A common dilemma for people new to snow sports is whether to ski or snowboard.
It is a tough question to answer, as they are both exciting and unlock potential for incredible adventures and experiences.
In this post, we will investigate the different aspects of skiing and snowboarding regarding how easy they are. By the end of this blog, you will have a better idea of which one is for you.
- Which Is Easier To Learn?
- What About When You Get The Basics?
- How Do They Compare When Getting On Ski Lifts?
- Is It Easier To Ski Or Snowboard In Bad Conditions?
- Which Is Easier In Powder?
- Are Freestyle Tricks Easier On A Snowboard?
- Which Is Easier To Go Fast?
- Which Is Easier To Live With?
- Final Thoughts
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A common phrase is used in the snowsports world, “skiing is easier to learn but more challenging to master, and snowboarding is easy to master, but more difficult to learn.”
There are always exceptions to the rule, but this phrase is generally true.
When you learn to ski, your technique can be broken down into sections to simplify it. However, to become very proficient at skiing, you need to perfect each section and learn the technicalities of the sport.
When you start snowboarding, you need to get used to using both heel and toe edges (as you stand sideways on the board). Edge control on a snowboard is the most challenging part in the early days.
To learn edge control, an instructor will introduce you to the “falling leaf” maneuver. By staying on one edge, you apply pressure to either foot to slide left and right as you make your way down the hill like a leaf falling from a tree.
Once you can control your edges, you will have nailed the fundamental part of snowboarding. From this point, you will be surprised at how quickly you will progress, especially if you have lots of confidence.
There are a couple of reasons why skiing is easier to pick up in the beginning than snowboarding.
The first reason is separation. When you are skiing, your legs are separated, so you can adjust the position of each ski to maintain your balance.
But, on a snowboard, both of your feet are attached to the same board. This sensation can feel awkward and prohibitive at first, which takes some getting used to.
As a beginner snowboarder, when you lose balance, it is much more difficult to correct yourself. Therefore, you will fall and spend quite a lot of time rolling around in the snow.
The other reason skiing is easier to learn is the difference in body position. On skis, you stand facing forwards, which is more natural, but it also allows you to see where you are going at all times.
The sideways stance as a snowboarder means your peripheral vision is reduced. You will find it challenging to see behind you, which also takes time to get used to.
Snowboarders often find heelside turns easier to perform technically. But, the fact that they cannot see behind them makes them a little daunting at times, especially when the slopes are busy.
As a novice snowboarder who has managed to deal with edge control and body position, you will start to progress pretty quickly. This often takes about three days of hard work and falls, but it is worth putting in the effort.
You will also overcome the awkwardness of having your feet attached to the snowboard. Once you do, it will feel like second nature, and you will learn the basics of turning your snowboard.
When you get better at turning and can link turns competently, it is time to speed up and leave the green runs.
Another phrase commonly used in snowboarding is “speed is your friend.” The term is accurate, as going faster makes turning much easier, as there is less contact between your board and the snow, reducing resistance.
Refining your turns and increasing speed leads you to ride more challenging slopes, the snowpark, and powder. But before you do this, you need to learn how to carve, which is one of the best parts of snowboarding.
After the first few days of skiing, you will find that your progress is much slower than it would be on a snowboard.
Having a ski on each foot is a benefit in the early days. However, moving the skis simultaneously and with symmetry becomes more challenging and takes time to master as your speed increases.
As a beginner skier, you will begin with the “snowplow.” This maneuver sees the tips of your skis close together and their tails wide apart.
The snowplow brings your speed down and allows you to turn and stay in control. But, you shouldn’t spend too long in this easy skiing position, as it can lead to bad habits and it tires your legs out quickly.
After snowplowing, you need to move on to keeping your skis parallel to each other. You can do this on nursery slopes until you get used to the higher speeds and performing parallel turns.
Keeping skis in control at this point is challenging. The most complex parts are keeping the skis apart, stopping them from crossing, and moving them in unison.
Beginner skiers don’t usually progress as fast as beginner snowboarders. If you can move beyond snowplow turns by the end of your first week, you are doing well.
As you get better and move on to blue and red slopes, you will discover that the sport will continue to challenge you as a skier. You will need to continuously work on your technical skills in order to improve them, which takes many years.
