The video above stars @lilhomie802 a.k.a. Harley Ruffle. Since moving back to Killington, I have become obsessed with this little nugget of snowboard talent. There’s no doubt 3-year-old Harley Ruffle is something special. But while his own natural skills are impressive, I would be remiss if I didn’t give credit where it’s due: his parents.
Jill and Gary Ruffle (ok, mostly Jill) bring Harley snowboarding at Killington nearly every single day. And when he wants to, they end with a nightcap at the Dark Park down the road at Darkside Snowboards, too.
“He puts in the time and loves it,” Jill told me, laughing at a Facebook thread where people were asking how she taught him. “My teaching ability was ‘figure it out and send it,’” she said.
Oh yeah, cause Jill and Gary are skiers. Which is why this story isn’t just about Jill’s brilliant free-range parenting, but rather five more rad shred moms. Though they’re all at different stages in life and mothering, they all deserve lots of credit for sharing the stoke with the next generation, and so, these are their stories.
Lauren “Nugget” Contarino
Today I am referred to as Mom or Lauren. But once upon a time, people called me Nugget. I started being referred to as Nugget after a lovely soul met me for the first time. She said, I was ‘so cute she wanted to pick me up and dip me in barbecue sauce, like a little chicken nugget.’ It stuck…..
My family and I reside in Milford, New Hampshire. It’s a great little town to raise kids. Although we do wish we could pick up our house and family and plop it all in Bend, Oregon. It’s one of our favorite places to visit.
I have a passion for gardening and baking. I had a baking business for a few years, but now it’s just for fun. I have been told I make the most bomb peanut butter cookies. I also happen to love snowboarding with my whole heart. I have made the best of friends and people I even consider family through shredding.
I jumped into the snowboard scene when I was 10 years old, roughly around 1991. I had previously skied, starting around 4 years old. Seeing my older brother on a board was so intriguing. I just had to try it. I taught myself and the rest was history. I completely fell in love and my life revolved around it for the next 20-plus years.
I am currently a homeschool teacher for my first and sixth graders, which has been crazy and incredible all at the same time. I chose to be a stay-at-home mom to my two kiddos. I do have a Bachelor’s degree, but staying home with my littles was the best job for me, and them.
Oliver is 12 and lives at home with mom, dad, sister and our two puppies. He is a rad little dude with the biggest heart. He’s smart, hilarious and never stops talking. He’s also an incredible artist who loves to draw portraits of his favorite people. Oliver started snowboarding when he was two and a half. He didn’t immediately love it. But after bribing him with M&Ms, his love grew. Just before he turned five it really started to click for him. After that he was the tiny little guy that everyone at the mountain recognized. Now he is hitting huge jumps and rails with his best buddies who are in their 30s. He has a love for the sport that he hopes to make his career one day.
Ellery is six, she also lives at home with us. She completed our crew. Like her brother her heart is so big and she is the most kind and caring kid. She is 95 percent the most perfect delightful child, and that other five percent might kill you. She’s sweet, passionate and wild all in one. Ellery loves baking, doing crafts, and singing her made-up songs as loud as she can. Ells started snowboarding at 16 months. She walked at 15 months and we just thought, why not give it a shot? It was the craziest thing seeing this tiny baby on a board.
Snowboarding has been a love hate relationship for her. She has a blast when she’s into it, but if she’s not, forget it. I’m pretty sure she just wants to be able to keep up with her brother and gets frustrated when she can’t.
For me it has always been the most heart exploding feeling seeing both my babies on a board. Now taking runs as a family is just the best. I love being a mom. It has been the most rewarding experience of my life.
The best piece of motherly advice I have is let them choose their own adventure in whatever you can. We have taken a free range parenting approach. Letting them try things and figure out what they are passionate about. Instill in them a confidence that helps them to thrive. Above all, enjoy them! Do things together, be an open book! Teach them things you have always wished you’d learned as a kid. They are the future so make that future you proud as heck of the people they become. Let them feel success, but also let them fall or fail, it’s ok.
Registered Dietitian/Yoga Instructor
I live in Narragansett, Rhode Island, and I snowboard dumdum. Don’t you remember those sleepless nights at Mumsy Acres when you were sitting on that 70’s plaid polyester couch getting shiz done for YoBeat?! My hand-me-down board, boots and gloves were probably laying at your feet in the spacious high-end living room of Mumsy Acres.
As for being a mom full time, that would be prison for me. I’ve worked as a self employed Registered Dietitian for 35 years and a certified 500+ Kripalu yoga teacher since 1999! Holy shitella Pam, you are the bomb! Right now I do telehealth and zoom yoga if you need any advice to keep you alive and well, snowboarding from now until the end of time.
Marcus and Mary, a.k.a. Sonny and Shorty are the absolute greatest, and then there’s Stan. I was his fashion consultant. Remember the red jacket with the Yawgoons pin on the lapel that launched him into the universe? If he had continued with all that brown, he’d be a nobody right now. Yes, my son Stan; we can talk about him more privately another time.
Sonny is 33 years old and lives in Portland, Oregon, where weed is legal; however, he is visiting Musclelips aka Daddeo and me here in Rhode Island as we speak. Actually, I dropped him with another son of mine named Reeg on the east side of Providence to head up to Loon for a couple days. Sonny has been snowboarding a long time, following in Daddeo’s footsteps, who started when you needed a special pass to get on the hill at Loon.
