Skiing Vs Snowboarding | Which is Better?

by Thomas Fortune on Oct 09, 2022

(36)
Skiing vs. snowboarding

The mountains are calling, but you're unsure whether to become a skier or a snowboarder. You like the idea of the speed associated with skiing, but you may prefer the snowboard lifestyle, putting you in a tricky situation. After all, you don't want to make the wrong decision.

In truth, both sports are great fun, but in this post, I'll go through skiing vs. snowboarding to highlight the differences to help you decide which one to take up.

Skiing vs. Snowboarding Comparison Table

Difficulty Skiing Easier than Snowboarding (Beginner)
Get on/off Lift Skiing Easier than Snowboarding
Comfortness Skiing more Comfortable than Snowboarding
Convenience Skiing more Convenient than Snowboarding
Limits Skiing has less limits than Snowboarding
Powder Skiing Power Slightly more Difficult
Speed Skiing Faster than Snowboarding 
Danger Level Hard to Distinguish
Fitness Skiing < Snowboarding

Which Is Harder To Do?

If you're new to winter sports, it can be tricky to see if snowboarding or skiing is more challenging. You'll see skiers and snowboarders of all levels on the mountain. Some skiers and snowboarders make it look effortless, while others make their sports look like the hardest thing to do in the world.

Now snowboarding has matured enough and more people are doing it, we can give you an informed perspective. It's widely accepted that it is harder to learn how to snowboard but easier to master than skiing.

A first-time skier can have fun getting down easy slopes and linking turns on their first day. They can progress to more challenging slopes within a week and explore the ski area.

Your first week on a snowboard isn't quite as smooth. You'll spend the first three days rolling around in the snow while you try to find your balance and get a feel for how the board works. But after this often painful period, something will click, and riding a snowboard will start to feel more natural.

After you can link turns on a snowboard, you'll be surprised at how quickly you progress. It won't be long before you can do simple tricks and even ride powder. The process will be different depending on your sporting background. For example, if you can surf or skateboard, you'll pick up snowboarding much more quickly.

As a skier starts to explore more advanced moves, they'll find simultaneously moving their feet challenging. It takes more time and practice to build coordination. This is why you see people that have been skiing for years struggle to dial in good technique, especially if they only get away once a year.

Whether you want to ski or snowboard, you can progress more quickly with some tuition. Book some lessons before heading up the mountain on your own. It's much better and safer this way.

Getting On And Off Ski Lifts

Ski Lift

Ski Lift

Source: Cassi Gurell - CC BY-SA 2.0

Whether you're a beginner skier or snowboarder, getting on a ski lift is scary, especially a chairlift. Actually, the scary part is getting off at the top, as you need to stand up at precisely the right time and slide away when you haven't learned any skills yet.

Most ski resorts have chair lifts, drag lifts, and various types of gondolas. Gondolas are the ones you walk on and off with your skis or snowboard in your hands, so they are the easiest to use. 

Chair lifts are the ones that you sit on that run on cables high above the slopes. These can be intimidating, but skiers find them much easier to use than snowboarders, as all they need to do is sit down and stand up at the right time.

A snowboarder needs to unstrap their back foot to ride a chairlift. Getting on the lift is no problem; when you get to the top, you need to stand up at the right time and ride away one-footed. This isn't easy when you haven't yet learned how to ride with both feet.

Drag lifts pull you up the mountain. Again, skiers have a much better time than snowboarders, as the snowboarder needs to ride one-footed until they get to the top of the lift.

Many snowboarders avoid drag lifts. But they really shouldn't, as it doesn't take long to be able to use them competently. Yes, they can be uncomfortable, but they aren't that bad once you get the knack. Also, you could miss out on some epic terrain just because you're worried about falling over in front of an audience.

There's one other type of ski lift, the magic carpet. This is a conveyor belt commonly used on bunny slopes. They're great for beginner skiers and snowboarders, as they are super easy to use. They get you to the top without needing any skills, so you can learn the basics before using a drag lift or chairlift.

Which Is More Comfortable?

2 skiers on the slope

Next time you're in a ski resort, do some people-watching. Take note of how skiers and snowboarders walk around, and you'll see that snowboarders are way more comfortable than skiers.

