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The Real Differences Between Skiing and Snowboarding

Gate jumping snowboarder

 

Three ski resorts in the United States ban snowboarders. Some snowboarders take that personally.

I don’t.

Two of those resorts, Alta and Deer Valley, are right in my backyard. Last year I even went skiing at Alta.

I skied from the time I was three until I was fourteen. I raced. I rode big mountain terrain. I was really good. I can count on one hand the number of times I came across a rideable slope that I was too timid to tackle.

Then, in my teens, I switched to snowboarding and never looked back. I enjoyed it more. I later became certified to teach snowboarding and now write the About.com Snowboarding Guide.

So, I’m fairly well-experienced in both sports.

I don’t care that some ski resorts choose to ban snowboarders. I’m not a fan of exclusionary business practices, but, if those ski hills could capitalize on the feelings of camaraderie, nostalgia, and sense purity that exists among long-time skiers, then more power to ‘em. There’s more than enough other terrain out there for me.

There is something that does upset me though.

Some skiers are very biased against snowboarders.

If you don’t believe me, watch this video, taken by snowboarders petitioning to be allowed on Alta.

Last year during my Best in the West Ski and Snowboard Tour I was often guided around ski areas by former (and current) competitive skiers. Most of the time my hosts were gracious and thought nothing of the plank strapped to my feet.  We only needed to ride for a few minutes together before they realized that I could go basically anywhere that they could.

Some of my guides, however, weren’t so open-minded. They’d sneer when they saw that the journalist they were asked to show around had one board, rather than two, strapped to his feet. They’d condescendingly say things like, “That’s a great spot, but we don’t want to go there. The traverse is too long.” or “No, we can’t go there. There are too many moguls.”

I found myself having to defend my choice of ride. These skiers wrongly assumed that I couldn’t traverse, that I couldn’t carve properly, and that I’d scrape all the snow off of the runs.

I had to assure these skiers that I would traverse anywhere they wanted to, that I could hold an edge across an icy slope, that I could keep up with them on a cat track, and that they could indeed hop off of the chair and just start skiing right away, because I would be able to catch up after stopping for five seconds to strap in my rear foot.

By the end of our time together most of these skiers would say things like, “I’ve never ridden with a snowboarder like you,” or “You’re not like other snowboarders. You can actually ride.”

There are a lot of snowboarders, like me, who can navigate a mountain just as easily as a skier. 

We can go pretty much anywhere and do pretty much anything that a skier can do just as easily as a skier.

I’ll admit, in some situations I have to put in more effort to keep up on traverses and cat tracks.

I can, however, keep up just fine and I don’t mind the work.

It aggravates me when skiers condescendingly assume that my ability to maneuver on the mountain is somehow hindered by the board on my feet.

There are differences between skiing and snowboarding. Many peoples ideas about what the real differences are, however, are ridiculous and insulting.

I’ve put a lot of thought into this. As both a skier and snowboarder I’m in a unique position to tackle this issue. So, on this post I’m going to address the differences between skiing and snowboarding once and for all.

I’m going to tell you what the real differences are, show you that they are in fact really quite small, and then frankly put to bed a lot of the bullshit stereotypes about snowboarders.

The root of the problem is that cultural differences between skiers and snowboarders have been overblown and that most snowboarders are stained with an image that comes from a very small — but extremely visible — minority of snowboarders.

The Real Differences Between Skiers and Snowboarders

There are three types of differences between skiing and snowboarding: technical, emotional, and cultural.

Technical differences are the things that are made possible, impossible, easy, and difficult, by the nature of the technology. For example, a skier can (theoretically) carve a shaper turn than a snowboarder because he has two edges in the snow rather than one.  Emotional differences have to do with the way the ride feels; the smoothness, flow, and enjoyment. Then we have cultural differences, which is the source of most of the bad blood between skiers and riders.

Below, I will talk about all three.

Technical Ability

There are two important technical differences between skiing and snowboarding: the number of edges in the snow and the ability to move your legs as a biped.

