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Skiing vs Snowboarding – Which Is Easier For Beginners?

Winter vacations to mountain resorts are a great way to relax and have some fun. Skiing and snowboarding are two great activities to try out. Both are exhilarating and require skills that can be hard to learn, but it can be difficult to decide which one to pick when you are a beginner.

Generally, many people will find skiing easier than snowboarding, as your feet aren’t bound to one piece of equipment like they are with a snowboard. However, skiing and snowboarding both offer unique challenges for a beginner and everyone learns new skills at different paces.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give snowboarding a go, as there are other factors you might want to consider. In the article below, we’ll look at skiing and snowboarding in terms of how long it takes to learn, which is safer, and other things you need to consider before making your decision.

Key Differences Between Skiing And Snowboarding

While both sports involve strapping your feet to large planks and riding them down a snowy slope, there are a couple of key differences. As you learn about the key differences between skiing and snowboarding, you’ll be able to determine which sport will be more enjoyable for you.

Skiing

Skiing is the older of the two sports and is considered the more traditional winter sport. Put simply, skiing involves strapping two skinny boards to your feet and using them to slide down a hill or across a snowy surface with the aid of two poles. One useful feature in the design of a ski is that with enough force, the ski binding will pop off your boot and protect you from severe injury.

In Alpine skiing, your feet are independent of each other, and you will generally travel in the direction that your feet are pointing. There are some exceptions to this that you might see while on a slope, but overall, the basics are the same for all skiers.

Snowboarding

Snowboarding was invented in the 1960s and is often argued to be the “cooler” of the two sports. The big difference with snowboarding is that both feet are strapped to the same board, so you stand similarly to how a surfer or skateboarder stands. Unfortunately, the only way to get the snowboard off your feet is to unstrap it. This means that, when you fall, the board stays strapped to your feet.

Skiing vs Snowboarding – Which Is Easier For Beginners To Learn?

As a beginner, skiing is considered the easier activity to learn. This stems from the fact that your feet are independent of each other and it’s a lot easier to learn the basics of turning, which is the most important skill of either sport, as it will control your speed down the slope.

Another factor that can make skiing easier for beginners is that when you fall over − and most beginners will fall over at least once or twice − it’s easier to get up. In the case of a “hard” fall, where you may take a tumble going fast, the skill will pop off your boots, protecting you from serious injury.

The reason why snowboarding is so difficult is because of it being more physically demanding. You will want to have a good level of fitness to try it out. There will be a lot of time spent getting up off the ground while your legs are bound to the board, and you will need to hold a squat posture as you move.

How Long Does It Take To Learn To Ski?

It usually takes a day or so to learn the basics of skiing, but it can take 3-5 days to really get the hang of it. Age, fitness, and balance are factors that will impact the rate at which you learn to ski. Confidence is a big factor, too. The older you are, the more likely you will be to go a little slower.

If you aren’t fit, the first few days will be tough as you use new muscles groups. With a good instructor, you could easily learn the basics to get off the easy beginner slopes and up a chair lift by the middle of the week. By then, you should be able to confidently turn, stop, and maybe even have your skis parallel most of the time.

The biggest factor that delays beginners is their confidence. For many, sliding on a surface is not a fun experience, but the whole point of skiing is to do exactly that. This can cause all sorts of problems in your early stages of learning, as you will need to learn to adjust your coordination and get used to the sensation.

Don’t feel disheartened if your kids pick it up a lot quicker than you. Kids will probably pick up skiing in half the time it takes an adult. Their center of gravity is lower, they don’t get hurt as easily, and they can be a lot braver. The time it takes to learn more advanced techniques is a bit longer, though, so don’t expect to go from beginner to racer in one week.

How Long Does It Take To Learn To Snowboard?

It can take 1-5 days to learn the basics of snowboarding. Snowboarding takes longer to learn than skiing, especially if you have never done anything like surfing or skateboarding before. Like skiing, your age, fitness, and balance all play roles in how quickly you pick up snowboarding.

In snowboarding, the buildup to being able to turn is a lot longer than in skiing. One of the first things you learn while on a snowboard is how to slide down the slope on your heels and toes. This can be a little intimidating for many people, as you need to be able to balance just right without falling over.

It’s only once this is mastered that you will progress to a technique called “the falling leaf,” where you practice your toe and heel slides side to side. Many people will only really get to this stage at the end of their first day and will need to be able to confidently perform the skill before moving on to linked turns.

Snowboarding Progression

The linked turn is where the snowboarder will switch between heel and toe slides. Beginners have difficulty with this because of how foreign moving while standing sideways feels. This is the skill that delays many people when learning how to snowboard, and you could be practicing the skill for a couple of days.

