Family vacations to the beautiful snowy mountains are a must for a lot of people, a nice log cabin with a roaring fire is one thing but actually getting out onto the slopes and experiencing a new sport can make it extra memorable.
Perhaps you are fortunate enough to be close to slopes and are looking for a new sport to take up as a hobby that you will take part in even when you’re not on vacation but are torn between choosing skiing or snowboarding.
Either way, this guide will help beginners pick what sport they would rather focus on after being shown the comparisons that should be taken into consideration such as difficulty, safety, and costs.
We will also break down what skiing, and snowboarding are in more detail so that beginners have a much better idea of what to expect.
However, do not feel that you are not allowed to pick both sports because if you have the means and the motivation, who is to say what you should or shouldn’t do.
What is Skiing?
Skiing is when skis are being used to glide on snow, usually down slopes with the speed being caused by the pull of gravity. Poles can also be used to help propel you forward and help with balance; you also wear boots that are clipped into the skis to prevent you from falling off.
It is said to be founded around 5,000 years ago in Scandinavia and was initially used for transportation but has now become a sport and recreational activity. Today it is a popular choice as a recreational hobby as well as a recognized Olympic sport since 1936.
There are different types of skiing, and they all have slight variations from one another. These include alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, and telemark skiing among many others, but these types are the most common today.
One of the most popular types of skiing is alpine skiing which can be seen taking place at ski resorts with chairlifts being used to take the skiers up to the top of the slopes. Both the heel and toe of your feet are clipped into the skis which keep you secure during high speeds.
This type of skiing used to be Nordic skiing but since has branched off due to the invention of chair lifts in the 1920s because they don’t have to make their way back up the mountain again on foot. However, there are skins you can put onto alpine skis that give you more traction in the snow if you want to do so.
Alpine skiing doesn’t last very long because the mountain you are skiing down has to come to an end at some point but if you are a beginner or are just looking to ski recreationally, then it is a good option.
Nordic skiing is also known as cross country skiing and involves you using the skis to travel over terrain that can be either flat or hilly which can be done by striding or skating. It is more taxing physically than alpine skiing because you do not have gravity to give you momentum.
Some chose to do Nordic skiing as a recreational activity whereas others choose to do it as a method of transport. It can be done in the backcountry as long as there is enough snow but there are also specialized ski resorts that cater to Nordic skiing. The heel of your foot is not attached to the skis like they are in alpine skiing which gives allows you more movement.
Telemark skiing is a combination of alpine skiing and Nordic skiing, the heel of the boot is not clipped into the skis so that you can get into a lunging position with the body forward and the knees bent. It is harder than alpine skiing and you will need to put in a lot of time and practice to fully get the hang of it.
You can do telemark skiing at ski resorts that accommodate alpine skiing as well or in the back country.
What is Snowboarding?
Snowboarding is another popular activity or sport that has been around the 1960s but has only been made an official Olympic sport in 1998 which is a lot later than skiing. You strap a board onto your feet which is usually about 25cm wide and make your way down the slopes in a sideways position almost like you are surfboarding which is the sport that is said to have inspired snowboarding.
The invention of snowboarding is quite a unique one because it began with a man called Sherman Poppen who wanted to make a toy for his daughter to play in the snow with, so he tied two skis together to make a board.
He then attached a rope to one end of the board so that he could control is as they went down hills. This invention was called the ‘snurfer’ which was a combination of snow and surfer and became very popular with his daughter and her friends that he decided to license his idea to a manufacturer and has sold over half a million snowboards since.
Like skiing, there are different types of snowboarding which include freestyle, freeriding, and alpine snowboarding just to name a few.
Freestyle is the most popular type of snowboarding, especially for those who are more experienced because it focuses on tricks and jumps. The boots that are worn for freestyle snowboarding are soft and the board is smaller and lighter so that you can maneuver with more ease in the air.
Freeriding is a type of snowboarding which like the name suggests, involves you snowboarding freely down a slope. This usually doesn’t consist of any jumps or tricks and is a great option for beginners as they can focus on having a good time and not falling over rather than thinking about the technicalities.
Alpine snowboarding is for adrenaline junkies who like to go fast and carve. Carving is the term that refers to the action of turning in the snow by using the edge of the board, this lets you maintain a high speed as you turn but should only be used during small portions of the overall ride down the mountain.
