So you like the idea of winter sports but are still deciding whether to be a skier or snowboarder. The pros and cons of skiing vs. snowboarding may influence your decision, so it’s worth being up to speed on what’s good and bad about both.
There are pros and cons to skiing and snowboarding, so if you’re new to winter sports, it can be tricky to decide which one to do. The main differences lie in the equipment and the stance. Skiers tend to go faster and have easy access to more terrain, but snowboarders have a more relaxed style.
I have had quite a lot of experience in skiing and snowboarding over the years. So in this article, I’ll go through the pros and cons of skiing and snowboarding to help you decide which one to take up or settle arguments in the bar.
Snowboarding vs Skiing – Pros and Cons Included
1. Snowboarding Is Harder To Learn
There’s always a conversation going on about which is easier to do, but the truth is that snowboarding is harder to learn.
It may not be pretty, but you’ll find it much easier to get around on the mountain in the early days of skiing.
This is because the forward-facing skiing stance is more natural than the sideways snowboarding stance. Skiers also have poles that they can use to stop themselves from falling over.
Therefore, they can link turns as early as their first day and begin to explore the mountain within a couple of days. In contrast, the first few days of snowboarding can be the most painful of your life.
You spend most of your time picking yourself off the snow as you constantly fall while finding your balance and getting used to the feel of your feet not being able to move independently.
2. Snowboarding Is Easier To Master
After a few days of snowboarding, something clicks. You’ll be able to link turns and even perform a few basic flatland tricks.
This is when standing sideways starts to feel more natural, and the fact that your feet are strapped to the board is no longer a problem.
Once you get over the initial struggles of learning to snowboard, you’ll be surprised how quickly you start progressing. It won’t take long before you can hit jumps and ride powder.
If you have a background in skating, surfing, or wakeboarding, the learning process is much easier. I used to know a surfing instructor who had never snowboarded.
But he looked like a pro within a couple of days. Skiers, on the other hand, have a poor time when it comes to progression.
To become a great skier, you must commit to lots of practice and pay attention to everything you do, which takes time.
This is why you see people on the slope who have been skiing for years with poor technique. It takes more than a week a year to master skiing.
You’ll benefit from lessons regardless of your level as a skier or snowboarder. An instructor will teach you the correct techniques and help you avoid bad habits.
3. Ski Lifts Are Easier On Skis
Ski lifts were invented before snowboarding, and their designs haven’t changed much over the years.
As a snowboarder going back to skis for a day a couple of years ago, I was surprised by how easy it was to get on and off a chairlift and how comfortable a T-bar is.
As a skier getting on and off a chairlift, all you need to do is sit down and stand up at the right time. But snowboarders must unstrap their back foot and sit awkwardly on the lift.
When they get to the top, they have to ride one-footed, which can be tricky on steep unloading ramps, especially if it’s icy.
If you’re considering becoming a snowboarder, don’t be put off by ski lifts. They can be tricky, but after a while, you can get on and off them without falling over or making a fool of yourself.
Riding with one foot is never as easy as with both feet strapped in, but it is better for ski lifts. You will feel discomfort on long drag lifts, but you need to forget about it and think about the ride back down.
4. Snowboarding Is More Comfortable
Take a look around a ski resort and compare how skiers and snowboarders walk around. You’ll quickly realize that snowboarders have it much better.
Rather than clunky, hard plastic boots, most snowboarders ride with soft boots, which are more comfortable and easier to walk in.
Also, skiers have to carry their skis and poles, which are more awkward than putting a snowboard under your arm.
5. Skiing Is More Convenient On The Mountain
Depending on your perspective, skiing is more convenient when you’re on the slopes. By this, I mean that once you’re clipped into your skis, you stay like this until lunchtime.
Snowboarders must constantly unstrap their back feet whenever they get to a ski lift or long flat section.
This can annoy skiers, as they have to wait for the snowboarders in the group to get ready to ride, as they can instantly go when they get off the lift.
However, experienced snowboarders are pretty quick at strapping in. They are even faster if they don’t have to sit down to do their bindings up.
6. It’s Easier To Get Around On Skis
Skiers have no problem accessing the different types of terrain. They can skate and use their poles to get anywhere they need to be.
Snowboarders can struggle to get around, depending on the lie of the land. For example, when they approach a long flat section, they need all the speed they can get to get over it.
If they lose their momentum, they will have to unstrap their back foot to scoot along or take their snowboard off completely and walk.
Both skiers and snowboarders can hike for powder lines in the sidecountry. But it’s easier for a snowboarder, as their boots are more comfortable and they have less to carry.
Historically, snowboarders had to boot pack or use snowshoes to access backcountry terrain, while skiers could use special touring equipment. However, snowboarders can join in the fun thanks to splitboards.
Even though snowboarders can now access pretty much anywhere skiers can, it takes more effort. Therefore, you should consider the local geography of your regular ski resort.
If the ski area is low altitude and has many slopes with gentle gradients and flat sections, you may be better off being a skier.
On the other hand, if you go somewhere with steady gradients and not many flat areas, you can have fun on either skis or a snowboard.