One of the main differences in comfort comes from boots. That's not to say ski boots are uncomfortable, but they are clunky and stiff, giving you the necessary control on the slopes. But these characteristics make them difficult to walk in.

Ski equipment can be awkward to carry. There is a knack for carrying skis and poles, but getting it can take a while. This is why you see skiers hugging their skis across their chests with poles under their arms, accidentally whacking innocent bystanders. You'll notice that carrying skis is even more challenging when you have to carry your kid's stuff as well as yours.

A snowboarder walks around the resort reasonably normally, with their board under an arm, leaving them with a spare hand to eat a sandwich on the way to the lift or high-fiving their friends.

Which Is More Convenient?

Following on from the comfort, convenience may be something that will sway you to one or two planks. But it depends on which way you look at it.

As I've already pointed out, carrying your ski gear is cumbersome. But once you've clipped into your skis, you're in them for the whole day. Snowboarders must unstrap their back foot for every lift and strap back in before riding; this can be frustrating for skiers with them, as they have to wait all the time.

More experienced snowboarders can strap in quickly, especially if they don't sit down each time. But, a skier will get away much quicker every time.

Are There Any Limits To Skiing And Snowboarding?

snowboarder on a chair

When accessing terrain, you're not limited by being on skis or a snowboard; you can use either pretty much anywhere on the mountain. You need to consider what equipment you use as there are skis and snowboards for every type of terrain, from snowpark to backcountry.

But, snowboarders can struggle when the terrain becomes flat. They need to get as much speed as possible before they get to a flat section. They hope to have enough momentum to get over flat sections without needing to unstrap and walk to the next bit of downhill.

Skiers don't have this problem, as in the rare times the flat section is too long for their speed, they can push themselves along with their poles.

If a skier uses a touring setup, they can hike into the backcountry looking for untouched powder. But a snowboarder can do this, too, with a splitboard.

Splitboards allow snowboarders to tour the backcountry as they split into a pair of skis for hiking and become a snowboard again for the descent. These are much more efficient than snowshoes or boot packing and allow you to get to some incredible terrain.

With all this said, if you're struggling to decide which one to do, consider the places you plan to go. For example, if your closest ski resort has gentle gradients and lots of flat sections, you'd be better off learning to ski. But if you plan on going to a mountain with steady slopes and minimal flat sections, you'll be fine on skis or a snowboard.

Which Is Best For Powder?

snowboarding on a slope

Once you've had a taste of snowboarding or skiing in powder, you want more. Most skiers and snowboarders with enough experience yearn for powder, as it gives you an incredible feeling that you just don't get in the resort.

Taking a pair of skis into powder for the first time is tough. You have to adapt your technique significantly to ski powder, as it's very different from skiing on the resort's groomed slopes. You will feel frustration and exhaustion, which is made worse when your skis come off, and you have to search for them in deep snow.

Riding powder on a snowboard for the first time can also be frustrating, but the technique isn't that different from riding on hard-packed snow. There are some adaptations to the method, but they are not as significant as on skis. The main thing is to not hesitate so you can keep your speed up. Speed gives you more float, as does leaning back slightly to keep the nose up out of the snow.

Becoming a good powder skier requires more practice and commitment than being good at snowboarding in powder. This makes it difficult if you don't manage to ski very often. However, skiing and snowboarding in powder become much easier with a lesson. Also, your instructor will take you to the best powder spots!

Before you head off powder hunting, you must be aware of the dangers. The backcountry has many hazards, including avalanches, crevasses, and tree wells. An instructor will teach you how to avoid these hazards, and you'll learn how to rescue someone buried under an avalanche.

Which Is Faster?

skiing vs snowboarding

As a skier or snowboarder, you'll naturally want to increase your speed as you progress. But which is faster, skiing or snowboarding?

The fastest speed a skier has ever been recorded at is 255kph, but the fastest snowboarder was clocked at 203kph. Even though both these speeds are incredible, the skier was significantly quicker.

Skiers are more aerodynamic than snowboarders, as they can get into a slippery position that cuts through the air. The reduced surface area of their skis has less friction on the snow than a snowboard, too, allowing the skier to go faster. Also, skiers have more control, as they use two edges at a time, while a snowboarder only has one.