If you are alpine snowboarding, you must use the specific snowboard as it has been designed to cope with the high speeds and sharp turns that you will experience. You also need to wear hard-shelled boots so that you can leverage use your weight to leverage the board more efficiently.
It’s safe to say that you won’t learn how to ski or snowboard in a day but how do they compare in difficulty if you’re learning as a beginner?
It goes without saying that it will range from person to person on how hard they will find learning to ski but generally, it is not considered easy to learn. When you are learning how to ski there are a lot of things that you have to think about at the same time including balance, posture, speed, and more.
It is said that the average person will pick up on the basic skiing skills in one to three days and will become a confident skier in around two and a half weeks. However, this is if you are committed to practicing for a good amount of time every day. Remember not to feel disappointed if you find you’re taking longer to learn because everyone is different and you will get there in the end!
As a beginner with no prior experience of a similar sport such as skateboarding or skateboarding, you will be at a disadvantage as you will have to learn the techniques that can be carried from these sports from scratch.
Skiing does not just consist of you sitting on skis and enjoying the view as they take you down the slope, it requires you to be fit and have strong leg muscles because they will be doing a lot of work just to keep you upright.
It’s best if you already do some cardio such as running before you get on the skis so that your leg muscles won’t be as sore after the first lesson which can deter you from getting back on the slopes.
Skiing can look pretty effortless when you see the pros shooting down the slopes but in reality, they have only gotten to that point because they put in a lot of time and practice. You will likely feel frustrated as well as exhausted when you first begin learning how to ski because it is taking longer than you were expecting to get to where you want to.
The key is to get back on the skis no matter how frustrated you are feeling because this is the only way that you can get better. Even if you read all the manuals on how to ski, it will not compare to actually getting out there and doing it.
The best way to learn how to ski is by getting the help of a friend or member of the family so that they can walk you through it and teach you but if you don’t know anyone who knows how to ski then you can hire a professional teacher.
Another thing that may have not come into mind is the harsh elements that you will have to tolerate. Of course, it would be cold but keep in mind that it can also get very windy on the top of mountains and your visibility might suffer due to fog so this adds another challenge to skiing.
Learning how to snowboard is not as easy as it is to learn how to ski but it is easier to reach an advanced level. Snowboarding feels less natural which makes it harder to learn than skiing as you are facing sideways with your feet together instead of forwards with your feet apart.
It will still depend on each individual on how long it will take you to learn how to snowboard. It is said that snowboarding is for those who feel that skiing does not get their adrenaline pumping enough but that doesn’t mean that you can take the slower, more gentle routes down the mountain.
The beauty is that you can cater snowboarding to be an experience that is intense and heavy on the technical details or it can be a casual glide through the pillowy snow.
If you are a naturally coordinated person, have good balance, have good core strength, and have experience with surfing or skating in the past then you will have a great advantage over those who do not have the same qualities and can learn the basics of snowboarding in just a day whereas other people can take up to four.
But in order to be good at snowboarding and to keep consistent with learning, you will need to have the right personality as well. As you practice as a beginner, you will fall over a lot, but it is up to you to make the choice to give up or get back on the board, and future you will be thankful that you got back up.
As with skiing, you will find that snowboarding is very physically challenging, and your body will be very sore from the first few lessons as you start to get fitter. This doesn’t mean that you have to be an athlete in peak condition, but you might want to put in a couple of hours in the gym every so often so that you can build your core and leg strength.
It’s also advised to be in good physical condition because of how much you will be falling over to start with, and your body should be able to take the repetitive impact without creating lasting damage.
Some say that you don’t even need an instructor to learn how to snowboard and all it takes is just you and a mountain. If you decide to teach yourself, make sure that you are safe and are putting in the time and effort because without an instructor, some people find it hard to motivate themselves to practice regularly.
Required Equipment & Costs
The experience you have with skiing and snowboarding can depend a lot on what kind of equipment you have. It is important that you have the right gear for the movements you need to do whilst keeping warm and protected.
It can be intimidating when you are a beginner because there are so many different types of the same bit of equipment on the market which say that you are making a huge mistake if you do not buy it.
Having good quality equipment usually also means a high price tag which can put a lot of people off if they are starting out with nothing.
