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soren-jensen

Soren Jensen gets his stance down solid.

Soren Jensen started snowboarding when he was two and a half, and one of the best days of his life was spent exploring the Burton Riglet Park at Mt. Hood Meadows at age three. So when his mom Krista heard about a new initiative by Burton to bring snowboarding to schools, she put in an immediate request for her son's school, the Portland School of Experiential Education.

That's how Burton VP of Global Resorts Jeff Boliba and Meadows CEO Matthew Drake found themselves in a school gym in Northeast Portland Wednesday morning with dozens of extremely excited children from three to six years old. The school had invited Burton to come demonstrate their riglet system for teaching children the basics of snowboarding through a gym program easily replicated by a phys ed teacher.

 Boliba, the creative force behind Burton's program, knows how to hold the attention of a roomful of children. "Get ready for the best PE class ever!" he announced.

Rather than telling them to sit still, he got them moving through a series of warmups demonstrated in a video by snowboarding superstar Kelly Clark. Then he led them through the four stations of the program Burton has developed for schools.

The first station involves a small board with a tow rope attached and a cover wrapped around it that is felt on the bottom, so it slides well on the floor. This is what it looks like:

 

And this is what it looks like when Elie Lepore is riding it:

As you can see, the kids loved it. Even better, when they aren't riding they can pull a friend for a ride (remember to ask if your friend is ready). The kiddos below are Jake Rios, Ellie Lepore and Declan Lombardi:

The second station is a grab game similar to good old Twister. Here Sara Jaurigue, Jake Rios, Quinn Thomas and  Parker Pasco give it a try:

Next come the foam blocks for stationary snowboarding:

The photo above is of Tommy Blize, learning some nice grab form early.

The last station has spooner boards to give the kids a sense of spinning and tricks.

Teachers split the kids up into groups of five and they rotated through the stations having a great time. They were having so much fun they probably had no idea how much they were working their core strength and balance.

When they were finished, Boliba asked them how they liked it.

"It was like snowboarding on real ice, and Disneyland," said one child. His friend added that it was also like Legoland.

Boliba developed the program in 2012 as part of his son's middle school community project to give more people access to the fun of snowboarding. Burton has convinced administrators in Vermont to work the program into school phys ed curriculum, and they have demonstrated it in California, Colorado, China and South Korea.

In Oregon Mt. Hood Meadows is working with Burton to bring the program to interested schools in and around Portland. 

“Mt. Hood Meadows is excited to partner with Burton to create engaging, stimulating and fun introductory experiences for young people,” said Chris Kastner, Director of Snow Sports Services for Meadows. “Burton has pioneered giving kids as young as three an awesome introduction to snowboarding so they can enjoy mountain recreation. This partnership will extend that passion and excitement from our slopes to local school gyms and events, which is truly exciting for us.”

Meadows and Burton already partner on the Burton Riglet Park at Meadows, a snowboarding playground for kids 3-6. Meadows also plans to become an authorized Burton Learn To Ride Center next season with specialized lessons and programs for kids and adults.

The new in-school program should help get more kids ready for that first time on snow, plus bring some mountain shred fun down into the city.