Few things in the lives of parents are more satisfying than watching their child finally shred down the mountain with confidence, and few things bring more joy to a child than being a good enough rider to actually have fun. After all, teaching a child to ski or snowboard is tough work! A big part of kids getting to that point is having the right gear. With too-long skis, ill-fitting boots, and cheap outerwear, it's likely your kids will have a miserable time, and potentially fun ski days will quickly become miserable for everyone else, too.
To help you avoid the misery and make your day on the slopes as fun as it should be, we've thrown together this guide on children's ski and snowboard gear. We'll run you through getting the right skis and boards for your tot and then focus on the boots, the clothing, and the other accessories you might want to help your child learn to ski and have fun doing it.
Children's skis are usually pretty basic. Since kids don't weigh much, most kids' skis have a similar, soft flex, and side cuts that make turning easy and fun. You won't find a ton of technical differences or advantages from model to model. You mostly want to make sure you get the right size with a color and graphic selection that your child will like.
A child's ski length should fall somewhere between the chest and chin when measured against the height of the child. Be sure you don't go any longer than that, as it will make skiing difficult for your child. If you want to be able to use the skis for a couple of years, get a pair that reaches your child's chin. Unless they have a crazy growth spurt over the following summer, that set should still fall within the chest-to-chin range for the following season.
As your child grows and becomes more advanced, you can start looking at longer skis and more technical features. For more information on what to look for, check out our Ski Guide.
For adults, ski boots are supposed to be fairly snug. That's not as important for most kids, however, since they won't be skiing as hard as their parents. So if you want your kid's ski boots to last more than one season, you should order a size bigger. Don't go any bigger than that, though, or they might be too uncomfortable or fall off too easily.
Another great option for kids is an adjustable ski boot that can change in size as your child grows. Our top-selling kids' boot is the Roces adjustable ski boot (pictured above). Roces boots feature an intuitive and easy-to-use adjustment system in the heel. And since the sole length does not change as the boot expands, you won't have to remount the bindings on the skis as long as the boots still fit. Most kids can wear their Roces for at least two seasons, and it's not uncommon for them to fit through three.
As your child advances and starts to ski harder, you should then consider ski boots that fit more like adult boots. For more information on ski boot features and propper fit, check out our Ski Boot Guide.
Sizing a snowboard for children is based on their height and weight, but with kids gear, shorter is usually the better route to take. A good rule of thumb is for the board to stand at chin height, or shorter is fine too for lighter weight or beginner riders. For more information on kids' snowboard sizing check out our Snowboard Chart.
Children's snowboard boots are pretty easy to size, we suggest just going off of their shoe size. Sizing up slightly is fine to accommodate growth. There are a couple of different styles to kids' snowboard boots. The smallest sizes have full velcro straps, some have regular laces or a quicklace pull, and others have a BOA adjustment. For more information on kids' snowboard boot sizing check out our Sizing Chart.
Kids' snowboard bindings are pretty basic when it comes to technology and function as compared to adult bindings. They are usually sized to accommodate even the smallest of boots, but just make sure to read the boot size ranges each binding fits. For more information on kids' snowboard binding sizing check out our Sizing Chart.
For kids, you'll want to look for jackets that have a nice layer of insulation on the inside. The exterior of the jacket should feature superior waterproofing, since they'll probably be down in the snow a lot.
As with jackets, look for good insulation and waterproofing in kids' ski pants. While bibs may be better for keeping snow out, remember to think about the challenge of potty breaks wearnig bibs in the resort restroom and choose wisely.
Don't put jeans under your kid's outerwear. Look for well-fitting, moisture-wicking tops and bottoms to regulate temps when working and resting. And contrary to most parents' intuition, ski socks should be relatively thin, also with moisture-wicking materials.
Your child should always wear a helmet on the slopes. There are too many trees, rocks, other skiers, and even hard-pack snow that could cause serious damage to an unprotected little head. Ski helmets will also provide extra warmth.
While kids who are just learning shouldn't use poles, a good pair of ski poles can help developing young skiers refine their technique and traverse flat parts of the mountain more easily. We recommend adjustable poles that can grow with your child.
A lifting harness will help get younger kids on and off the lift and keep them in close range while skiing. A wedge that connects at the tips of each ski can help kids learn how to snowplow or "pizza".