Speaking of Loon, you may wonder how the hell we afforded such a luxury for our family every weekend from the beginning to the end of the season….well Daddeo and I became employees in some capacity at Loon to get free tickets for the Rand family…me in the childcare center (ugh, the parents were the worst) or the parking lot ushering cars and buses with a smile…Daddeo teaching snowboarding and skiing. Yes both, he was quite the commodity!
Shorty is about to be 29 years old, and I do not get that, because I’m only 37. Shorty lives in Glacier, Washington this winter but is currently in Driggs, Wyoming sledding and snowboarding in the backcountry where the weather is sunny and 25 degrees with considerable avalanche warning (why I am doing yoga all day.) Shorty started snowboarding long ago, after she confided to me on the ‘7 brothers chairlift’ while wearing skis, that in her heart she was really a snowboarder. It was after that when the entire family became the coolest, sickest snowboarding family on the East, if I do say so myself. Personally, I just basically cruise down the hill slashing the edges with an occasional backside180 if one of my biological kids is rooting me on.
As for the rest of my children, they include anyone who ever signed my jacket and more. Not just sons either, plenty of badass girls that can perform in the streets and the backcountry on and off the snow, atta girls! It’s long overdue that I fess up and let you know that behind all those signatures are my snowboarding children who have upped their games with homemade food from their surrogate mother, ME, along with inheriting the physical flexibility to survive a tomahawk or two. The mental flexibility comes from Lips to know the truth about yourself on and off the snow. If you want any more info, you better get Musclelips involved, his memory is good, maybe better, especially about the minutia, but I’m the funny, charismatic parent, obviously.
Speaking of parenting, I have absolutely no advice; maybe a little, no matter how smart and capable your kid seems, they are not ready to go to a college town at 12 years old unaccompanied by a parent. The ride may become too bumpy for words and not everyone would survive and recover. Shorty was a good parent at times in her young life, thankfully.
Holly McDonald Gardner
Big Bear Lake, CA
I have lived in Big Bear my whole life with the exception of a couple years right after High School. I started snowboarding when I was a kid, maybe fifth grade or something, haha! Back when snowboarding had just gotten big at the resorts…I’m dating myself. I’ve been a Realtor in Big Bear for the past 16 years, so I’ve have freedom to be with my kids through all the fun, and we have had a ton of fun!
Drayden is 21 now!!! What the heck!? And Talon is about to turn 18! Crazy how time goes by so fast. Dray is still traveling the world snowboarding. He just got back from Minnesota and Ukraine. He’s livin life’ and getting paid to do what he loves. He’s making movies and they are amazing! “Sucks Vol 1” was his last one, and he’s working on Vol 2 this season. T still lives at home, but counting the seconds to freedom, haha. He’s about to graduate and hit the real world soon. Ugh!
Both boys pretty much only knew life on snow since they were born, but both started riding at two. They both loved it, of course. Drayden has found a career in snowboarding and I couldn’t be more proud of everything he has done. He has travelled the world and truly experienced an awesome life. I’m thankful for that! I could go in and on about everything he has done, the stories are endless!
Our lives completely revolved around snowboarding the whole time the kids were growing up, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Air BnB Superhost/Nonprofit CEO
I started skiing as a kid at Killington, Stowe, Okemo and Hunter Mountain. At 12, I moved to Steamboat Springs and skied there for 12 years. I moved to Whitefish, Montana with three babies in-tow. We skied as a family and when my boys turned eight, I took up boarding with them. I hung up my board, and now I run a non profit 501-(c)3 in memory of my late son, Aaron, called The A-Rob Plant a Seed Project. We are in our tenth year. When the kids went to college, we bought property in Columbia Falls, 15 minutes from Whitefish, and built our dream home. I was a stay-at-home mom and when the kids started school, I subbed in town.
Jason, my oldest, is a pro. He’s 36. He travels all over the world snowboarding. He was just in Jackson at the King of Queens are Corbetts. His home base is Port Angeles, Washington. Years ago, he built a tiny house and it’s parked at my house.
Sean, my youngest, is here with us. He’s 31. He was in South Lake Tahoe for 10 years, but I wanted him home. Aaron, my middle was also a pro until his death in Chile in 2011. He is sorely missed. My two eldest started snowboarding at eight, my youngest at six, and have been snowboarding ever since. My boys are the kindest, gentlest, most humble kids you’ll ever meet.
I think you need to let your kids adventure, experience, live for today and be happy. Most important: Be happy and love hard.
Mammoth Lakes, CA
I am a professional snowboarder who lives in Mammoth Lakes, CA. I started snowboarding when I was 9 years old. Thankfully most of my sponsors have continued to support me as I am balancing motherhood and my career.
I have two boys. One is 3 years old and the other is a newborn. They live with my husband (professional skier Chris Benchetler) and I in Mammoth. I was able to snowboard with both of my babies while I was pregnant so I think they started then.. 🙂 Our 3-year-old got on a snowboard for the first time around 16 months, but wasn’t really into it. We tried again the next season at around 20 months, and he showed a lot more interest. Sharing our love for the mountains with our kids is so special but having our 3-year-old ask us to take him to the mountain to ski or snowboard is the best feeling!
My best motherly advice is: if you’re an expectant new momma, be kind to yourself as you transition into motherhood. Keep expectations low for what you want to accomplish with a newborn so that you can really appreciate your tiny baby without feeling guilty for not doing all the things you promised yourself or others. Additionally, find a way to get out of the house for fresh air everyday.. it makes a world of difference. Lastly, encourage your children to be passionate, independent, and curious — they open our eyes as parents when we take off the limits of what they are capable of.