Should you ski or snowboard? Here’s what we think.
You’ve seen countless of pictures on your Instagram feed of friends having the time of their lives on ski trips. What are they even doing, and are they really having fun or is it just for the gram? We’ve spent seasons in ski resorts for the past 4 years, that’s 180 days on the slopes every year and yeah, we can tell you that it’s pretty dope. But which should you try – skiing or snowboarding? Let’s settle this once and for all.
Is it true that skiing is easier to learn compared to snowboarding?
Is snowboarding more fun than skiing?
If I wakeboard and skate, will snowboarding come naturally to me?
We’re answering all your questions about this ongoing debate today.
Before we begin, you need to understand that picking up either sport will not be a breeze.
It will take a couple of days in lessons to properly learn the correct techniques to manoeuvre down the slopes comfortably and safely. At the initial stages of learning, you will inevitably fall (more often for snowboarders than skiiers) and take a hit or two. However, simple steps can be taken to protect yourself from these falls and minimise the impact, these include buying the protection layers such as wrist and knee guards as well as conditioning your body and improving your fitness before the trip – skiing and snowboarding are sports after all.
Once you understand this, you will be able to learn faster and more effectively, without beating yourself up or getting demoralised for falling down while learning.
5 main factors to help you choose
A variety of reasons come into play when deciding between taking on skiing or snowboarding for the first time – and we have distilled it down to 5 factors to help you make that decision
The 5 main factors that would ultimately affect your decision are
- Duration of your ski trip
- General fitness levels and body types
- Sports background
- Goals and expectations of the sport
- Overall budget in the long run
Skiing and snowboarding are incredibly addictive and all it takes is an eagerness to learn, a big dose of persistence and a positive attitude to get good enough to cruise down the mountains and get that adrenaline rush and sense of freedom that your friends who have tried the sport cannot stop raving about. With that said, once you’ve chosen to either ski or snowboard, you don’t have to stick to it and you can always try the other, and swap back and forth.
Our advice: Pick one and stay committed to it for at least a week to gain enough experience and mileage to properly decide if the sport is to your liking. We often hear of others giving up after less than half a day without giving it a proper go, ending up never trying the sport again. However, more often than not, all it takes is a push pass the 3-4 day mark of learning and you’ll find yourself ten-folds more comfortable on the slopes!
TL;DR if you’re short on time
Skiing is easier to learn but harder to master as it gets more technical at the advanced stages. Snowboarding on the other hand has a steeper learning curve but once it clicks for you, it’s easier to master the techniques and get good at it.
Both have injury risks because they are still high risk, extreme sports but hey – high risk high return eh? Knee injuries are more common among skiers while wrist & tailbone injuries are more common among snowboarders. A reasonable level of fitness is necessary for both skiing and snowboarding if you want to enjoy your trip thoroughly.
Both have their pros and cons, but are equally rewarding and enjoyable. You’ll need at least 3-4 days to get past the initial learning curve for both sports, so wouldn’t make much sense to go on a ski trip that’s less than 3 days – you’ll be stuck at the beginner zone for a long time.
Skiing is more intuitive & easier to pick up
For the majority of us, it is true that picking up skiing will be easier than snowboarding. Here’s a couple of reasons why skiing is more intuitive than snowboarding:
Ability to use both legs freely
On skis, both of your legs are controlled independently (similar to ice skating) and this makes it is easier to start and stop yourself and keeping balance as you get familiar with the slippery feeling of sliding on snow. This also allows you the freedom to move your legs to help rebalance yourself.
A ski stance faces forward and has a wider view of your surroundings
To a complete beginner, a ski stance will feel more natural than a snowboarding stance. Standing upright and straight-on with skis feels more natural than standing sideways on a snowboard with both feet bound together. The position on a snowboard usually feels less natural and a little restrictive at first, which needs a longer time getting used to. With skis, you have total peripheral vision and can see exactly where you are going, including objects and people in front of you with enough reaction time. For snowboarding, on the other hand, with its side-on stance, you will have less peripheral vision and will need to be more aware about your body alignment in order to be an effective and efficient snowboarder.
Skiing lets you learn one technique at a time
What’s more, beginner ski techniques can be broken down into different modules, allowing you to learn and master one thing at a time. Snowboarding takes a lot more determination and perseverance at the start to balance on the board, learning how to stop safely, controlling your edges and turning. It is a lot of things to take in at once plus, it is not a natural stance you use on a daily basis.
The cat-track: a walk in the park for skiers, a bane for snowboarders
As you progress and start to explore the different terrain on the mountain, you will encounter cat tracks (flat areas – usually linking one slope to another). On these tracks, hands down that skiers have an easier time getting across using their poles to help push them along! Beginner snowboarders, painfully and unfortunately, tend to get stuck on these flatter areas on the slopes and having to unstrap their snowboards and do the walk of shame. But fret not snowboarders, as you get better at your turns, you will also learn to read the terrain and judge the speed required to get across more effectively.
You should ski if…
You don’t have many days on the slopes a year
Beginner skiers can get to a level that allows you to explore the beginner slopes relatively quickly as compared to snowboarders who need at least a week to get familiar with the sport.
Fitness is not your strongest suit
Some body types are better suited for skiing and generally, skiing would be the easier sport to pick up for people who are not so great in the fitness department. If your body is not conditioned for impact and if you do not exercise on a regular basis, snowboarding will take a longer time to master because your body is not used to the strength and stamina needed to progress.
You want an easier entry into snow sports
If you prefer a more mellow entry into snow sports and tumbling on snow is not really your idea of a great first introduction, then perhaps skiing should be the first out of the 2 sports that you pick up. Though falling on skis can be a lot more awkward looking and less graceful – talk about unwanted leg splits! That’s not to say skiers can’t go ape with their skills, check out these guys shredding up the pow on skis:
What’s the deal with snowboarding then?
