Visit the snowy peaks of North America, and you’ll find be faced with an ultimate decision: should you ski or ride? In the wintery world of snow sports, does it matter whether you descend on one plank or two? It does, and here’s why.
Old vs. new
Skiing has been around since the beginning – literally – dating back to when Vikings strapped boards on their feet during harsh winters to survive. On the other hand, snowboarding is relatively new, originating in the 1960’s and added as an Olympic sport in 1998, nearly 50 years after skiing. And because snowboarding was straight-up banned in some ski areas, it’s donned a rebellious air that attracts the younger set, whereas the stalwarts of skiing are typically those 35 and older.
They say that skiing is easier to learn yet harder to master, and snowboarding is harder to learn and easier to master. Learning to stand up on a snowboard is a skill in itself, but once you’ve found your balance and start linking turns, you’ll be progressing to blues in no time. Snowboarders can conquer steep runs by feathering – sliding on edge from one side to the other – allowing them to navigate pistes without making any turns.
New skiers have an advantage – they can plough straight down a green run after a few words of instruction. However, looking cute while parallel turning on skis can take a lot of practice, and skiers have to put in lots of turns to get through steeps. Unless you’re Lindsey Vonn, the first few times skiing a steep probably won’t be pretty.
If you have the need for speed, then skiing is your bag of chips. It’s a documented fact that faster speeds have been achieved on skis. That doesn’t mean that riders can’t rip, but it takes more energy and you’ll be riding in the cold smoke of your skiing brother. Since lifts were designed for skiers, they mount them with ease, while newbie snowboarders’ access and dismount can be comical to watch.
Cooler than you
When it comes to style, snowboarders can go ahead and drop the microphone on equipment and clothing.
The loose layers slide over boots that you can walk around in, and with equipment that involves a one-arm carry, snowboard gear is, simply put, much cooler than ski gear. Plus, outfitting for boarding is less expensive because there’s less equipment to buy, rent and maintain.
To be fair, with free-skiing and backcountry, skiing has embraced new fashion and some fresh tech as of late. But even with the new clips and releases, you’ll still end up walking like a Frankenstein in ski boots.
Let’s talk about flat terrain – riders hate it. This is where you’ll see them on their bum, or walking across flats due to the high amount of energy it takes to remain on edge. With no poles to lean on when the momentum slows, they can either stop completely or speed down pistes at breakneck speeds to push through the flat tops.
Skiers, even the new ones, glide effortlessly over flats and they have their poles to push off if they get stuck. And when weather conditions produce ice and bumps, you’re better off breaking off on a pair of skis. Icy terrain is just as loathsome for riders because it’s just as difficult to maintain an edge.
Deep powder is another talk show, because snowboarding in powder is as close to a zen-like experience that you can get. In fact, snowboards were designed to “surf” deep snow, providing riders with the ability carve big, wide turns that’ll get them down fast.
Skiing has been around a long time, it’s been tried, it’s true, and it’s popularity is rising again. Yet snowboarding’s entry on the scene was so edgy that it captured younger fans. 30 years later, it’s here to stay. So, what will it be the next time you’re on that long-awaited winter break at a mountain resort – will you ski or will you ride?