Once you’re confident in turning, you are safe to go up a chairlift and practice on a slope that’s a little bit steeper. The chairlift is something that a beginner snowboarder might find very difficult, at least when compared to a skier. On a chairlift, a snowboarder will need to unclip their backfoot and position themselves like they are going to sit side saddle.

Overall, it can take a full week to learn how to turn properly, depending on how you take to it. But the good news is you may find that progressing to the more advanced skills on a snowboard is a lot easier than learning advanced techniques on a pair of skis.

Skiing vs Snowboarding – Which Is Cheaper To Learn?

Both skiing and snowboarding can be expensive to learn. There are a lot of little things for each sport that add up. Transportation, accommodation, and food at a resort can be pricey, and that’s before you factor in the costs of skiing or snowboarding equipment.

Depending on where you are, the biggest cost will be lift passes. This, at least, should be the same price for both skiing and snowboarding. But you have to factor in the equipment rental. For your first trip, it’s never recommended to buy your equipment because if you hate it, you might have trouble reselling your used equipment.

Rental Equipment And Lessons

Resort rental shops can be pricey with their equipment because they know you don’t have another option. You can offset these costs by booking in advance or renting from a shop close to home before you go on your trip.

In many cases, it’s more expensive to rent ski equipment than snowboard equipment. This is mostly due to the base cost of beginner snowboard gear being cheaper than ski gear. One thing to look out for is the cost of kid’s equipment, as sometimes children’s snowboard gear is more expensive than ski gear.

Your next expense will be lessons. It’s always recommended that you get at least one or two lessons from a professional instructor before you hit the slopes, so you are not a danger to yourself or others. Overall, though, it costs around the same price for both skiing and snowboarding lessons.

There are usually two of types of lessons: Group or private. Private lessons will always be more expensive than a group lesson because you will be one-on-one with the instructor. The one time you might see a price difference is snowboarding lessons for children, as you can be charged a premium if your child is under eight years old and wants to learn.

Skiing vs Snowboarding – What Gear Do You Need?

Skiing and snowboarding both require similar gear for you to stay safe and to keep warm in cold weather conditions. These include a good jacket, snow pants, gloves, and a helmet. No matter which sport you choose, these are essential items that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Jackets

There are two types of jackets you can buy for winter sports: Hard shell or insulated. The big difference between these two is that the hard shell will require you to wear more layers underneath, while a good, insulated jacket will handle most of the heating for you. When selecting a jacket, make sure it’s waterproof and windproof, as no one wants to end a session because they are cold.

Snow Pants

Snow pants should be waterproof. Waterproofing is very important as a beginner snowboarder because you will probably spend a lot of time on the ground from falls. Or, if you are in a group lesson, you may need to sit down in the snow while you’re waiting for other people to take their turn.

Gloves

There are several different styles of gloves you can wear. Your gloves should be waterproof and sufficiently warm, as it will be your hands that will be one of the first things to get cold. If you are susceptible to the cold, you can get wool liners for your gloves to give you that little bit of extra insulation.

Some of the styles of gloves include a standard five-finger shape, mittens, and a claw-like shape where three fingers are together while your pointer and thumb are free. The choice is a matter of personal preference, but mitten gloves are more likely to be warmer.

Helmet

Helmets are one of the most important pieces of equipment to use when you are learning to ski or snowboard. Some resorts will not let you on to a chair lift without one. Most rental shops will have them available, and the fit should be correct for your head.

You can check the fit by putting it on your head and then shaking it. If it feels like it’s separate from your head, then it’s too big. If it feels tight, like it’s squeezing your head, then it’s too small. Just remember that no matter how good you think you are at the sport, you should still wear a helmet because someone could crash into you.

Ski Gear

When it comes to ski-specific gear, there are a few extra pieces of equipment you will need. The main two things for a beginner are the skis and the boots. Eventually, you may want poles, but some ski schools don’t require you to have poles until you can turn.

Boots

A bad pair of boots can ruin a ski trip. For your first ski trip, it’s wise to rent your ski boots, as a good pair can be an expensive mistake if you hate the sport. A ski boot is made of hard, molded plastic and can take a while to get used to.

When trying on your boot, it should be comfortable on your foot and on your leg. Also, make sure that you wear a pair of good ski socks to keep your feet warm and protect them from any snow that may find its way into your boot.

Skis And Bindings

Like boots, it’s better to rent your skis and bindings on your first trip. A good ski rental shop will be able to give you a suitable pair of skis for your first time. Make sure you ask for beginner skis, as these are best suited for the skills you will be learning and will generally be a bit lighter.

Next, the length of the ski will be determined by your height. The ski should stand somewhere between your chin and nose for a beginner. As most ski manufacturers are based in Europe, the corresponding size will be in centimeters, but a good rule of thumb is to have it around 10 cm less than your height.

