Contest. It would be a special honor to be picked  as the No. 1 park. Vote at www.saminfo.com/terrain-park-contest.

Just like any snowsports program or lesson for youth, you sign up and start the day at the Children’s Learning Center at Creekside Lodge. For information and reservations, call (716) 699-2345, ext. 4422, or visit www.holidayvalley.com.