skiing vs snowboarding

If you’re a novice thinking of heading up..and back down the slopes this Winter, you may be trying to decide if snowboarding or skiing would be most suited to you.

Whilst zooming down the side of a mountain is exhilarating, whether you’re on a tray (board) or planks (skis), there are a few differences between the two sports that you need to be aware of in order to make an informed decision on which sport is the most suitable for you.

Phil Purdie, Director of Snow Skool, one of the UK’s leading snowboard and skiing instructor courses has share his expert thoughts on the two sports.

Phil says that: “For many people, snowsports holidays are more important than summer holidays. If you can get past the initial difficult stage, it is quite probable that the sport will become an addictive part of your life and you will want to progress your skiing/ riding ever further. Addictions take on many forms of course but this one is not so bad…you are out in the fresh air in the mountains, you are exercising and you are likely to be having a total blast to boot. The social side of skiing (apres-skiing) is also a massive part of the sport and helps to make this one of the most fun sports/ holidays ever.

Time to hit the slopes…

So when it comes to your first day on the slopes Phil says: “Skiing is an easier sport to take up than snowboarding. This is largely down to two facts that make skiing more intuitive than snowboarding:  With skiing, your legs remain separated and so, at low speeds, you can throw one of them out if you start to fall to re-balance yourself.

Snowboarder on the slopes

Thinking of taking up snowboarding?

Snowboards ride most efficiently in softer, more powdery snow and anybody who has done it will tell you the ride is much slower than if you were to take a run on a pair of skis.

Unlike skiing, you will not have the ski poles to help keep you balanced and remain upright. Snowboarders require an element of fitness to remain tilted forward without losing poise, and therefore it might be worth having a think about your core strength before jumping straight on a board. If in the heat of the Summer you prefer to be out on the waves wakeboarding, surfing or paddleboarding, you’ll probably prefer the free feeling of riding the snow on a board.

Related: Beginner’s Guide To Skiing

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Trays are much safer for knee and leg injuries, although ensure you invest in some wrist guards – when your feet are locked into the board, it’s your hands and wrists that take the pressure from a fall. There’s an art to getting back up after a fall, but once mastered it is proven to be much easier than having to coordinate both yourself and all your equipment after falling on ski’s.

Phil says: Snowboarding stances are side-on and so you can only see 50% of what is in front of you. This can also take a little getting used to. When snowboarders understand the basics of making a turn (turn shoulders, which turns hips, which turns ankles/feet, which turns snowboard) then you can be start to hit the proper slopes.

Snowboarder spraying powder

The next step is to work on improved balance and increased speed which makes turning even easier due to there being less contact – contact between the base of the board and the snow creates resistance and so minimising this makes the turn easier.

Riding down and making simple turns are the basics and, for most people, should be achievable within a week or two.

Thinking of taking up skiing?

In contrast to the optimum snowboard terrain, skis work better on ice and bumps and if you’re looking for speed, skis are your weapon of choice when it comes down to velocity.

Initially, the art of skiing is easier to pick up, so if you’re conscious of the time you have out on the slopes, skiing might be a better option for you to try the first time around.

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With two skis under your feet and poles in each hand, it’s generally easier to pick up some rhythm as skis have four edges on the snow meaning that you can turn more sharply and can skate and push yourself with the poles. This means you can confidently start giving blue runs a try pretty early on.  

beginner skiing

Phil says:Skiing is done straight-on…you have peripheral vision and can see exactly where you are going and everything that is in front for you.

After the one- or two-day honeymoon period for beginner skiers, the tough work starts and it is likely to take a lot longer than it would for snowboarders to build up that basic level of skill.

Related: Which Ski Gloves Should I Buy?

The two separate skis on two separate legs thing becomes a problem – moving both legs simultaneously and in harmony is not a natural movement and so takes a considerable mental shift to achieve. You will start off with pizza (snowplough – tips of the skis together, tails of the skis apart) and French fries (straight skis) on a nursery slope to get you used to checking your speed.

From there, the next step is the snowplough turn which involves straight skis across the slopes and then moving the outside ski to point downward until you complete the turn. In most cases, it is slow-going and you would be doing well to progress past snowplough turns at the end of one week. When you do that and when you start to take on blue and red runs, you will find a sport that will continue to push you on and on to achieve more.

So what kind of gear will you need to take on a Winter snow sport holiday?

Trespass ski jacket

You’ll need pretty similar gear for each sport – layered clothing, goggles, long gloves, a thermal ski jacket and maybe even a helmet. However, there is a major difference in the boots you need. With skiing you will need harder boots as opposed the softer boots required for snowboarding. Here at Winfields Outdoors, we have a winter sport buying guide to help you choose the best gear for each sport.

Related: Ski Jacket Buying Guide

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The question is, which sport will you begin with?

Both skiing and snowboarding are popular winter activities, and of course with both sports, lessons with a qualified instructor are imperative. However, when it comes to which sport to begin with, it’s all about preference. Do you prefer the feeling of speed with some comfort taken from the stability of multiple equipment? Or the locked feet, free armed zoom of a board?

Which winter sport do you prefer? Any tips for anyone just starting out?

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