The final important information needed is the size of your boot. The rental shop needs this information to make sure your binding is set to the right length. This is very important as the binding is where your foot is attached to the ski. Don’t be surprised if you are also asked for your weight, as the technician will use this to adjust the strength of your binding.

Poles

Ski poles aren’t really used by beginners and can often be more of a hindrance than a help, so don’t be surprised if your instructor says that you don’t need to use them. More often than not, children will not have poles at all until they start to learn parallel turns.

Generally, any ski pole will do, and they are normally free with ski rental. To make sure that your pole is the right length for you, hold it upside down and hold your arm bent at a 90-degree angle at your side. You want the pole to be comfortably touching the ground without moving your arm anymore. If the poles are too long, they can trip you up. If too short, they will impact your posture.

Snowboard Gear

In snowboarding, there are three essential pieces of equipment: The snowboard, the bindings, and the boots. Since you never use poles when snowboarding, these pieces of equipment must be the right fit so you can maintain your balance and turn properly.

Boots

Snowboard boots are a lot more comfortable than ski boots because they don’t have a hard plastic shell. However, it’s still important to make sure the boot is comfortable on your feet and legs because you will be bending at your ankles a lot. When trying on your boot, make sure you are wearing the socks you plan to wear while snowboarding.

Snowboard And Bindings

Like skis, it’s better to rent your snowboard for the first time. Any good rental shop will be able to provide you with a suitable board for a beginner. You might get asked if you have a goofy or regular stance. This just means they need to know which foot you lead with.

The way to test this is to stand still with both feet together and let somebody push you from behind. Whichever foot you step forward with to stop yourself from falling over is your main foot. If it’s your left foot, you have a regular stance. If it’s the right foot, you have a “goofy” stance. This will allow the store technician to adjust the bindings on the board accordingly.

Skiing vs Snowboarding – Which Is Better For Kids?

Skiing is usually easier for kids to learn than snowboarding. In many resorts and snowsport schools, the minimum age for skiing can be as young as three. For snowboarding, the minimum age is usually eight. There can be exceptions to these ages, as private lessons can have more leeway.

Children are a lot more versatile than adults in what they find easy and hard. When deciding which would be better, ask them which one they want to try. Both are challenging activities and children often don’t have the patience of adults when it comes to learning something new, so it’s better they try something they actually want to try.

Skiing vs Snowboarding – Which Is More Dangerous?

Both skiing and snowboarding can be dangerous. With both sports, you will be falling over a lot and one bad fall can end with a trip to the ER. As a beginner, you are generally safe from the dangers that come from backcountry adventures, but there are still other dangers to be wary of.

One of the biggest causes of injury while skiing and snowboarding happen from not wearing a helmet. It’s easy to fall over on an icy day, and head injuries are very dangerous. Even an experienced skier should wear a helmet because no matter how good you are, if you get hit by another person on the slope, you can be injured.

Other Dangers

Another danger to consider is other people. During school holidays and weekends, it can be very busy on a ski slope. You will need to be able to navigate these crowds and be cautious of others. One of the skills you will learn as a beginner snowboarder is to slide down the slope on your toes. This will make it difficult to look where you’re going, increasing your chances of collisions.

It’s very easy to fall when you are a beginner in both skiing and snowboarding, which can cause all kinds of injuries. If your ski catches on a bump, it can easily cause you to twist your knee. When you’re snowboarding, putting your hands out to stop a fall can result in a broken wrist, depending on the snow conditions.

Overall, neither sport is more dangerous than the other. The safest thing to do is to give it the caution it deserves. Skiing and snowboarding are fun, so don’t let fear of injury make you miss out. Listen to your instructor as they will teach you how to avoid harm and make the most out of your vacation.

Do You Need To Be Fit To Ski Or Snowboard?

As with any sport, the more fit you are, the better you will be at skiing or snowboarding. Both sports require strength and balance, which are the two things you will be better at if you are fit. Maneuvering down the slopes and staying upright are much easier if you stay in shape.

It’s good to be at least a little fit before you try either sport. For both skiing and snowboarding, the key muscle groups you will use are your core and quads. Before you go away, you can prepare by doing some basic exercises a couple of weeks before your trip.

Lunges, squats, and calf raises are some easy leg exercises to do during your day while you are making coffee or taking a break from work. Core exercises like holding a plank or Russian twists can be done a couple of times a week to help to get the best foundation for your trip.

Final Thoughts

Skiing is usually easier for beginners to pick up than snowboarding. Both are fun and challenging activities to learn, but staying upright on two skis rather than one snowboard is much easier. Skiing isn’t as strenuous and you will probably be able to master the basics after a few runs.