With this in mind, if you had a skier and a snowboarder of similar abilities in a race, the skier would be faster on the straights and corners. But, if you're a beginner, speed is not your goal. You want to stay in control until you have the skills to let your skis or board run.

You can stop more quickly on a snowboard, as the shorter length allows you to get it sideways and dig the edge in easier. Also, you don't have poles that can get in the way if you need to stop in an emergency.

As a beginner skier or snowboarder, every run will feel fast. Therefore, you should just focus on what you're doing to have fun and stay in control. The only time you should be worried about who's faster is in a race.

What About The Danger Level?

It doesn't take a genius to work out that sliding down a mountain comes with its dangers. But the danger factor of skiing and snowboarding is one of the main things that makes them fun. Without an element of risk, they would be boring.

Most falls from skiing or snowboarding are not severe. In fact, you barely feel any kind of pain, and you are often distracted by the hilarity of the situation.

However, you can really hurt yourself skiing and snowboarding. But the common injuries are different.

Skiers have more control than snowboarders, as their skis work independently. But this leaves them vulnerable to knee injuries from twists. Also, your knees generally take more punishment when skiing than snowboarding.

Snowboarders tend to injure their upper bodies more. This is because their feet are strapped to the board. You can wrench your shoulder, get wrist injuries and broken arms when you're a beginner. It's also common for beginner snowboarders to injure their coccyx, as your tailbone is quite vulnerable.

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All these risks can be managed, though, and shouldn't put you off skiing or snowboarding. Everyone should wear a helmet, but beginner snowboarders can benefit from wrist guards and impact shorts to ensure they can continue riding.

Which Will Make Me Fitter?

Whether you become a skier or snowboarder, you will burn calories, even though both sports consist of sliding down a hill. They also work your lower body and core muscles while improving your flexibility.

Snowboarding is probably better for your flexibility due to how you move your body. The extra effort of learning how to snowboard will make a difference to your fitness. This is because you spend a lot of time pushing yourself up off the snow, which is excellent for burning calories and improving your core strength.

However, as you get better at skiing or snowboarding, they begin to feel easy as you'll use the correct techniques. The necessary muscles will also be stronger, so you don't have to work as hard unless you put lots of effort into progressing.

However, if you only get to the mountains once or twice a year, you won't find it as easy as someone who lives there. So don't be disheartened when you see a local making everything look effortless.

You can make your life easier by working out before your vacation. Start exercising six to eight weeks before your trip, working on lower body and core strength. The extra strength you build will go a long way to preventing injury, so you can maximize your mountain fun.

Do Skiers And Snowboarders Hate Each Other?

Skiing vs. snowboarding

In the early days of snowboarding, there was a bitter rivalry between skiers and snowboarders. This was mainly driven by old-school skiers refusing to accept snowboarding, creating prejudice against them.

Some ski resorts segregated snowboarders from skiers, and a few even banned them altogether.

Over the years, ski resorts began to realize that they were missing out on valuable revenue by not welcoming snowboarders. Apart from a couple of US resorts, they began to accept snowboarders and started to cater to their needs more, like building snowparks.

It's taken a while, but the bitterness between skiers and snowboarders has largely disappeared. Only a few small-minded people on both sides continue to bad-mouth each other. There's always the jokey side of us vs. them, but it's taken in good humor.

There's nothing to stop skiers and snowboarders from enjoying the mountains together. No matter what anyone says, you can have a mixed group of skiers and snowboarders. It's actually a lot of fun when you're in a mixed group, and the extra bonus for snowboarders is that a friendly skier can tow them on flat sections!

Final Thoughts

4 skiers on the slope

As you can see, there are a few differences between skiing and snowboarding, but they are not that different, really. Your choice is mainly based on your preference and your local terrain.

The main thing about skiing and snowboarding is that they are fun. Ultimately, it doesn't matter which one you do as long as you're safe, reasonably responsible, and enjoying yourself. 

Thomas Fortune

Tom is British and has been living in the French Alps since 2015, but he has visited many times while growing up. He's a passionate snowboarder and spends as much time on the mountain as possible, especially as he lives at the foot of the slopes.



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