I will say this now. Skiers, please try to contain your delight.

Skis are more technically functional than snowboards. 

It’s true. With skis you have four edges on the snow. You can turn more sharply. You can skate and push yourself with poles.

Skiers are often quick to point these things out.

I would also like to point out, however, that in 99.9% of circumstances, a snowboarder can overcome the technical differences between the two using effort and skill.

Some skiers assume that snowboarders are unable to follow long traverses. In most cases this is not true. It all depends on the ability of the snowboarder.

Having done a great deal of research last winter, I can tell you from experience that skiers are generally sloppy and lazy traversers.

They rightly should be. It’s easy to traverse on skis, so there is no reason to be attentive. So, most skiers cruise along mindlessly, unconcerned about carrying momentum because if they lose speed they can simply push with a pole.

A good snowboarder, on the other hand, is a master of maximizing momentum. He chooses his path carefully and pumps the grooves and bumps in the trail for speed.  If he loses his speed he always has the option of frog-hopping a few steps up the hill so that the can ride down to the trail to build more speed.

This is sufficient to reach 99.9 percent of in-bounds terrain in most ski areas. If a snowboarder wants to tackle that last .01 percent, that snowboarder would need a splitboard.

So, although skis are technically more proficient, a good snowboarder can access effectively all of the same in-bounds terrain as skiers if they’re skilled and willing to put in a bit of extra effort.

The same holds true when it comes to flats. Unstrapping and pushing a snowboard is not fun, but, given the way that most ski hills are built (to prevent skiers from having to skate) a good snowboarder can unstrap and keep up to a skier of comparable ability most of the time

In all but the most extreme cases, snowboards are able to achieve the same results as skis. It is true that the snowboarder may have to put in some extra physical effort — but there is a payoff for that, which is what I’m going to discuss next.

Feeling and Enjoyment

This is highly subjective and there’s no right answer for everyone  — so I won’t dwell on it too long — but this is the main reason that I prefer snowboarding to skiing.

The qualities that make snowboards less technically functional than skis — the lack of biped motion and extra edges — are the same qualities that make snowboarding feel so damned good.

Snowboarding feels smoother than skiing does.

Yes, a skier’s four edges have an advantage in technically challenging situations. However, when it comes to those glorious times — the ones that make you want to get up at six in the morning and drive to the hill —  those times that you’re ploughing through snorkel-deep powder, screaming over beautifully-groomed corduroy, or plummeting down a sudden drop-off with your stomach in your mouth — managing two edges feels more fluid, natural, and enjoyable than managing four.

I’ve heard even the most hardcore skiers admit the appeal of a big fat snowboard on a powder day. The enjoyment of a rider sluffing floaty s-turns down a steep pitch of untouched pow is obvious.

So, although, skis are more technically proficient, snowboarding offers a better experience.

The difference is slight — the experiential advantage of snowboarding is about as big as the technical advantage of skiing — but it is worth mentioning.

It’s the reason that I choose to snowboard.

Cultural Characteristics

This is where things get hairy.

Before I start talking about the cultural differences between skiers and snowboarders — which basically means talking about stereotypes — I have to point out that I hate stereotypes and believe that every person deserves to be judged on their individual character.

The stereotypes I’m talking about are not my own personal beliefs, but views that I’ve noticed that others tend to hold; views which are at the root of much of the conflict between skiers and snowboarders.

The Bad Snowboarder Stereotype

The most extreme stereotype of snowboarders is one of punk skateboarders who figured out how to ride on snow and enjoy ruining the on-mountain experience for everyone else. This stereotype asserts that snowboarders are disrespectful, technically sloppy, aggressive, and unaware of others on the hill.

There are plenty snowboarders that fit this stereotype. I’ve met them and you’ve met them. (Then again, there are some skiers that fit it too.) They are, however, an overwhelming minority. The vast majority of snowboarders I know are kind and respectful.

