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Start 'em early, when the sun is out! Photo courtesy of Burton

High Cascade Snowboard Camp is developing a new Family Camp to add to its Mt. Hood summer offerings, with customized programs for kids as young as four — and their parents.

"There's a lot of snowboarders out there who are in their late 20s or 30s with young kids now, and they want their kids to learn how to ride," says High Cascade Camps President Kevin English.

English knows this because he is one of those snowboarders. He grew up riding at a high level in the 1990s and met X-Games competitor Kim Bohnsack through snowboarding. Now they are married with a four-year-old and a seven-year-old. "It just seemed natural that we would get our kids on snowboards," says English.

But any parent who has taken a four-year-old up to the mountain can tell you that it takes work — and sometimes it is very nice to have a coach who isn't mom or dad. That's the idea behind Family Camp, which High Cascade calls its "first completely customizable package." The eight-day camp is designed to work for riders of all ages and abilities, with as "Soft Start" introductory program and a Burton Riglet Park with specialized equipment on gentle terrain.

The Family Camp includes meals, lodging, transportation, lift tickets video analysis, snowboard demos and on and off-snow activities. It will run June 26-July 3. For prices and details click here.

Prior to this season, High Cascade has limited its camps to kids nine and older. English explains that working with very young children requires "gentle, soft skills," and can involve some basic day care as well as coaching. "This isn't just a counselor situation," he says. " "It's day care too. om and dad need to feel comfortable going off snowboarding for the day knowing that their kids are being cared for."

A wide effort by Burton and others

The expansion into programs for younger kids dovetails with a big effort by Burton to get kids started early with fun off-snow activities that build balance and skills for snowboarding. Burton VP of Global Resorts Jeff Boliba has been working with Mt. Hood Meadows and other resorts and schools across the country to incorporate snowboarding into physical education class. 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.

It's all part of a wide effort to reverse a slowing trend in the growth of snowboarding. English, who serves on the snowboarding committee for SnowSports Industries America, is familiar with the numbers. "It freaked us out for a little bit," he says, but once you dig deeper and try to understand the numbers you see that it's a maturing phase. it couldn't keep growing the way it was."

English believes that the bigger challenge is not so much convincing kids to snowboard as it is to convince young people to put down their iPads long enough to get out and participate. A beautiful week on Mount Hood could provide a big step in the right direction — especially now that enough April snow has come through to ensure summer riding on the upper Mountain.

The late snow "definitely doesn't make up for an entire winter," says English, "but it is better than nothing, and it is certainly helping the snow-farming on the mountain."

Besides, he adds, "The lowest snow summer on Mount Hood is still better than the best summer you'll ever see in Tahoe or Colorado."