Is Skiing Harder Than Ice Skating? (Full Comparison)

Newcomers to winter sports may find all the options overwhelming. For example, should you choose skiing or ice skating? Both have their own sets of required gear and venues. Before spending money on rentals, lessons, and a ski or ice rink pass, it’s important to understand which one is harder.

Generally speaking, skiing is considered to be harder than ice skating. This is because skiers have to contend with the downhill forces of gravity, and there’s always a chance that a beginner skier will slide downhill against their will. Ice skating, on the other hand, is done on a level surface.

Skiing and ice skating each come with a unique set of challenges and a different learning curve. A first-timer in either sport can expect to have fun but also to fall a few times. It’s all part of the learning process, however. For a closer look at skiing versus ice skating, continue reading below.

Is Skiing Harder To Learn Than Ice Skating?

Skiing is generally harder to learn than ice skating. Beginner skiers have to deal with sliding downhill with awkward attachments to their feet, and it can be quite daunting. In contrast, a beginner ice skater can quickly learn to balance on skates and can move around a level surface.

A first day on skis should include a beginner lesson from a certified instructor. Throughout the course of the lesson, the novice will learn how to put on and take off the skis, how to stop, and how to turn. Without an instructor, a beginner could potentially endanger themselves or others when going downhill.

Ice skating is usually a lot more intuitive for beginners.Getting in and out of the gear is as easy putting on your own shoes, and moving around the ice is similar to walking. While lessons are always a good idea, they’re not as necessary as they are in skiing. Stopping on ice skates can be tricky, but the confines of the rink provide fewer opportunities for gathering speed.

Learning how to stand back up after a fall is also more difficult in skiing and is usually an included topic in beginner lessons. Standing back up with ice skates is almost as easy as doing so with shoes. The length of the skis means a beginner can’t stand up as they normally would. It can be a big challenge, especially the first few times.

Skis are longer and wider than ice skates, so a first-time skier can get away with less-than-perfect balance. Beginner skiers tend to lean too far back instead of forward, but the skis provide enough leverage to keep the skier upright. Leaning too far back on ice skates will result in a fall, and an ice skater will learn more quickly how to correctly balance.

Although learning to ski can take longer than learning to ice skate, mastery of either sport will take months and even years of dedicated practice. But remember, even those who ski double black diamonds or perform elaborate ice skating routines started on the bunny slopes or puttering around the ice rink. As beginners, the most important thing is to enjoy the learning process while staying safe.

Are Skiing And Ice Skating Similar?

Skiing and ice skating are similar in many ways, although they are different, too. Both are winter sports, and the movements you make in both sports resemble each other. Keen observers will quickly note a few more striking similarities between the two activities, as well.


Both ice skates and skis have edges, and proper use of the edges in both sports works in similar ways. Although skate blades are much smaller, they still have four distinct edges. Same as skis,ice skates have two inside and two outside edges. In parallel skiing and in ice skating, an individual will shift their weight from edge to edge to make turns.

Balance And Stance

Correct balance for both sports involves standing on the whole foot, not back on the heels or up on the balls of the foot. A skater’s stance, with flexed knees and ankles, is very similar to the correct stance for skiing.

Turning Movements

Turning skis or ice skates is accomplished much the same way. In both skiing and ice skating, turns are made by shifting the weight from side to side and steering the feet. Skis are just very long, wide ice skate blades, so turning either requires the same body parts (the femur in the hip socket) doing the same things (rotating.)

Hockey Stops

One of the biggest similarities between the two sports is the hockey stop. The hockey stop involves turning both skis and skates 90 degrees against the direction of travel to come to a sudden stop. Advanced skiers learn how to rapidly turn the feet to stop the skis, instead of using a wedge or a pizza to stop. It is the exact motion that ice skaters use to stop.

Does Ice Skating Help Skiing?

Ice skating helps skiing. Skaters do seem to pick up skiing a lot quicker than those who have never skated. This is because of many similarities between ice skating and skiing, such as balance, hockey stops, and turning, but there are additional reasons as to why this is.

Familiarity With Edges

Ice skaters are used to standing on the small edges of their skates and tipping them back and forth to help steer. This gives them an advantage when it comes to skiing. Skis have even longer edges, which means ice skaters feel very comfortable putting the skis on edge as opposed to someone who doesn’t have practice balancing on the edges of skates.

Similar Stance

Ice skaters learn early to not lean too far back on their skates. This translates perfectly to skiing. Non-skater ski beginners tend to lean too far back and rely on the ski to hold them up. Ice skaters have practice being in a forward and balanced stance, which ultimately gives them more control of the skis.

Parallel Skiing

Ice skaters often arrive at parallel skiing faster than non-ice-skaters. This is because the hockey stop and parallel skiing are more or less the same thing. Ice skaters can use the same movements they would on their skates to turn the skis without a pizza or wedge. Parallel skiing is essentially linked hockey stops.

Disadvantages From Ice Skating

When it comes to learning to ski, there are a couple potential disadvantages to having an ice skating background. Although ice skating does give you an advantage when it comes to learning to ski, it can also lead to some bad habits. For example, an ice skater turns their whole body to make turns, but in skiing, it’s important to turn with just the legs and lower body under a stable upper body.

Ice skaters-turned-skiers also tend to make more z-shaped turns, instead of rounded c-shaped turns. A c-shape turn is essential for skiing steeps or bumps. An ice skater may have to break the habit of making sharp turns that work well on ice, but less well in snow.

False Sense Of Confidence

Ice skaters often feel comfortable on skis quickly, which can lead them to feel overly confident. Comfort at speed can result in dangerous falls. A false sense of confidence may also lead the skier to steeper terrain before they are ready. Even if an ice skater picks up skiing quicker than a non-ice-skater, it’s important to remember they are still a beginner. Stick to the appropriate terrain.

Even ice-skate-savvy beginners should take a lesson on their first day skiing.An ice skater may pick up skiing without an instructor, but a lesson can help the new skier form better habits from the beginning. Likewise, the new skier will learn proper etiquette for the mountain environment, which skiers have the right of way, how to read trail signs, and how to use the ski lift safely.

Final Thoughts

Skiing and ice skating are similar. Both sets of gear have edges that can be manipulated with similar movements and stances, and both use hockey stops. Although they are similar, skiing happens on a slanted surface, and the downhill force of gravity makes skiing a little harder than ice skating.