A lot of the qualities reflected in this stereotype arise from a focus on a very small, but highly-visible, part of the snowboarding community.

Bullshit Snowboarder Stereotypes

A lot of the stereotypes about snowboarders arise from a small group of very visible snowboarders: park riders.

Park riders are the most visible snowboarders on the mountain. They spend their time on the busiest runs near the busiest lifts, so they are the snowboarders the average encounters most often.

Park snowboarders, however, probably make up less than half of the snowboarding community. The rest of us are off cruising down groomed runs or searching for pow.

It often happens in subcultures that a small minority of aggressive loudmouths get all of the attention from parents and the press. This is true of snowboarding.

There are lots of super douchebag snowboarders out there. They cut you off on the hill, nearly run you over, ride way too fast in slow areas, and flip the bird to anyone who gets in their way.

But there are lots of super douchebag skiers for that matter. And soccer players. And bakers and doctors and policemen.

Douchebaggery is not limited to snowboarding.

The snowboarding community includes a proportion of douchebags approximately equal to that of any other social group. For the sake of statistics, let’s say that that one out of ten people in the general population are douchebags.

So, if park riders make up, say, 40 percent of snowboarders, and 10 percent of those are super douchebags, we have a situation where all snowboarders are being judged based on the actions of around four percent of douchebag park riders, who come into contact with a very large number of people on the hill because they spend their time in the busiest places.

The following snowboarder stereotypes are based on this tiny minority of douchbag park riders and are dead wrong:

Bullshit Stereotype #1: Snowboarders Can’t Carve

A lot of skiers feel that snowboarders are technically crappy at turning and stopping, making them a danger to others around them.

There is a sliver of truth to this argument (two edges can turn and stop better than one) but it has been blown way out of proportion.

Snowboarders (and skiers) who hang out in the terrain park ride gear that’s customized for aerial maneuvers and rails. Their boards (or skis) are shorter for spinning, and their edges are dulled so that they won’t catch on rails.
Short boards (or skis) with dull edges are not able to turn sharply.

So, yes, some very visible douchebag snowboarders (and skiers) ride equipment that is not technically capable of making sharp turns. They do it at high speeds in crowded areas, and I’m sorry about that.

But that doesn’t mean that we all do it.

Bullshit Stereotype #2: Snowboarders Scrape the Powder Off the Mountain

This stereotype is based on an understandable misperception.

People see novice snowboarders sideslipping on the hill where novice skiers are snowplowing. So, on beginner (and some intermediate) terrain you’ll often see snowboarders sideslipping while skiers do not, because they have the option of snowplowing.

This creates the perception that snowboarders sideslip more than skiers.

When you get into the steeps, however, this ceases to be true. In the steeps, snowboarders and skiers both sideslip equally and for the same reason.

Sideslipping is for people who are riding terrain beyond their ability.

If a snowboarder sideslips down a slope, she will scrape away most of the powder on it.

If a skier sideslips down a slope, he will also scrape away most of the powder on it.

If a skier or snowboarder carves down the same slope, they will both displace approximately the same amount of pow.

The truth is that when you take either a skier or snowboarder down a pitch that they can’t handle, they will sideslip the snow off of it equally well.

Bullshit Stereotype #3: Snowboarders Ruin Moguls

This is basically the same as the above complaint. A good snowboarder will weave between moguls in the same way as a good skier.

A bad snowboarder will ride over them, in the same way that a bad skier will.

Bullshit Stereotype #4: Most Snowboarders Are Aggressive Teenagers

Snowboarding has been around since the mid 1960s. This means that the 5.1 million snowboarders on the mountain range from young children to senior citizens.

My father, at 68, loves snowboarding. A study by the Leisure Trends Group in 2004, found that 1.1 million snowboarders were over the age of 35.

We are not all young punks. I’m thirty-five and have a job, a salary…you know, a normal life.

