For many beginners considering winter sports options, there's one major question they have to answer: Should I ski or snowboard? Here we'll break down the basics and help point you in the right direction.
You'll see this quote over and over again but that's because it is absolutely true! Many beginners turn towards skiing initially because it is much easier to get started. One reason is that when you are skiing, your feet are separated. This allows you to walk or shuffle forward in a fashion that feels more comfortable when you’re just starting out. As a novice skier, you'll quickly learn about the two most popular techniques for beginners: French Fry and Pizza. The French fry has you point your skis straight down the hill, which allows you to pick up speed. When you want to slow down, you put your skis into an inverted V shape called Pizza because it looks like a pizza slice.
In a straight comparison between skiing and snowboarding, skiers consistently put up higher speeds than snowboarders. As a beginner, you likely won't be putting up these 100+ mph speeds (unless you forget how to brake) but as you progress as a skier, you will be able to go faster downhill with more control than most snowboarders. If you’re seeking that extra bit of adventure that comes with higher speeds, this might be something to consider.
As a snowboarder, both of your feet are rigidly attached to the board which can feel constricting and unnatural at first. When going down the slopes, you'll have to balance on either the toe or heel side’s edge in order to turn and slow down. As a beginner, you will definitely need good balance and some perseverance to stick with it past the first day. Most people who start out snowboarding spend a lot of time on the ground as they try to get the hang of the sport. While many who start with skiing can master the basics just a day or two, it takes most beginner snowboarders a couple weeks of consistent practice in order to feel comfortable.
The good news is that once you master the basics of carving on a snowboard, you'll be able to progress much quicker than your skiing friends. As you start going faster down the slopes, snowboarding can actually become a little easier – as long as you're comfortable moving at speed. When you're going fast on a snowboard, carving becomes easier because there is less resistance between the board and the snow. Once you put in your time falling on the beginner slopes and start getting a feel for snowboarding, you will be able to tackle the intermediate slopes and quickly leave your skiing buddies behind.
If you're the type of person who looks at the halfpipe or freeride park in envy, you may want to choose snowboarding over skiing. It is generally a lot easier for snowboarders to do basic tricks than it is for skiers. This is because while snowboarding, you have both feet rigidly attached to the same board. In skiing, your feet are separate which can cause you to cross skis or get tangled up as you try to do tricks. That's not to say it's impossible to do tricks on skis! As you get a feel for controlling your skis in mid-air, you can look just as flashy on a set of skis. But, it is much easier to learn tricks on a snowboard, especially for beginners.
Data from the National Ski Areas Association shows that as a whole, snowboarding appeals to a younger demographic than skiing. While the average age of skiers is just over 38 years old, the average snowboarder is just 27 years old. This may be due to the effort and amount of falling it takes to get over the learning curve with snowboarding.
Here are a few questions to help you figure out whether skiing or snowboarding would be a better choice.
Snowboarding requires excellent balance while skiing is a little more forgiving. If you don't have great balance and don't have the time to learn how to snowboard, skiing may be the better choice.
Make sure you have the time to dedicate to learning. While lessons can take you a long way, most people will pick up skiing much faster than snowboarding. If you're going on your first trip to a local ski resort, you may want to try out skiing instead of snowboarding.
Everybody who starts out with snowboarding learns this quickly: you will fall, and you will fall often on your first couple of days. If you're ok with that, then great! Snowboarding is an absolutely amazing sport. If you just went to get down the mountain without falling, maybe try a pair of skis instead.
This is a small question but it is significant. If this your first time at a ski resort, one of the biggest sources of anxiety can be the ski lift. For skiers, you simply walk/shuffle forward and then ride the chair up to the top of the slopes. Snowboarders typically unbuckle one of their bindings and then ride off of the chairlift with the binding undone. A frequent source of falls for new snowboarders is dismounting the chairlift.
For many people, the choice between skiing or snowboarding is personal. If you're looking for a way to just have fun on the mountain and don't have that much experience, go with skis. You'll be able to hit the slopes and have a ton of fun while doing so.
If you're looking for something a little more adventurous or want to dedicate some time to improving, pick up a snowboard next time you go to the mountain. Once you get over that initial hump, you'll find snowboarding to be fun and you'll be able to see yourself progress quickly.