Snowboarding is an expression of style
Fluidity and snowboarding styles have endless combinations. You can create your rhythm and flow on a snowboard with your own signature style. On a snowboard, there is a lot more terrain you can explore, such as navigating through tight trees, slashing and popping in natural half pipes and bowls. The feeling of freedom and creativity in snowboarding is unparalleled when exploring ski resorts.
Progressing to an advanced level is easier on a snowboard
Once beyond the beginner stage, snowboarders tend to progress and improve their technique quicker than skiers. This means that in the same span of time, a snowboarder will more likely be able to attempt advanced terrain such as steeper slopes and off-piste powder runs more comfortably and efficiently than a skiier can. Skiers on the other hand, will face increasing difficulty when attempting the same steepness or bumpy (mogul) runs and off piste terrain.
Snowboard boots > ski boots
The difference in comfort levels of equipment can play a big part of why you choose either sport. For example, snowboard boots are a lot lighter and far easier to walk around in than ski boots. Ski boots can take some time for you to break into, be painful at the start and also, they are rather heavy to walk around in, especially if you are a beginner.
Plus, carrying just 1 snowboard rather than 2 skis and 2 poles makes getting around the ski resort in snow and icy conditions easier, not to mention snowboards are a lot lighter than skis are.
You should snowboard if…
You like the idea of adrenaline and slashing powder like The Ride Side team does over here
Looks like your thing? Then your riding style will be more suitable on a snowboard. For some, going off piste is the epitome of a snow holiday. People tend to be of reasonable riding standards (turning comfortably on black & edging properly) before attempting off-piste. Here, snowboarding wins hand down in the easier sport in the off-piste areas. The transition from snowboard on-piste to riding in powder is a lot easier than learning how to ski in powder.
You have dabbled in board sports before
Have background in surfing, wake boarding or skating? Then perhaps you will be able to pick up snowboarding a lot quicker. Having prior understanding of toe and heel edges and with your body conditioned for impact sports will help you to learn faster. Though that’s not to say that you can’t try snowboarding if you don’t dabble in any board sports. A willingness to try and the perseverance to keep going will get you to where you want to be in snowboarding!
You get to dedicate 1-2 weeks a year to the sport
With snowboarding, the basics of riding down beginner slopes and linking turns will be attainable with the first week or 2 of picking up the sport. From here, it will all be about going faster, finessing your turns, riding powder and just having a ball of a time on the slopes! For the skiers however, the work really begins after the basic skill level. Moving both legs together in symmetry and harmony without crossing your skis takes years of practice and is more technical.
Beginners often fall more and harder when snowboarding. So learning snowboarding tends to be more forgiving if you are in good physical shape and your body is better conditioned for impact with regular exercises. Yes, you do get more injuries snowboarding but you get lesser serious injuries than skiers do.
Snowboarding equipment is usually much cheaper than ski equipment, not to mention the extra charges for weight limits on airline baggage policies!
Social travel and having a group of people to learn with
If the social side of snow sports is important to you, then perhaps joining a group to ski or snowboard will make your snow sports experience that much more enjoyable. On The Ride Side’s Hosted Experiences, there will be people who ski and snowboard in our group, so you will always have someone to learn with regardless of the sport you choose.
Being in a group also gives you the confidence and camaraderie to go outside your comfort zone, have people to explore the mountains with and provide the encouragement to go down that slope you’ve been avoiding. Once you are able to get past the beginner stages of either sport, they become pretty addictive.
Check out Keiji Umehara’s (@umeandhara) experience with us in Niseko:
Can snowboarders and skiers explore together in a group?
A big yes! Skiers and snowboarders can ride in a group, and there is no terrain that you won’t be able to explore together – except perhaps moguls where skiers fare much better. Yes, we do see people who split up but that’s only accordingly to skill levels, stamina and the level of risk each person is comfortable with in attempting new terrain or tricks.
PRO TIP: do not attempt off-piste areas on your own as it can be dangerous and even fatal with avalanche risks. Always bring a buddy with you and have a qualified mountain guide to show you around. Getting lost or worse, buried in an avalanche with no way to get help is the last thing you want on a ski holiday.
Are lessons necessary?
Absolutely! Learn the right techniques so that you build good foundations and habits to enjoy snowboarding and skiing in the long run. Even with bad techniques, you can get around the green and red slopes fairly quickly, but once you attempt the steeper terrain, you’re busted. Self-taught skiers and snowboarders tend to pick up bad habits from friends, youtube tutorials or figuring things out on their own, without proper guidance and correction.
While these bad habits and poor form don’t really affect you in the early stages, they become absolutely necessary as you attempt more advanced terrain and you will find it increasingly difficult to improve. Especially with the wrong techniques ingrained in your riding. Through our years of snowboarding, teaching and guiding groups of all ability levels around the mountains, we’ve seen many with poor fundamentals & habits struggle to get better, especially evident during stepper runs and off-piste trails!
How do I get better at either sport?
As you go from beginner to intermediate & intermediate to advanced level riding, it is always a good idea to get lessons to learn the techniques and tricks from a qualified instructor so that you can learn faster and better. We also recommend taking refresher lessons on the first day of your ski trip as most people wait a full year before heading back to the mountains.
Don’t rush to put a label on yourself or compete with others. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced rider – it takes time and effort to constantly finesse your turns and skills and you’re going to do this for a long time – so why the rush?
At the end of the day
It does not matter if you are a skier or snowboarder, you can always explore and have fun together as a group. There’s no rule stating that skiers cannot join snowboarders, or the other way around. If you’re interested to try out social travel, check out our trips for all levels to Niseko and Myoko .