Bullshit Stereotype #5: Learning to Snowboard is Easy

“It took me two days to become an intermediate snowboarder,” Chris G., a writer for Yahoo Voices, said, “By the end of the second day I could take the board down any intermediate run and could even jump fairly well.”

You have to attain a certain level of skill at any task before it becomes fun, whether it be playing guitar, figure skating, or baking cookies.

Generally speaking, it is easier to learn how to manage two edges on the snow than it is to learn how to manage four — at least in the beginning. So, it is probably easier for most people to go from zero to fun on a snowboard than on skis.

This should hardly be considered a shortcoming, though.

And, once you start looking at advanced technical maneuvers, the learning curve is pretty much equally steep for both skiers and snowboarders. When it comes to hucking backflips and charging 40 degree chutes, it simply comes down to the ability of the individual, not the plank strapped to their feet.

Bullshit Stereotype #6: Snowboarding is Loud

Many skiers claim that snowboarders make a horrible scraping noise when riding downhill or coming to a stop.

I’m no physicist, but I doubt that. A snowboard, because it’s broader, makes a low-pitched sound when it vibrates. Low sounds carry farther.

Skis, on the other hand, make a high-pitched sound when they scrape over ice. This sound is in all likelihood equally loud. It just doesn’t carry as far.

The sound of snowboards on ice may carry farther, but, in my opinion, the sound of skis on ice is more unpleasant.

Can We Be Friends?

Most skiers are totally cool with snowboarders.

However, some skiers make accusations about snowboarders that are are downright ignorant.

I have met you. You assumed the worst of me before we even got on the chairlift. You roll your eyes because of all the time you expect to waste, waiting for me to strap in. You preach about how we can’t traverse to all the places that you can, and how we ruin your favorite runs.

You are full of shit.

Despite that, I’d like to shake hands and call it water under the bridge.

Here’s what I propose.

You let go of your preconceptions and wait until you see me ride before you judge me.

I’ll forget about all the ignorant things you said about me.

Do we have a deal? 

 

 

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50 Responses to The Real Differences Between Skiing and Snowboarding

  1. CMP October 15, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

    I am a skier – I have tried snowboarding but don’t enjoy it (because I suck at it). With so many mixed families (skiing wives happily living with snowboarding husbands and children and vice versa), I find this elitist attitude dumb. Snowboarders aren’t the issue – it is reckless people on the hill – and by no means do snowboarders have monopoly on reckless, stupid behaviour.

    • Matt Gibson October 15, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

      I’m sure it need not be said at this point, but I completely agree.

    • jayne seanard October 16, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

      I’m a N.E. Pa.skier and snowboard out West when I am lucky cause its soft. All three of my adult children snowboard and excel at it. I am an instructor at a nice mountain in North East Pa. last year I seriously started to consider quitting my job, that I love, because of so many of my friends getting hit and badly hurt, and myself almost getting hit, more then once by snowboarders going to fast for their skill level. No, it is not the sport, it is the learning curve. (in my opinion) hard to get at first, then it clicks and goes smoothly. So we have people that have been on boards maybe four times and they think they are experts and its all going good and then they go to fast and then its not so good and then they hit another one of my instructor friends. Its not the sport its some of the people but I am sick of it. Yes, we have idiots on skis too, but beginner, novice snowboarders go too fast and my friends and I pay the price. I’m not talking one or two every now and then, I know we are in dangerous sports. I get it honey there are no guarantees. Five people I KNOW personally got hit by snowboarders LAST winter. zero by skiers. I’ve had my skis run over. I had a boarder go in between my student and I as I talked to her on the hill, maybe four foot away from me she was as we talked. I don’t know that many people and that’s a lot of people getting hit on a small mountain. I am sad to say I don’t wonder if its going to happen, I wonder when is it going to happen. Snow boarding is great, its smooth, its like flying, but personally I would not shed a tear if I never crossed paths with a snowboarder again. I’m sorry to say it but I’d be glad.