The equipment that you need for skiing and snowboarding can be a big deciding factor for some people either because they don’t have the storage or the price tag and would rather go for the sport that doesn’t require as many extras.
To ski, you obviously need skis but it’s not as straightforward as you may think. There are many different types of skis that you can get, and it depends on what kind of skiing you are wanting to do that will determine what kind of ski to go for.
If you are a beginner, it’s best to get skis that are shorter and more flexible as this will make it easier for you to turn.
Your weight will also have a factor as to what pair of skis to get. There are charts online that you can use to know what ski dimension you should get in correlation to your weight. Dimensions of a ski can alter its performance in different ways, for example, skis that are narrower are better at carving but wider skis are better at floating on deep snow.
Do not worry if you’re still unsure of where to start with skis because if you go to an equipment store they will be more than happy to give you advice and set you up with a pair of skis that is best for you.
On average, a good pair of skis cost anywhere between $400 and $1000 but this does not take into consideration the bindings and boots that you will also need with your skis.
Bindings are used to keep your boots attached to your skis and they come in two different variations. Some bindings are designed to be drilled directly into the skis for them to be mounted with screws and other bindings simply slide on the tracks on the skis that have already been fitted.
It is said that the boots are the most important part of equipment which puts a bit of pressure on choosing the right pair. Your boots should be very snug around your foot but without being too tight as this can cause pain and numbness after a while. You need the boot to be secure on your foot because if you are going down slopes at high speeds, you need to feel every little movement that you make.
Some people choose to rent boots if they are only skiing once a year or so for recreational purposes, but it is recommended that you invest in getting your own pair because they will be more fitted to your foot, and you will know how it will feel when you use them. A professional boot fitter will be able to find the perfect skiing boot for you.
To rent a pair of ski boots at a ski resort, you will be expected to pay around $40 for the day but this can vary depending on the type of skiing you want to do and what terrain you want to do it on. A good pair of ski boots will cost around $500 but you will have peace of mind that they will always be there when you need them, and your feet will be comfortable every time.
For some types of skiing, you will need to get a set of poles which can cost $50 for a pair that will do the job for a while but can break after strenuous use or lose traction in the snow. However, if you invest in a good pair of poles that will stay strong and sturdy no matter what weight you bear on them, you can spend up to $200. Poles can come in different shapes and sizes so it will be good to know what kind of skiing you are wanting to do before you go ahead and get the wrong pair.
It is a big, big risk if you go skiing without using a helmet because you will likely be skiing around rocks and trees which can do a lot of lasting damage or worse if your head gets thrown into them.
When you are buying a helmet, you need to try it on before you buy because you need it to fit tightly so that it doesn’t move when you shake your head, but it shouldn’t be too tight so that it squeezes it until its sore.
Since helmets are so important, it is worth spending up to $300 on a good one that might save your life one day.
As well as a helmet to protect your head, you will also need goggles to protect your eyes. When you are shooting down a mountain, there are all sorts of debris that can end up in your eyes and cause damage. You also need your goggles to protect your eyes from the brightness of the sun reflecting off of the snow whilst still giving you good visibility.
There are lots of different styles of skiing goggles and sometimes they come attached to the helmet. A good pair of goggles will cost you around $50.
The clothes you wear when you are skiing are important because you want to stay warm and protected but also have a good amount of movement, you should also wear clothes that are brightly colored so that you are visible to others. Luckily, there are companies that have cracked the secret code and can give you the best clothes to wear on your skiing endeavors.
The prices on clothes for skiing include base layers, mid-layers, jackets, and gloves can vary a lot in price but you with all the time you will spend on the mountains in the snow, you will be thankful that you invested in good quality clothing.
Other than the equipment and clothing that you will need for skiing, you will also have to spend money on the ski resort itself which includes the entrance fee and chair lift fee. Skiing lessons can cost around $200 for five days and if you choose to rent your equipment, the fees will add up.
There are a lot of similarities with skiing of what equipment and clothing you will need for snowboarding. A good snowboard will make or break a snowboarding experience and come in all sorts of dimensions. It should be made from wood so that it is durable and smooth and have thin layers of metal for extra reinforcement.
Boards are made in different sizes so that you can get the right one for the type of snowboarding style you are wanting to pursue. You may not notice how they perform differently as a beginner but as you advance you will definitely be able to feel how they differ and what board you personally prefer.