By putting in the hard work, you will be rewarded with new skills and enjoy more experiences on the mountain.
Skiing has been around a lot longer than snowboarding. Therefore, the infrastructure of ski resorts is generally more biased to favor skiers.
You can see the difference when it comes to ski lifts. Drag lifts where you put a bar or button between your legs are much easier on skis.
On a snowboard, drag lifts take a bit of getting used to and are not as comfortable to use. Some snowboarders avoid them like the plague, but drag lifts become less of a chore with practice.
The sideways stance is tricky at first, but you soon get used to it, so don’t be put off. If you avoid drag lifts, you can miss out on some excellent slopes and limit where you can go.
It is much easier to use a chairlift as a skier too. You simply sit down as the chair comes around behind you and stand up to ski away at the top.
Riding a chairlift as a snowboarder requires you to unstrap your back foot from your board. Therefore, you need to be able to ride with just one foot strapped in to get off the lift, which is pretty daunting to start off with.
When the runoff at the top of a chairlift is steep or icy, snowboarders can find them tricky. But, this is something you just need to deal with.
The mountains throw all sorts of different weather conditions at us as skiers and snowboarders. Alpine weather often changes quickly and can go from one extreme to the other.
The diverse weather conditions dramatically impact the snow quality. For example, rain can make snow slushy in warmer temperatures or icy when it is exceptionally cold.
Whichever sport you choose, you will need to learn how to adapt your technique to suit the conditions. But skis and snowboards can behave differently in different conditions.
Snowboarders tend to love riding in slush, whereas skiers are not generally fans of it. Slush behaves a little bit like water when you turn through it, which feels great on a snowboard.
However, skiers find slush more challenging, as it is very easy to catch an edge. It is very common for skiers to suffer from knee injuries during springtime as the slushy snow grabs at their skis, causing twists and sprains.
However, in icy conditions, snowboarders struggle more to stay in control. While turning, a snowboarder only uses one edge, which can lose traction on ice, causing them to slide out.
Skiers use two edges while turning, one on each ski. Therefore, they have double the security and control, which is advantageous when the surface is slippy.
As the weather can change a lot during your time in the mountains, you need to be prepared. Make sure you wear the appropriate clothing and not be tempted to ski in jeans.
Riding powder is often the ultimate goal for both skiers and snowboarders. It provides an unrivaled feeling of freedom and a sensation of flying.
Both skiers and snowboarders need to adapt their techniques to ride powder. This is because the deep snow behaves differently from the groomed snow you get on the resort’s slopes.
However, a snowboarder will find the transition to powder much easier than a skier. Snowboarders need to increase their speed to keep on top of the snow, keep the board’s nose up by shifting their weight back slightly, and commit more when turning.
Riding powder on a snowboard is much closer to the on-piste techniques than on skis. Skiing powder is almost like learning a whole new sport.
The tricky thing about skiing in powder is that deep snow is very hard to get through, so you need to keep your speed up. This is a similar case with a snowboard, but the extra width of the board gives you more float.
It is very difficult to get back on your feet if you wipe out on either a snowboard or skis in powder. You will use lots of energy just trying to stand up, which is more challenging with a heavy backpack.
However, snowboarders don’t tend to lose their equipment as skiers do. For example, during a dramatic fall, skis pop off, and poles get dropped, which are difficult to find when they get buried in deep snow. Often people don’t get their stuff back until the snow has melted at the end of the season.
When it comes to accessing the backcountry to look for powder, it is much easier on skis. Skiers can fit their skis with touring bindings and skins to hike into the mountains.
Snowboarders can access the backcountry with snowshoes and poles. But this means they have more stuff to carry on their backpack, and the extra weight makes hiking harder work.
Another advantage skiers have over snowboarders is when it comes to flat ground. A skier can push themselves along with their poles, while a snowboarder will need to hike out in waist-deep snow, which zaps energy and takes a long time.
The best way for a snowboarder to enter the backcountry under their own steam is with a splitboard. Splitboards divide into two skis, and you turn the bindings to face forwards.
Splitboards allow you to hike into the backcountry in the same way as touring skis. Once you get to the top of the mountain, you re-build your splitboard to enjoy the ride down.
