You’re finally going to do it. You’ve seen your friends’ photos and heard the stories, and now you want in on the action. But should you ski or should you snowboard? We’ve put together the pros and cons of each to help you get off to a great start!
Learning to Ski
Many people find the more traditional way of going down the mountain the easiest to pick up. You generally face where you’re going, and your feet and legs move independently of each other similar to how you get around the rest of the world. That makes it a little more intuitive for many beginners, and the ability to adjust your skis into a snowplough (or “pizza” slice) makes it easy for newcomers to control their speed.
On the other hand, skiing is harder on your legs. Your first day of snowplowing – and getting up – can have you feeling sore in places you didn’t know you had, even if you are in reasonably good shape.
Learning to Snowboard
The most fundamental difference between skiing and snowboarding is that your feet are on the same board, and you’re sideways. That can take longer to get the hang of unless you’ve spent time skateboarding or surfing. You’ll have to learn how to use your front and rear edges to make your turns and stop, and you’re not able to press your legs out into a wedge.
That means your legs may not get quite as tired as they would on skis. Your body’s core, on the other hand, will get a lot of work as you maneuver the board and work to stay in balance. So sore muscles will probably still come with the territory, just different ones!
The good news is, at the end of the day you’ll have an easier time getting around the lodge or to your ride.
There’s a steep learning curve from snowplowing your way down the bunny hill to being able to zip down groomers or dance your way down the bump runs. Managing your balance and using your edges to make the most of the ski’s design in helping you carve turns takes practice. Coordinating all of that with two poles can be a lot to keep track of as you progress in the sport. While skiing is generally believed to be easier to pick up, it takes a lot more work to get good.
Once you’ve got your front and rear edges figured out, your snowboard can take you almost anywhere on the mountain. And with one wide board ready to obey your body, it’s easier to get things back under control if you do happen to find yourself in over your head! This shorter journey from starting out to being able to enjoy a wider variety of runs is a particularly nice benefit of snowboarding.
On the Chairs
Skis don’t require you to release a binding to negotiate a lift line or ride a chair, so once you figure out how to unload you can go straight from the lift onto the run.
Snowboarders, on the other hand, have to undo a binding at the bottom, ride up and unload with only one foot attached to the board, and redo their binding before taking off.
T-bars and rope tows can be especially challenging for snowboarders, too.
On the Slopes
Skiers also have an easier time negotiating flat areas and traverses. Beginners can use your poles and shuffle your feet along almost like you’re walking. As you spend more time in the sport, you’ll learn to “skate” on your skis.
Snowboarders will need to undo a binding and hop/slide along, like a skateboarder heading down the sidewalk. This means that venturing into the backcountry is also generally easier for skiers.
Even though we don’t like to dwell on it, injuries do sometimes happen. Skis lend themselves to falling more gracefully if you have any say in the matter: you can often manage to land on a hip or your side. The downside is, if your wreck is gnarly enough, you can risk a knee injury. In fact, many people with a history of knee problems opt for snowboarding.
In snowboarding, when you fall it’s seldom onto your side. Ideally, you’ll go down on your backside and just wind up in a sitting position, perhaps with a sore tailbone, but if you catch your front edge, you’re going to fall face first. Most snowboarding injuries involve the wrists and arms from people trying to catch themselves.
Off the Slopes
One of the least enjoyable parts of skiing – even for those of us who love it – is the footwear. Walking from the parking lot in ski boots can be a chore, and since they’re relatively heavy carrying them isn’t always great, either – especially since you’ll also be carrying skis and poles. If the lodge has stairs, it might take you a while to get the hang of negotiating them. But don’t feel bad – we’ve all been there.
Snowboard boots aren’t as cumbersome. They’re closer to normal winter boots, and allow a more natural walking motion when you’re not on your board. That means, when you stop for lunch or hit the après scene, getting around will be a lot easier than it will be for your friends who ski. The same goes for the trip to and from the parking lot, too – and of course, you’ll only have to carry the one board!
You Win Either Way
Despite the occasional “tribalism” between skiers and snowboarders (and the fact that three U.S. resorts still don’t allow snowboarding), almost all of us agree that getting up on the slopes is better than staying at home, regardless of how you make your way down. Hopefully, we’ve given you some things to think about in making your decision, and – as we said – you can always try both. The important thing is to get out there and get after it!