Depending on the quality of the board, you can be paying between £200 to $1000. You can also get custom designed on them to add some personality to your equipment which can cost up to $200 on average.
As with skiing, you will need good boots and socks to keep you warm and secure on the snowboard. Snowboarding boots should be medium stuff and are usually laced up which allows you to customize the fit more to your liking.
Some snowboarding boots have liners inside that you can either remove or are permanently attached. Your socks should be comfy, long, and able to bring the moisture out from your feet as they sweat. A good pair of socks with padding on the bottom will cost a bit more but will be more comfortable and durable in the long run.
Snowboarding boots and socks cost about the same as skiing boots do which can reach up to $500. A good pair of snowboarding socks are much cheaper though and will usually cost around $20.
Since you fall a lot when you are learning to snowboard, you will need to invest in a helmet and guards that can withstand the repetitive impact. A helmet will cost around $300 if it’s a good one that will be sure to protect your head whilst being comfortable and ventilated.
Investing in guards and pads will save your limbs from a lot of damage when you are learning how to snowboard. Wrist guards are especially important because we usually put our hands down first to brace our fall. Luckily, guards and pads are not that expensive and will cost around $100 altogether.
The clothing that you will need to wear for snowboarding is very similar to the kind that you wear for skiing so it can be estimated that it will cost the same and will need to have the same properties. Stay away from any clothes made from cotton when you are snowboarding because this will absorb your sweat and make you very cold. Instead wear clothes are made from leather, wool, and synthetic materials.
For both snowboarding and skiing, it is a good idea to get a trusty GPS tracker so that you know where you are at all times and if you need help, you can tell others where to find you. They do not cost a lot and you can get also get a camera to attach to your helmet or torso so that you can watch back the footage of your tricks and adventures.
All sports come with safety risks, but some come with more than others. If you get the right equipment, have gone through safety training, and are generally careful then you will be fine but sometimes things are out of your control, and it can all go wrong.
Since skiing and snowboarding are very similar, they share a lot of the same safety risks which you should be aware of so that you know what could happen if you are not paying attention.
Skiing along with snowboarding is ranked within the top 20 recreational activities that contribute to head injuries. This is because if you are not experienced, it can be easy to gain too much speed and lose control which can end in disaster. A lot of insurance companies today even make it a condition that you wear a helmet when skiing or snowboarding because they know of the dangers.
If you are not careful of where you are going on your way down a slope that hasn’t been traveled much before, there is a chance that you fall down a sharp drop.
Avalanches are another safety risk that can affect both skiers and snowboarders as it happens in snowy mountains. This can bury you and suffocate you if you do not get out fast enough but if you stick to the slopes on ski resorts this is much less likely to happen, but you should still look into what you should do if it does happen.
Another safety risk that is caused by the environment is the low temperatures and harsh weather conditions that you can experience on mountains. Even if you are wrapped up in the best equipment, the elements can still put you at risk after a prolonged period of time which can happen if you get lost or are waiting at the top for clearer conditions.
Losing your balance and falling over can lead to broken bones if you haven’t gotten guards and pads if you are snowboarding but skiing can also lead to injuries from falling over as your feet are not together which makes your body less intact as it falls.
Collisions can be deadly, especially if one or both of you are traveling at high speeds. The amount of impact and the sharp edges on skis and snowboards make a dangerous combination so always look where you’re going, stay in control, wear high visibility clothing, and don’t be impatient.
Generally, snowboarding leads to more injures because you are likely to fall over more but these injuries are a lot less severe than those caused by skiing even if they are not as frequent.
In conclusion to the question of if skiing or snowboarding is best for beginners, it is down to your own personal preferences.
If you are looking for a sport or hobby that is easier to learn then you should consider skiing but keep in mind that you might plateau in your skill in comparison to snowboarding. If you choose to take up snowboarding, you will take longer to learn but it will be easier for you to get advanced once you have the basics under your belt.
Skiing is more versatile than snowboarding and there are different ways that you can do it whereas snowboarding can only be done downhill with the help of gravity but that’s not to say that doing tricks on a snowboard isn’t fun.
Skiing requires a bit more equipment than snowboarding and therefore costs a bit more so if you are low on storage or savings then snowboarding is the better choice, it is also safer even if you have to fall over a lot in the first few lessons.