      • Matt Gibson October 16, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

        I’m genuinely sorry to hear that Jayne. It sounds like you are speaking purely from experience and without bias, so you have gotten me thinking.

        Does the learning curve on a snowboard lend itself more to learners getting out-of-control than that of skis?

        Anyone else care to comment on this? It hadn’t occurred to me.

        • Lane October 16, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

          I’m an instructor of both skiing and snowboarding. I honestly feel that the learning curve of snowboarding does lend itself to out of control riders. Its the tendency for beginners to lean to the back foot. The problem really lies in the “buddy lesson”, being taught by friend rather than a professional.

      • Ben October 17, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

        Jayne and co raise a good point about snowboarders going out of control more than skiers.

        She accounts that to the learning curve. Which may be partially true, but I see it as more of an ignorance of on hill etiquette.

        As an instructor as well, I see way more people in ski lessons than snowboard lessons. In those lessons, people learn not only to stay in control, but parts of the on-hill responsibility code.

        Snowboarding traditionally (like skateboarding and surfing) have tended to avoid formal lessons and learn by oneself (which is what I did too). For those not coming from a ski background, they learn nothing about the responsibility code, and only the basics of control at first. I have had my share of stern talks with novices as well.

        So I see the problem as being a culture that avoids formal instruction. CASI (the Canadian Instructor assoc) is trying hard to counter that stigma. If you see people like that, assume that they really don’t know any better, and tell them to get a lesson.

        It might be a good idea to clip offenders passes and not let them back on the hill until they have taken a real lesson

      • jt October 17, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

        I worked as a snowboard instructor and a coach for 10 years at 3 different mountains in northeast PA, I was a level 3 certified instructor and had a freestyle cert also. Might have even worked at the same place you did. I have witnessed every type of crash you could think off. I have seen people get run into in lessons, on open trails, in lines for hits in the park, lift lines, run offs from jumps or rails. I had my board run over I have been hit more times than I can count. I had a board broken, bindings split, whatever. Guess what, there were just as many beginner two plankers doing a split down the trail running into people as there were out of control snowboarders hitting people. If you work in pa, at least 60 percent of the people on the snow are out of town beginners. It’s the judgment of the person not the equipment. Sorry your friends got hit and all, but you’re ignorant. Pay attention and watch what happened without any bias, it’s a 50/50 split of jackasses cutting people of being dicks, and people going too fast to handle.

      • Jeremy October 17, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

        That’s so nice that you pretty much just said that you never care to cross paths with your own childern. From my 30 years on the hill 15 of those professionally teaching and coaching, I would say “that’s very skierly of you”

  2. Evolve Snow Camps October 16, 2013 at 12:16 am #

    We come from the school of thought that its all the same thing. We are all out for the same reason…to catch fresh lines, hit rails and fly off jumps. At both of our programs our skiers and snowboarders shredd together.

  3. Joe Downey October 16, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

    Matt the most annoying thing that Snoboarders do is sitting down in the Middle of the Slope. Ninety per cent of the time it is right below a slight drop so you can not see them until the Last moment. Skiers if they are waiting for somebody they stand (Upright) at the edge of a trail.
    That and the grinding of snow off the trail is annoying also. In New England the nice term for Ice is Packed Powder. Grinding just exposes the glacier under the groomed area.

    • Matt Gibson October 16, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

      Joe, both skiers and snowboarder stop in the middle of the slope. Skiers stand, and snowboarders sit.

      Both have been known to stop beneath knolls where those above can’t see them.

      But, to say that snowboarders sit under knolls 90% of the time is exactly the kind of bullshit exaggerated stereotype that I’m talking about in this article.

      It’s ridiculous to say, and it’s ridiculous to think snowboarders stop on the slope more often then skiers. Just because they sit more often than skiers (skiers sit too) does not constitute a big difference.

      And to say snowboards scrape more snow of the hill is equally ridiculous.

      Skiers scrape with twice as many edges as boarders. If anything one would think the opposite would be true (though I think they’re pretty much equal myself).