Using a splitboard rather than carrying a regular snowboard on your back with snowshoes makes the hike much quicker and comfortable. When the board is on your back, you have lots of weight high up, which makes hiking more difficult.
A splitboard puts much of the weight low down and spreads it over a larger surface area. This makes your hiking faster and more efficient, so you have plenty of energy for the ride back down.
Historically, freestyle tricks are what people picture when somebody mentions snowboarding. The sport gave birth to snowparks and worldwide freestyle competitions that inspired a whole generation of riders.
However, ski brands took characteristics of freestyle snowboards and integrated them into their skis. This unlocked the potential for a whole new discipline of skiing.
Many freestyle skiing tricks come from snowboarding, but they are often enhanced. The extra speed skis increase the height and technical aspects of the jumps.
Landing from great heights on two planks and facing forwards is much more stable than standing sideways on one plank. Therefore, freestyle skiing is more forgiving than freestyle snowboarding.
Generally speaking, skiing is much faster than snowboarding. There are a couple of reasons for this extra speed.
The first reason is that the posture you have when skiing is more aerodynamic. This is especially the case when in a tuck, as you cut through the air more efficiently, allowing you to build up a greater straight-line speed.
Skis are often longer than snowboards, so your weight is spread out over a larger surface area. Therefore, skiers get more speed and control.
These reasons are more prevalent during a ski race, but when you translate them into a real-world scenario, things are much different.
The speed of a skier or snowboarder you see in a ski resort really depends on the individual. Even though skiers have the physics behind them to go faster, you will notice that snowboarders are often the ones charging harder.
Which of the sports is easier to live with depends on your perspective. Some skiers say that they can’t be bothered to snowboard because it looks like a pain to live with. This is also a comment snowboarders have about skiing; let’s look at both sides.
A skier has to carry poles and skis while walking around in big, clunky boots in a ski resort. It can be tricky, especially if you have kids with you and need to carry their stuff too.
A snowboarder wears very comfortable snowboard boots and only needs to carry their snowboard under their arm. This is much more convenient and less stressful.
However, when a skier is on the mountain, they clip into their skis, and they stay like that all day. Staying clipped into your skis is much more convenient on the mountain.
Skiers can get on lifts and skate to different parts of the mountain with ease and speed. But things are not so easy for snowboarders.
As snowboarders have their feet strapped to their board, they need to constantly unstrap their back foot. Unstrapping their back foot allows them to skate along and get on the lifts.
Having to strap in and unstrap your foot all the time is inconvenient. Skiers in your group will have to wait for you to get ready at the top of every ski lift.
To get faster at strapping into your binding, you need to learn how to do it while standing up. Sitting down to strap in is considered to be uncool and a waste of time. Also, the ratchet straps on modern bindings are pretty quick to get in and out of.
When you get to a flat section as a snowboarder, you will need to skate until you get to a steep enough gradient to get moving again. However, if you have a friendly skier in your group, they may be able to pull you along.
How easy skiing or snowboarding is shouldn’t be the reason to choose between them. If you are genuinely stuck on which one to choose, you need to think about what you want to get out of your chosen winter sport.
Do you want to get into the backcountry or start doing tricks as soon as possible? If so, choose snowboarding. Or do you want to get around the slopes with confidence in your first few days? If this is the case, become a skier.
As you can see, there are compromises involved in both sports. But, once you get proficient at either, many of the compromises become less problematic.
Most of the negatives with each sport are often resolved with more speed, commitment, and experience.
If you are lucky enough to spend lots of time in the mountains, you may be able to learn how to do both. In this case, you can pick and choose which you do to suit the conditions or the people you go out with.
Another factor that affects people’s choices is their sporting background. For example, suppose you are a surfer, skateboarder, or wakeboarder. In that case, you will probably gravitate towards snowboarding due to the sideways stance and other similarities.
If you are a water skier or ice skater, you may feel that you will be able to pick up snow skiing easier.
At the end of the day, which one you choose will be down to personal preference. But, to get the most out of either sport, you need to book lessons.
An instructor will give you all the best advice on techniques and prevent you from getting into bad habits. Think of an instructor as an experienced friend who will coach you through each aspect of skiing or snowboarding.
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