I am primarily a snowboarder and a snowboard instructor. However, I also ski and teach skiing (but I’m definitely a snowboarder!). So I reckon I’m in a pretty good position to compare the pros and cons of the two sports.
|Ski vs Snowboard||Winner|
|Easiest to learn||⛷️🏂|
|Best for speed||⛷️|
|Easiest in powder||🏂|
|Best for freestyle||⛷️🏂|
|Hardest work on the legs||⛷️|
|Worst for the knees||⛷️|
|Best for older people||⛷️|
|Easiest for young kids to learn||⛷️|
|Most comfortable equipment||🏂|
Which is easier to learn?
This is one of the most common questions I get asked when people are trying to decide which root to go down. When we talk about ‘learning to ski’ or ‘learning to snowboard’ let’s assume this means reaching a level where you can comfortably negotiate a blue slope by linking turns without too much effort.
I would say learning to turn on a snowboard is a more straightforward process; the movements and coordination are a little simpler, and you only have one snowboard to worry about controlling compared to two skis.
However, snowboarding does require more balance. Because you have both feet attached to a single snowboard, you cannot stabilize yourself if you lose your balance. For this reason, snowboarders will always fall more (and spend more time sitting in the snow) than skiers when learning.
When learning to ski/snowboard, fear is a huge factor! The more scared or nervous you are, the more you will struggle to progress.
Because snowboarding involves more falls, fear of falling can play a larger part in impeding your progress.
For this reason, I see more variance in the learning curve of snowboarders than skiers. Snowboarders who are not afraid of falling will progress much quicker! Wearing protective gear can help give you confidence when learning
I’ve taught snowboarders who are linking their first turns, no problem, after just a couple of hours. And I’ve taught snowboarders who have quit after three days of constant falling.
When I teach people to ski for the first time, I feel they will all be able to achieve the basics, no matter their natural ability. An average beginner skier will be doing a basic parallel turn after three days
Progressing on skis vs Snowboard
When comparing skiing and snowboarding, it’s often said that ‘skiing is easy to learn but difficult to perfect.’ But this is mainly said by people who don’t know what good snowboarding looks like! Plus, you should always be trying to improve no matter which sport you are doing.
The truth is that because the equipment is quite different, the types of snow and terrain that they are best suited to are also quite different.
When I’m teaching low intermediate skiers and snowboarders, the kind of slopes that they struggle on are totally different.
Intermediate skiers will struggle on steeper slopes. Whereas snowboards can cheat and sideslip if they feel it is too steep to turn.
Flat, narrow tracks such as cat tracks are easy for skiers but can be a nightmare for snowboarders who struggle to let the board run straight.
Going fast on skis feels way more stable than on a snowboard. On skis, you can have better control at speed thanks to the two edges compared to the snowboard’s one.
Slalom ski racing perfectly demonstrates how much more control is possible on skis than a snowboard. Making those kinds of turn on a snowboard just isn’t possible!
Deep powder is easier on a snowboard than on skis. This is because the board has a larger surface area than two separate skis, giving more float and making it easier to control. A snowboarder you has already mastered the basics can learn to ride powder in just a day
Intermediate riders with little experience can have a great day snowboarding powder. On the other hand, it usually takes years of experience before a skier can ride powder.
There isn’t much difference between skiing and snowboarding when it comes to tricks. The pros pull very similar tricks, whether it be jumps, rails or halfpipe.
In my experience, it’s a bit easier to start with basic freestyle tricks on a snowboard than on skis. With a snowboard, you can spin a 360 a little easier and off of a smaller jump.
So now that we’ve looked at what you can and can’t do on skis/snowboard let’s look at how physically hard it is to do it.
When teaching people to ski and snowboard, I often hear about what parts of their body are hurting and how much!
On a snowboard, the first few days of learning are normally the hardest. However, once you can link turns on a snowboard, it becomes quite effortless to cruise around the mountain.
On skis, you can generate much more force in the turns because of the extra control you get from the two skis. This is what makes skiing fun, but it’s also hard work on your legs.
