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I’ll tell you right now, you’re asking the wrong question. Don’t worry I’m still going to help you, answer all your questions and concerns, and I steer you towards the right question so you can get the right answer. I got this a lot from people who are curious or interested at the sport so we’ll approach the entire thing from their perspective. Also I’m a snowboarder fyi. I’ll talk more about that since that’s what I know and don’t worry, none of the ski/snowboard beef here.
Why is the Question Wrong?
So to start, the question is wrong because no one should be telling you which one to do. I know what you’re trying to ask and the answer is purely preferential; aka, you pick what you like. One is NOT better than the other. I’ll discuss the difference and pros/cons below too don’t worry.
If you really want a find the absolute truth which one is best for you or if you’re extremely undecided then I suggest you try both then decide after. Not a lot of people have the luxury to do this (remember you have to do multiple tries to be even decent for each sport)
To oversimplify the selection process, you can rephrase this question as:
- Do you prefer to move sideways or face the direction of where you’re going?
- Are you comfortable with the idea both your feet bound in the same plank of wood or do you want to be able to move them independently?
- Do you have any inclination/interest to a similar sport? e.g.: skateboard to snowboard or roller blade/ice skates to ski? (Note I asked for inclination, not experience. You could be very experienced when it comes to skateboarding but your heart’s gearing towards skiing and has no desire for snowboarding)
Ok, So Which is More Fun?
Whether you ‘should ski or snowboard’, you will be able to enjoy the mountain equally as everybody else. You will have your own set of challenges, exhilaration, excitement, great times but all in all at the end of the day, skiers are happy, snowboarders are happy, everyone’s happy!
To your original question, “simply pick what you like”. Also, you can change your mind later anyways. You’re not bound to one decision. Eventually you can do both actually if you really wanted to!
“But Dan, there are obviously some differences”. Alright, alright. If you’re like me, you’d want facts anyways so you can make the best decision for yourself. Let’s get started:
What are the differences of Ski and Snowboard?
I’ll try to address the common concerns of people who are new or curious to either sport. If I miss anything, just ask in the comments.
I’ve found this guy online and he sums it up pretty well (the entire ski/snowboard community can agree on his points):
They have the same difficulty (ish). The difference is when you will encounter the said difficulties.
Skiing is easier to learn at first compared to snowboarding. If two beginners started at the same time, a skier will most likely be able to balance themselves asap and enjoy it for the rest of the day while the snowboarder will probably be on all fours most of the time, panting and drained after a couple of hours.
Some skiers take offence to this since it sounds like skiing is insignificant that it’s so easy to learn. That’s not what they’re trying to say. Just in terms of balance, it’s easier to balance and center yourself if you can move your legs separately. You fall less hence you have less perception of failure.
What I would add is the “natural movement” of things. It’s hard to learn snowboarding at first since to even begin, you have to learn how to balance yourself to go to any direction (or even stop). Apart from that, snowboarding is just unnatural and so it’ll take some time to get used to. Imagine your legs are stiff and still yet you’re moving…SIDEWAYS…and ACCELERATING. Trust me it’s like a roller coaster (in a fun and much slower way) to start.
Conversely some snowboarders are offended in the saying (again, most people on both sides will agree to this): “skiing is easier to learn, harder to master while snowboarding is harder to learn yet easy to master”. At first this got me too, but it kinda makes sense, at least on the mechanics of things. Let’s take braking/stop in skiing for example. When starting it is easy to pick up (pizza move) but as the difficulty / incline / speed rises, you have to stop using french fries / parallel (so now they have a new set of learning and mastering to do). Hehe, ask a skier what those mean. Those are all I heard during my bunny hill days so I don’t really know the proper names haha.
“PIIZZZAAAAA!!!!! PIZZAAA!!!!!”ski instructors to beginners
They’re both expensive (in relation to everyday expenses).
In snowboarding, there are three important parts: the snowboard (the wood that you see), your boots (yes there are specialized snowboard boots when snowboarding; you can’t just use any footwear), and the binding, the structure that “binds” your boots to the board.
Skiers have the same set (of course in their specific fashion/use/structure) with the addition of ski poles.
I’ve been up at the mountains for years and I still don’t know what the purpose of that is lol. Go ask a skier. Some say for turns or feel. I just know it’s useful when you’re on flat surfaces lol.
With skiing, you just snap yourself in at the beginning of the day then that’s it, you’re set to have fun the whole day without having to remove that.
Starting and Stopping
For snowboarders, it’s a little bit complicated. When I start snowboarding from the bottom of the mountain, I do my stretches and all and then after that I strap only one of my foot, my dominant/forward foot. The other foot is free and this is how snowboarders move on flat land (other than walking). I use the free foot to push me to a direction so I can glide.
Also when you’re starting you’ll probably be sitting down on the snow strapping yourself to your board (later on you learn how to do it standing up). When done, you’ll have to push/pull yourself up. Same when you’re stopped for prolonged periods. Sometimes you’ll decide to just sit down (which means you’ll have to push yourself up again).
Of course the fun starts when you’re at the top of the mountain heading down. Before I get there I have to use the chair lift. For skiers it’s easy to imagine how to just slide and walk there right? For snowboarders we have to glide there as described above and when we’re sitting, one side of the board is dangling since it’s not strapped to your foot. You can get to weird/uncomfortable positions sometimes and admittedly it’s not fun for others, even for other snowboarders LOL. Sometimes your board bump together and sometimes due to your stance and your seatmate’s, your boards are colliding at each other.
It doesn’t end there. We have to get off the chair lift remember? The top of the chair lift has a small slope to it so everybody just slides off from it.
Remember we’re only strapped with one foot? Now you have to point your board straight intentionally and somehow plant and lock your free foot on your slippery board so you have balance and slide off.
It takes some getting used to that’s why I suggested beginners shouldn’t use lifts at day 1. It’s hilarious when you’re starting this. We look like bowling pins falling lol.
Again, this is one of those ‘wrong’ questions. One is not safer than the other. It all depends on the person using them. A car is safer than a motorcycle but if you compare a safe motorcyclist to a person driving at high speeds, no seatbelt, intoxicated, and distracted, who’s really safer right?
Which is Cooler?
There are definitely a lot more differences between the two but this article only covers relevant information to start / learn either sport. I have intentionally skipped these (e.g.: ski boots are harder to walk on, and snowboarders have looser clothing–there’s a functional reason, not fashion). I think most people are ultimately concerned on the learning curve and risks. Again safety depends on the person and as I promote in my how to snowboard prep guide article, be safe, have fun, and learn from a legit instructor! Hope this article clarified and helped you answer the question of “Should I ski or snowboard?”