I’ve been skiing for about 20 years so I consider myself a pretty decent skier. I usually eat blue slopes for breakfast and occasionally shred some black diamonds with moguls. So when our 10-year-old son begged us to take him snowboarding this year, I figured it would be an easy transition.
Boy, was I wrong!
The first thing you need to know is that snowboarding and skiing are two totally different things. The muscles are different. The technique is different. About the only similarity is that you’re sliding down a snow-covered mountain. Where skiing is about coordination and rhythm, snowboarding is all balance and footwork. Snowboarding is to skiing what rugby is to touch football.
And here’s the proof, a quick video of our first snowboarding trip…
So if you’re an experienced skier interested in making the leap to a board, let me break it down for you…
Boots: Ski boots are extremely rigid, hard plastic shoes that transfer every subtle movement to the ski. Snowboard boots are more flexible shoes that lace up like heavy duty mountain hiking boots. Ski boots are storm troopers to snowboard boots’ Michelin man. Advantage: Snowboarding.
Bindings: Skis are designed to have your boots snap into place, and release when you twist or fall. Snowboards require your feet to be strapped in without releasing upon wipeouts. It’s a somewhat awkward movement to have your lead foot strapped in while your back foot is loose. This is necessary when getting on and off the lifts and for moving along flat landings. In addition, on skis, you exit the chair lift and immediately start down the hill. Snowboarding requires you to literally sit on the snow to strap your other foot to the board after the lift. Every time. Advantage: Skiing.
Boards/Skis: Obviously skiing uses two skis and two poles, which makes carrying and walking in those boots really challenging. Skis are also heavier than snowboards. Carrying a snowboard is easily done by holding the flat side next to your body and grabbing the board right under the top binding. Advantage: Snowboarding.
Downhill: The act of skiing involves basically aiming your feet in parallel, and turning in in a big ‘S’ pattern. As you get more advanced you can point straight down and grab your edges into the snow to slow down. It’s closer to standing and leaning, while you traverse the mountain. Because both feet are on a single board in snowboarding, the same method doesn’t translate. Instead, balance is the whole thing. You either lift your toes to dig your heels into the snow, or lift your heels to slow and turn, depending on which way you’re facing. But dig too deeply either way and you’re going down hard. Advantage: Skiing.
Lifts: As I mentioned, snowboarding is tougher to get on chair lifts, because you have to unstrap your back foot and slide into place. At the top, you still have only one foot in, so you have to get off the lift and get yourself out of the way before finding a place to sit and strap the other foot. In skiing it can sometimes be difficult to move yourself into position for the lift, but not having to adjust or unstrap every time, makes it more efficient. Advantage: Skiing.
Most skiers I talked to said they had a rough time trying to snowboard, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will. Both sports are fun and have their pros and cons. Overall, it just depends what you want to do and what you enjoy. Just know that ability in one doesn’t automatically translate to the other. Advantage: You decide!