      • Scooch October 17, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

        @Joe “Matt the most annoying thing that Snoboarders do is sitting down in the Middle of the Slope. Ninety per cent of the time it is right below a slight drop so you can not see them until the Last moment. ”

        So so true. Incredibly true. Truer than true.

        @Matt “But, to say that snowboarders sit under knolls 90% of the time is exactly the kind of bullshit exaggerated stereotype that I’m talking about in this article.”

        Do you have a problem with getting your head stuck in the sand? If you visit any resort, anywhere on earth, like a lot of the time, there are boarders sitting on their arses across the top of the slope .. or just out of sight below the top of the slope. This is not an anomaly, it is a regular occurrence and for the most part I never see skiers doing the same thing.

        I love boarding BTW and this is just something that needs to be address as part of slopeside culture.

        • Matt Gibson October 17, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

          Scooch, my head is not stuck in the sand any more than yours is stuck up your ass.

          There is no conceivable reason to believe that the board strapped to a person’s feet makes them less capable of realizing that they are likely to cause an accident by stopping where people can not see them.

          I never said skiers sit on the slope as much as snowboarders. Of course snowboarders sit down more. Skiers stand. Sometimes they lay on their sides.

          I said they all “stop” on the slopes equally as often, which is true. Skiers stop and stand in the middle of the slope (and beneath drop offs) just as often as snowboarders.

          Usually the people who do this are young and don’t understand the reason why it’s dangerous.

          • Scooch October 17, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

            The only reason I was looking there was to find your point of view. But I can’t seem to get my head that far up my ass.

            The reason that snowboarding is in decline is because the boarding community fails to correct these obvious facts about snowboarder behaviour.

            Go, film reality, then show the difference between the boarders and skiers. That would be more objective than interviewing Alta idiots.

        • Ben October 17, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

          Scooch,
          Where do you ski/ride?
          Up here in BC, I can’t really think of anywhere I’ve been where snowboarders sit under knolls at the top of the run.

          At the top of slopes, yes. Most sit down to do up their bindings. And most have the common sense to do it out of the way. Only a handful of places I’ve been (like some out-of-the-way aces in Japan) has it been a problem, but those people are generally novices, who need to be told to get out the way.

          Never seen it so bad that I needed to complain about it on a website. Perhaps it is something local to your area? Or perhaps the unloading area is too small and novice riders need to do up their bindings in that particular spot?

  4. Ben October 16, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    “What’s the hardest part about skiing?”

    “Telling your parents you are gay”

    “What’s the difference between a beginner snowboarder and a snowboard instructor?”

    “About 3 days”

    Skiing is easier to learn in the first half day, which my be why it is still preferred over snowboarding. But snowboarding takes about a full day to get to the same level as turning.

    After that though, snowboarding is much easier to progress at. Skiing has a European past, and is heavy with technique. Mastering 4 edges takes longer than 2. But the rewards are more speed and control.

    Snowboarding has surfing roots, which has valued style and individual progression over technique. Plus, a bad-boy image. Terrain is approached very differently. Especially when you don’t have poles to limit you.

    One common reason i keep hearing on why people switch to snowboarding is the boots. Ski boots are still uncomfortable for extended periods.

    If someone is looking to try one or the other, it seems the best way of deciding is whether the individual wants to be able to move their feet individually (as in skiing), or wants the simplicity of only having a board to use, rather than 4 separate pieces of equipment.

  5. Ben October 16, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    Joe,
    I’ve never seen skiers sit in blind spots or beginners snowplow fresh snow off a run in my short 35 years in the hills.
    Not once, never.

    • Jeremy October 17, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

      You need glasses dude. Skiers, not all, most ones that have no knowledge of their surroundings because they are novices or just plain ignorant of etiquette, seem to love to stop on the lip of every single jump they see, stand there and stomp around a bit, poke a bunch of divots, call their 3yo with wedgies on over for a picture, then direct them to ski “pizza” down the landing while they stand in that nice flat area with no tracks in it and take pictures.

