The SoloTravel Guide

Skiing versus SnowboardingDeciding which discipline is right for you

A Q&A with Phil Teare from The Ski Gathering

Skiing versus Snowboarding is a classic debate, and usually a pretty predictable one. Ask a skier, and they'll tell you skiing rules. Ask a boarder... well, you can probably guess. It can be hard to get neutral, well-informed advice, with evangelists from both camps passionately insisting that their chosen sport is by far the superior. So I should begin by laying out my cards.

I've skied and snowboarded in countless resorts over more years than I care to remember. I am one of the few people who do both to a pretty similar level. Most people who can do both are really experts at one and do a bit of the other. But in my case I have little personal preference or ability difference. So, perhaps for the first time ever, the unbiased guide to the ski vs snowboard question!

Skier performs a parallel turn
Single snowboarder making a smooth descent

What can you actually do on skis / a snowboard?

These days you can do everything on a set of skis or on a snowboard. There are no long-term limitations either way: on-piste, off-piste, the big tricks and jumps you see in the snow park... everything is possible no matter which option you choose. These are all long-term factors, of course: on your first holiday none of these will really be a consideration.

What about the "cool" factor?

For the fashion conscious amongst you there, really is no bias these days. An outsider's view might think that snowboarding is the "cooler" option. But to be honest that applied to the late 1990s, and the added cool factor of snowboarding is something that kind of been and gone. These things go in fashions.

So, for the fashionistas out there, if you want to bring style to the slopes, you can do whether you pick skiing or snowboarding!

solo snowboarding on holiday solo snowboarding on holiday

To boil it right down, we might say that skiing is easier to learn, but harder to master.

Which is easier to learn, skiing or snowboarding?

Your first week on snow

Skiing: Learning to ski, your first week is usually a lot of fun. Many people pick it up quite quickly and take to it well. On the first day you'll be doing your first turns on the beginner slopes. By the end of the first week you may progress to a variety of main ski slopes (graded "blue").

Snowboarding: Your first week of snowboarding is a little different. The first 2 or 3 days involve falling over, a lot. It feels like nothing is going in, as you take tumble after tumble. Do not despair though, there is light at the end of the tunnel! For most people after a couple of days it "clicks", and they suddenly start to make real progress.

It can well be worth getting some padding for your first snowboarding week. Myself, even after many years, I still use protective shorts with pads across the back and sides. Kneepads are also available.

Conclusions about Week One: If you only have one week and you really want to get the most out of it then perhaps skiing could be a good choice. By the end of the week you should be able to go off exploring and get your way around the resort. The first week of a snowboarding holiday is a bit more of an investment. For many, it's a case of getting your skills down so that next time you can really start exploring and enjoying yourself.

Mastering Skiing or Snowboarding

Skiing is a very technical sport, and all of us spend our time trying to continually improve and master the perfect turns. Snowboarding is a much easier sport to master. A great example of the conversion to offpiste.*

For a snowboarder the conversion to off piste is quite easy. A few small changes to your technique and you are away. For a skier though the difference is huge. It feels like being a complete beginner again; like everything you've learnt on piste is entirely useless as soon as you dip a ski into the deep powdery snow!

* On piste? Off piste? Huh?

On piste skiing / snowboarding means going on the main ski pistes. These are compressed snow, flat and firm. Think of a road covered in snow after a whole load of vehicles have driven up and down and squished the snow flat. Off piste means skiing through the untouched snow. The technique required is a bit different to skiing or snowboarding on piste.

Disclaimer alert: Off piste on skis or a snowboard is dangerous and you should only go with a qualified mountain guide! Even that little bit of powdery snow not too far off the edge of the piste can avalanche.

The Comfy Factor

Here snowboarding wins hands down. Ski boots are perhaps the least comfortable footwear you'll ever try on, and walking around the town and them is quite an unpleasant experience. On the flipside snowboard boots are soft, much more comfortable, and far easier to walk in, along with the fact that you have only the snowboard to carry.

Fitness

Once you're up and going to fitness required is pretty similar. For a complete beginner, though, snowboarding can be a little bit tougher. This is mostly because you'll spend a lot of time falling over and getting up again. Although skiing will still give you stiff and aching legs, it could be a good first choice if you're concerned about fitness.

Any questions, about anything at all?

Just ask! We are always only too happy to help, so what you would like to ask please do just get in touch.

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