As most snow sports enthusiasts will know, the skiing vs snowboarding debate is often a contentious one. Skiers and snowboarders alike will give you a million reasons why their sport is the best. But, as someone new to snow sports, how can you decide between them? We’ve picked apart the pros and cons of both sports to bring you a complete side-by-side comparison of snowboarding vs skiing to help you choose the best winter sport for you.
Skiing vs. Snowboarding Gear
You’ll often see snowboarders walking around normally while skiers hobble around like they’ve got alligators attached to their feet. In fact, sometimes, after a day of skiing in rental gear, it can actually feel like you’ve got alligators attached to your feet. It’s a well-known truth: skiing gear is much less comfortable than snowboarding gear.
Snowboarding boots feel much like normal (albeit bulky) winter boots, and some have special soft lining and cushion for extra comfort. Usually, snowboarding boots are tightened by some combination of elastic, laces, and a wind-up Boa system. Ski boots are heavier, bulkier, and are typically fastened by large buckles. They’re also notoriously hard to walk in, as you’ll see when you compare a snowboard and a skier side-by-side on a flight of stairs.
(On a personal note, one of the major reasons I decided to try snowboarding instead of skiing is because I couldn’t stand how uncomfortable the ski boots were! In comparison, my faux fur-lined snowboarding boots feel like clouds on my feet.)
Skiing vs. Snowboarding for Beginners
There’s a timeless trope that you’ll often hear on the slopes, something along the lines of this: Skiing is easier to learn and harder to master, while snowboarding is harder to learn and easier to master.
Whether this is completely true or not depends on the individual, of course, but this often-quoted statement about skiing vs snowboarding does offer some truth. In general, it’s easier for beginner skiers to make their way down a slope than it is for snowboarders, but it’s easier for intermediate snowboarders to progress quickly onto harder terrain.
Skiing for Beginners
In the beginning, it’s much easier for skiers to stand up and get on their feet, mostly because the alignment of the skis in relation to your body makes it easier to stay standing. While skiing for the first time, you’re looking forward down the hill basically 100% of the time, so your gaze is always in the same direction as if you were walking or running. With a combination of “pizza” (tips pointed together to brake) and “french fries” (skis parallel to gain speed), beginner skiers can make their way down an easy hill in no time, going and braking using these simple alignments.
Standing up and sliding down the hill are one thing, but gaining control over your movements as a skier is totally different (we’ll get to this more in the next section). Once you’ve started skiing down easy terrain, it’s somewhat common for beginners to accidentally hook or cross skis when learning basic “pizza” turns, which usually results in falling or, at the least, loss of control. It can also be difficult to manage movements across two skis (plus two poles) when embarking on more difficult terrain.
In general, skiers can get riding quicker and with fewer falls in the beginning, but progressing to beginner turns and more intermediate terrain can prove to be much more challenging over the long-term.
Snowboarding for Beginners
On the other hand, snowboarders typically have a harder time getting going during the early days, as their feet are strapped into the board, which can feel very unnatural at first. Because of this, it’s a bit more difficult for first-timers to get up and move around without falling. In the beginning, snowboarders tend to wipe out a lot more when learning, and the falls are sometimes not pretty. You’ll often see beginner snowboarders wiping out everywhere – getting off chairlifts, attempting to make turns on the slopes, and even catching an edge while riding straight.
Once snowboarders feel confident in performing “S turns,” it’s much easier to progress to harder terrain. With only one board to control, it’s a lot easier to gain control and speed once you’re competent with moving from the heel edge to toe edge and vice versa.
In general, it takes snowboarders a little longer to get up and riding confidently, but once they’re up and running, it’s much easier to tackle harder terrain.
Progressing in Snowboarding vs. Skiing
Progressing in skiing is where it gets tough. After you’ve gotten past the point of “pizza” and “french fries” positioning, as well as basic “pizza turns,” it takes a lot of practice and muscle memory to build to parallel turns and tackle steeper terrain. Building up to expert-level terrain and jumps is usually said to be a lot more difficult and gradual on skis than on a snowboard. As someone who has tried both, I’d say that progressing from green runs to blues on skis is arguably harder than progressing from greens to blues on a snowboard.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of getting on your edges with snowboarding, the world is your oyster! Exploring harder terrain becomes much more accessible once you’ve nailed the basics of snowboarding. If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll probably still wipe out from time to time, but you’ll be prepared to handle falls and steep terrain much more easily.
The challenge of snowboarding on more advanced terrain comes from being able to navigate around bumps, rocks, and steep slopes using the skills you already have and carving with your edges. Plus, you can learn fun snowboarding “butters,” jumps, and more as you continue to progress.
Skiing vs. Snowboarding Culture
There’s a rather erroneous belief that skiers and snowboarders hate each other or have some kind of unspoken rivalry. According to the most blatant stereotypes, skiers are snobby and uppity, while snowboarders are blasé, loud, and unkempt. Of course, most of the time, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a skier and a snowboarder until they go to pick up their gear.
There is one long-standing dispute to note in the skiing vs snowboarding debate. There are 3 resorts in the US – Alta (UT), Deer Valley (UT), and Mad River Glen (VT) – that ban snowboarders. There’s no formal or practical reason why snowboarders aren’t allowed at these resorts, just that “skiers feel safer” when there aren’t snowboarders around. Most of the claims of these skiers don’t hold water when you look at the facts, but these three resorts are some of the last-standing icons of the “uppity skiers” stereotype.
To date, there are no snowboarding-only resorts in the country.
In reality, there’s really no difference between skiers and snowboarders, aside from the gear they strap to their feet on the snow. Both are addicted to mountains, riding fast, and playing in the snow, and you’ll often see groups of friends on the slopes together that consist of both skiers and snowboarders. In our opinion, that’s exactly how it should be.
Should You Ski or Snowboard?
We can’t decide for you, but we hope this advice has helped you decide which one to try! There are pros and cons to both skiing and snowboarding, and you’ll have tons of fun on the slopes no matter which one you choose. Plus, if you really can’t decide, why not try both?