Skis or snowboard? It’s the age-old debate for mountain lovers. Skiing had a major head start in the popularity stakes – the history of skiing shows it’s been around for thousands of years, while boarding was only invented in the 1960s. But plenty of skiers now try boarding too, to mix things up on the mountain, learn a new skill or even just to wear comfier boots.
What are the differences between skiing and snowboarding?
The most obvious difference is that your feet will both be strapped to a single board, instead of two separate skis. You’ll face sideways too, which might not feel as natural as skiing and will take some time to get used to. And you’ll be empty-handed, so remember to avoid flat sections of piste. You won’t have poles to push yourself along, so you’ll need to unclip one foot and scoot along skateboard-style.
The big bonus though is the footwear – snowboard boots are more flexible than ski boots so they’re comfier and easier to walk in.
Getting on and off lifts is a whole different ballgame for boarders. On chairlifts, you’ll need to unbind one foot before you go through the gates, so you can slide forwards and get on without losing your balance. At the top, clip back in and off you go.
Drag lifts are trickier when you’re facing sideways. Unclip your back foot and hook the button or t-bar behind your front leg. And don’t lose heart if it takes you a few tries to get your stance right.
Fitness and injuries
Core strength is key, and your obliques (the muscles on either side of your abs) play a big role in shifting your weight from your heels to your toes when turning. And just like when you’re skiing, strong upper body muscles are useful for pushing yourself up after a fall or rest stop.
Boarding tends to be easier on your knees than skiing but harder on your wrists – if you fall, you’ll usually throw out your hands to catch yourself – so remember to wear wrist guards.
Is there any crossover between skiing and snowboarding?
There are plenty of similarities, especially if you’ve got lots of experience on the mountain. You’ll already understand the differences between green, blue, red and black runs, and the general rules of the slopes – like not to stop in the middle of the piste, or that the people in front of you have right of way. So you’ll be a lot more confident than a complete beginner.
The two sports also share some basic techniques, like using your edges to turn or slow down, standing up straight to go faster and bending your knees to slow down.
Top tips for switching from skiing to snowboarding
• Take lessons: A lot of boarding technique is completely different to skiing, so you’ll need a professional instructor to get you started.
• Wear knee pads and wrist guards: You’re probably going to fall over a lot at the start so be prepared.
• Wear a helmet: Just like when skiing, it’s essential to protect your head.
• Get fit: Core and arm strength is really important for keeping your balance and pushing yourself back up after a fall.
• Go easy on yourself: It might’ve been a while since you were on nursery slopes, but even expert skiers go back to basics when they switch to boarding.
• Watch our Learn to Snowboard videos: Pick up some expert tips before you go with our bite-sized clips.
Ready to give it a go? Check out some of our favourite resorts for snowboarders and try something new next winter.