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 can do both to a pretty similar level, and I spend about 50% of my time on each. 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!
This one's an easy answer. Skiing is easier to learn, but harder to master where as snowboarding is a little harder to learn but you can master it more quickly. Lets take a look at how this breaks down:
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 be already happy on some of the main ski slopes and get get yourself around your ski area quiet well as long as you avoid the steeper slopes.
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. It's also exhausting, mostly because of having to pick yourself up every few minutes. 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. By the end of the week you may be able to get down some of the easier of the main slopes of your ski resort on your own, even if you still take the odd fall.
Quick Tip - 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, back protector, wrist guards and of course a helmet. Some beginners also swear by kneepads, though myself I've never used any myself (for some unknown reason all my big falls have always over back-wards).
If you only have one week and you really want to get the most enjoyment 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, and enjoy yourself in the process. 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. Week one of snowboarding may be an investment, but week 2 of snowboarding is great fun.
I'm giving this one to the "plank riders" - Snowboarding is easier to master!
Week one of snowboarding is tough. But once it clicks and you are linking turns, then you are good to go. The transitions to steeper slopes and to off piste flow more easily. Skiing however is a very technical sport. Even after all these years I'm still striving for the perfect turn. Getting the right pressure on the right part of your foot, getting the ankle roll just timed perfectly, there's always something to improve on.
Quick Tip for your more advanced skiers - the odd lesson here and there is well worth considering. With all the little technical aspects to skiing well, it's very easy for bad habits to creep in (so the pot is saying to the kettle here!) Myself I've found the odd lesson not only very enjoyable, but also very useful as well as giving me some fun new challenges to work on whilst I'm skiing on my own.
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, speeding down slopes... 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.
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 flip-side Snowboarding is definitely more comfortable. The boots are soft, much more comfortable, and far easier to walk in, along with the fact that you have only the snowboard to carry.
Its easier to use skis on a ski lift, most definitely!
There are lots of different types of ski lifts - Chair lifts, cable cars, bubble lifts, drag lifts, the magic carpet to name the more common ones. For some types there's no difference at all. The two where there is a difference though are chairlifts and drag-lifts.
Chair lifts are much easier on skis. You can just ski to the line and it scoops you up, before skiing off again at the top. On a snowboard, it's a different story. Getting on is easy enough, it's getting off that's the challenge! You have you take your back foot out of the binding use a chairlift (and drag-lift too for that matter). Snowboarding with only the front foot in it's binding is a very difficult skill.
Then you have drag lifts, the snowboarder's nemesis. Button lifts and T-bar lifts (the main types of drag lifts) were not really designed with snowboarding in mind, and a drag lift with a vicious pull at the start can be hugely difficult on a snowboard. Indeed, I've been at the bottom of valleys with quite competent snowboarders who have taken four or five goes to manage the takeoff from a particularly difficult button lift!
To use a chairlift or drag lift, a snowboarder has to take their back foot out of it's binding and just place it on the board. With only the front foot clipped in, a snowboarder has a much reduced ability to steer. Without the full ability to steer the lumps and bumps on the snow can often knock you in the wrong direction, push you into other people, or even knock you over.
Snowboarding is a lot easier. For some people going off piste is the holy grail of snow sports holidays. People generally tend to be pretty good on piste before venturing off into the powdery wonderland.
On skis, that transition can be a bit of a shock. If feels like a completely different sport. All the technique you've been working on for ages on piste, well, none of it seems to work at all in powder snow. It's like going back to be being a beginner, except every time you fall over it takes 5 minutes of digging to get your skis out then wrestle them back on to your boots.
On a snowboard the technique is far more similar to that of on-piste snowboarding, and most people find the transition much quicker and easier to learn. It's enjoyable almost from the first run, whereas off-piste skiing can be a bit of an investment before you get to the enjoyable stage. Snowboarding wins again here.
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 different to skiing or snowboarding on piste. For anyone interested you may want to join one of our "Introduction To Off Piste Course" weeks.
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.
Skiing is way more popular, by quite a margin!
In the French Alps, where I spend a lot of my mountain time, skiing is far more popular. In other parts of the world you'll see more snowboarders, North America notably, but I've not been anywhere where snowboarding has reached parity with skiing in terms of popularity.
For the fashion conscious amongst you there, really is no huge 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.
Now I'm not here to sit on the fence so I'll give this one to skiing, but only by a nose. If you watch the films of people doing crazy big tricks or off-pisting near vertical faces in Alaska, you'll see more skis than snowboards these days. Skis wins this one, just....
That said though, for the fashionistas out there who want to bring style to the slopes, you can really pick either skiing or snowboarding!
I'd say skiing is the best bet if you're concerned about fitness.
Once you're up and going the fitness required is pretty similar. If you are feeling aggressive and pushing yourself, you can burn some serious calories on either disciple. For a beginner, though, snowboarding can be tougher. This is mostly because you'll spend a lot of time falling over and getting up again and so snowboarding burns more calories!
Then there's the flat bits. Although being 2000m or more up an alpine mountain, there are still some flat bits. On skis you can gently push yourself along, but on a snowboard you have take it off and walk. The chairlifts are similar to - your can ski right on and sit down, whereas on a snowboard you have to take your back foot out, then clip in again at the top.
Although skiing will still give you stiff and aching legs, it could be a good first choice if you're concerned about fitness. The only caveat to this is skiing can be harder on the knees especially in a fall where the bindings of your skis fail to release. Because the legs are binded together on snowboards there tends to be fewer knee injuries.
There is no difference between the price of skiing vs snowboarding. In both cases you need the same lift pass and the lessons cost the same. The only potential difference is the equipment hire and there is very little price difference there.
Yes.they can. It seems like a funny question, but one you do hear. The answers is yes, absolutely.
Skiers and snowboarders do the same thing, and all can go in one big happy group together. Yes you do see parties that will split into two, where each camp goes out separately. There's no technical reason for this at all though, unless they want to do is talk about their gear the whole way up the lift I suppose...
It depends on your children's age.
You can start to learn skiing much earlier. The first lessons in the snow garden start from age 3. Really though for 3 and 4 yr olds it's more just playing with skis on. Age 5 upwards they start learning properly.
For snowboarding really you are talking 8 yrs or above.
If your child is old enough then both are great fun. You will, however, find skiing is a lot more popular and so there might be a much better range of skiing lessons available for your child, with more children to learn with.
I couldn't write an article like this and dodge this question entirely so here we go. It's entirely subjective, that's the honest answer. Both are wonderful, challenging, exciting, tiring, frustrating.... For me personally, it depends on what I'm doing, who I'm with and how I'm feeling.
For flying down the perfectly groomed pistes and clocking up the miles, I'll pick my skis every time. Going fast on a snowboard is, well, mostly just lots of concentration, whereas carving down wide slopes on skis is just magic.
If I'm going with a slower group, or wanting to hit every lump and bump on the piste, then it's the snowboard every time. You can spend twice as long on a piste, finding every jump, and that free and creative feeling of snowboarding is unrivalled when exploring all the varied terrain.
On a lazy day, then it's back to the skis. All that clipping in and out on a snowboard, walking the flats, that's no fun if I'm in gentle cruise around mode. Then for off piste - steep and technical is an exhilarating challenge on skis, yet a big open powder field on a snowboard, just lean back an inch and let it float...
Yes yes I know, I've kind of dodged giving an definitive answer. For me, it really can be either.
Last Updated: 11 March 2019 by Phil Teare
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