7. Snowboards Are Better In Powder
Skiing or snowboarding in powder is an incredible experience. Once you’ve had a good powder day, you’ll want more, no matter how many planks you ride.
The first time you ski powder is incredibly challenging, and you must significantly alter your technique to cope with the depth and consistency of the snow.
Skiing in powder is very different from the groomed slopes, and it will cause lots of frustration as it is ridiculously hard to get back on your feet after a fall.
It is common for skis to come off while you’re getting to grips with powder, and they are hard to find, adding to frustration and exhaustion.
That’s not to say your first day in powder on a snowboard is a breeze; it can also be frustrating, but riding powder on a snowboard doesn’t require you to adapt your technique as much.
The critical things to riding powder on a snowboard are to keep your speed up and not to hesitate. The faster you ride, the more float you have, keeping the nose of the board out of the snow.
It also makes your turns much easier and more rewarding. It often helps to shift your weight backward to sink the tail and lift the nose.
To become a good powder skier, you must put in lots of time. This is also the case for a snowboarder, but it is less of a commitment.
The problem with becoming good in powder is that you rely on the weather. So if you only get away a week or two every winter, you have to be very lucky to get powder days during your trip.
If you have the skills for riding powder, you also need the skills to stay safe. Always head into the backcountry with the proper safety equipment and the knowledge of how to use it.
8. Skiing Is Faster
As skiers and snowboarders get better and more experienced, they start to go much faster.
Some people debate which sport is faster, but there’s no contest, as skiers are capable of reaching much faster speeds than snowboarders.
The world record for the fastest speed on skis is 158.4 mph (255kph), while the quickest snowboarder reached 126mph (203kph).
There’s no doubt that both these speeds are fast, but the skier is light-years ahead. The higher speed of a skier comes down to their more aerodynamic stance.
They go into the “tuck” position, which causes less wind resistance. Skis also have a smaller surface area than a snowboard; therefore, they experience less friction. In addition to all this, skiers have more control.
They can use two edges at a time, locking the skis into position. Whereas a snowboard can only use one edge at a time, they often have to go from one edge to the other to stay in control, slowing them down.
So, if you pitched a skier and a snowboarder with similar skills and experience against each other, the skier would win the race. But, in real-world situations, it doesn’t really matter who’s the fastest.
Speed is not your priority when learning how to ski or snowboard. You want to stay in control and have fun, not lose control and scare yourself.
Wait until your skills have progressed before you let your board or skis run a little more between turns.
9. You Can Stop Quicker On A Snowboard
As snowboards are shorter than skis, you can stop much more quickly. This is because it is easier to turn the board sideways to jam an edge into the snow.
In addition to this, snowboarders don’t have to worry about ski poles getting in the way when they make an emergency stop.
10. Skiing Is Worse For Your Knees
The nature of skiing means that skiers can move their skis independently of each other, giving them more control than snowboarders but also making them susceptible to knee injuries.
It is common for skiers to twist their knees when they ski in slushy conditions, have a bad fall, or make a silly mistake. It makes me cringe when I think of all the leverage a skier’s knee can experience in a twist.
On top of this, skiers’ knees take more punishment in general than a snowboarder’s.
11. Snowboarding Is Worse For Upper Body Injuries
As snowboarders’ feet are strapped to the board, they are reasonably safe from knee and leg injuries. Most snowboarding knee injuries come from impacts with ice, rocks, or features in the park.
Another common lower-body injury for a snowboarder is a bruised or broken coccyx. This is especially the case for beginner snowboarders trying to find their balance.
However, snowboarders are more vulnerable to upper-body injuries. For example, it can be pretty easy to wrench a shoulder or break an arm while learning or being over-ambitious.
Whether you want to be a skier or a snowboarder, injuries should not put you off.
You can manage the risk of injury by wearing the appropriate protection, such as helmets, wrist guards, and impact shorts. Also, you can avoid injury by taking your time and not running before you can walk.
You also must remember that not all falls are severe enough to cause injury. In fact, most falls don’t involve any pain at all and can be pretty funny for you and anyone else watching.
12. Rivalry Between Skiers And Snowboarders
This isn’t really a pro or con but more of an observation. When snowboarding became more popular, it wasn’t well-received by older skiers, causing a bit of rivalry.
It got to a point where some ski resorts wouldn’t allow snowboarders in.
However, it took resorts only a short time to realize they were missing out on valuable revenue, so most of them lifted the snowboarder ban.
Over the years, I’ve seen this rivalry dissolve. There are only a few small-minded skiers and snowboarders that keep it alive. You will hear jokey comments, but they are all lighthearted and taken in good humor.
Skiers and snowboarders can enjoy the mountain together. I personally love going out in mixed groups, especially when I get to a flat section and a skier can pull me along.
The pros and cons of snowboarding vs. skiing aren’t dramatic enough to make that much of a difference to your choice of winter sport, as there is fun to be had in both sports.
Ok, you may choose skiing if your local mountain has shallow gradients and flat sections, but it’s mainly down to personal preference. Whichever you choose, have fun and be safe.