My skier friends have much bigger legs than I do!
I’ve taught lots of different ages to snowboard, from a 4-year-old kid to a 70-year-old lady. While I would never put an age limit on snowboarding, I would say skiing is more accessible to a wider age group.
The problem with snowboarding is that you are always going to fall more than on skis when learning.
For older people, falls hurt more and can be a really knock confidence. However, I would say it is more down to fitness levels and attitude than age. So if you are a fit 50-year-old who likes to give new things a go, I would not be put off trying snowboarding!
For more cautious and less active people, I would recommend skiing over snowboarding. With skiing, you can go a whole week of learning without a single fall. An impossibility when learning to snowboard!
For kids younger than 5 yrs old, I would say skiing is easier. There are plenty of videos on youtube of tiny kids ripping on snowboards, but I generally have more success teaching little kids to ski rather than snowboard.
Again it comes down to the number of falls. If you kid can fall and laugh it off, they will be great at snowboarding. However, if your kid gets easily frustrated or is more timid, then I would recommend they ski.
Injuries – Which is more dangerous? Ski or Snowboard?
While there is an inherent risk with both sports, you can reduce your risk of injury by following a few precautions.
- Take a lesson
- Learn at your own pace
- Wear a helmet
- Take snow conditions into account
I’ve taught people to ski and snowboard for over 10 years now, and I’ve only had to call ski patrol once! (touch wood!)
On the other hand, I’ve ended up in hospital a few times from snowboarding.
If we look at the stats on injuries between the two sports, there is a clear difference in the type of injury normally sustained.
Skiers are more likely than snowboarders to hurt their knees. In particular, the ACL ligament. In contrast, snowboarders are more likely to injure their upper body, particularly their wrists and shoulders.
Cost of Skiing vs Snowboarding
The majority of costs are the same for skiers and snowboarders. Accommodation, lift tickets, ski/snowboard lessons, and rental all cost the same.
The difference comes in the cost of buying equipment. For example, a full snowboard setup of board, boots, and bindings will cost significantly less than a full ski setup of skis, boots, bindings, and poles.
There is a huge range in prices in both skis and snowboards. But here is an example of an average intermediate/advanced package
- Ski and bindings – approx $850
- Snowboard and bindings – approx $650
Ski boots are similarly more expensive than snowboard boots:
- Typical cost of int/advanced ski boot – approx $500
- Typical cost of int/advanced snowboard boot – approx $350
The difference in cost of ski snowboarding can largely be explained by the materials and design that go into the equipment. Skis are more expensive because they have more materials, and they generally need to be more reinforced to make them stiffer.
However, ski stuff also tends to be more expensive simply because skiers have more cash than snowboarders! For example, when comparing ski and snowboard pants there is not so much difference, but ski pants are, for some reason more expensive 🤷
Similarly, more technology goes into a stiff pair of ski boots than a pair of comfy snowboard boots.
Comfort and Convenience
When it comes to comparing the comfort and convenience of the equipment, then we have a clear winner – snowboarding! Ski boots are notorious for being uncomfortable. On the other hand, Snowboard boots are as comfortable as any sturdy walking boot.
Snowboards are also much lighter and easier to carry than skis and poles. When I teach skiing, I normally start with ‘how to carry your skis’ with snowboarding; you just pick the thing up.
When I was a kid, skiing was the best thing on the planet! Then I tried snowboarding, and it was even better! I still mainly snowboard these days, but I find myself skiing more, depending on the snow conditions and what I want to do.
For me, skiing is more fun when the snow conditions are a little firm, and I can go fast and stay in control.
I’ll also grab the skis if I go on a big tour deep into the backcountry. Skiing is definitely a more practical way to move around in the mountains than snowboarding.
However, on slushy days in the park, trying new tricks, I will always be on my board. This is mainly because I suck at freestyle on skis, but also I think there is more variety and creativity in snowboarding.
Lastly, on a powder day, I will always go for my snowboard. Floating in powder on a board just cannot be beaten! Here snowboarding is clearly the winner