      Truth is both sports have their fair share of idiots and superstars. But skiing has given little of nothing to snowboarding, had to fight tooth and nail to get where were it is. On the other hand snowboarding has given new life to a sport that was vastly losing numbers, technologically stalled and had adopted rules of boringness and anti-creativity. You’re welcome, now get out of my landing and shut up.

  6. Rhonda October 16, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    I’m by no means an expert on any of this but I have noticed that more people seem to be having fun while snowboarding. Some skiers seem way too serious and uptight. To me, snowboarding seems more carefree than skiing (but that could be because when I’m skiing I feel like Bambi on ice most of the time).

    • Matt Gibson October 16, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

      Well, I can’t comment as to the personalities of everyone, but the skiers in the video at the top of the post certainly come across as uptight ;)

  7. Karl Hughes October 16, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    Hi From Scotland…

    What is there to debate ?

    Whether you ski or board…just get out and do it ! enjoy the mountains, the dopamine…the buzz.
    Duck them ropes…turn that transciever on and go for it…

    Karl ( 50 year old boarder )

    • Matt Gibson October 16, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

      You are my new ski/boarding mentor, Karl. I’m with ya!

  8. TammyOnTheMove October 16, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

    Growing up in Germany I learned to ski as a child, but have never tried snowboarding. I would love to try it out one day though. Somehow I always think that snowboarders look way cooler than skiers. :-)

  9. Paul Springer October 17, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    When trying too explain the difference of challenge, fun & reward I compare skiing & snowboarding to water skiing. If they know how to slalom do they find it more fun & challenging on one ski verses two ski’s (?) This example usually turns some skeptics around to understand the thrill & reward… Snowboarding since 1985 and Level 3 PSIA/AASI Instructor since 1999.

    • Matt Gibson October 17, 2013 at 11:41 am #

      That is a great analogy. I’m totally stealing it!

  10. Amee October 17, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    I have always thought a major reason for misunderstanding between skiers and boarders is their range of vision. When I ski, I am facing forward and my blindspot(s) are about the same as where they would be if I am driving a car. When I snowboard, I am facing towards one side or the other, and my blindspot is over my back shoulder. Therefore, the “comes out of nowhere,” “I didn’t see you there” factor is very different. That angry, “I hate those _________(skiers/snowboarders–your choice)” feeling is usually secondary to the first “I was startled and scared by you” feeling.
    JMHO

    • Matt Gibson October 17, 2013 at 11:40 am #

      You raise a good issue. Snowboarders do have a responsibility of being more aware on their backside when riding. I’ve personally rarely ever found this a problem, but it is a greater problem for us than for skiers.

      • Jeremy October 17, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

        On the flip side of that as a boarder is approaching a skier from behind (eyes focused fall line, blind from 2 to 10 o’clock) and the boarder is approaching with the the skier in full veiw on their toe side, seeing what is all around the skier, edging to birn speed until they can time a good point to get by the skiers fall line turning rhythm. Then all the sudden “out of nowhere, after hearing this awful scraping for half the run, it darted by me almost cutting off my turn radius and running over my ski tips” . Heard it a bunch never put 2&2 together, just knew my end (the passing boarder) and knew my actions where in full view, very calculated and got me around and clear of their path quickly and effectively without incident.

  11. LovelandLocal October 17, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

    Good article, but I’d like to point out one thing that bothered me. You say skis can turn ‘sharper’ than a snowboard. I disagree. How tightly, or sharply as you put it, one can turn is a function of the sidecut of their chosen devise. Slalom skis turn tight and quick, while GS and downhill skis arc a more open high-speed turn. Of course, an experienced skier or rider can modify their turn shape through their inputs into their devise, but how sharply one can turn is not determined by whether they are on skis or a board, that’s more of an ability and sidecut function.

    I will say however, that I think you meant to say that skis generate more edge hold than a board does. As you talk about, having two edges in contact with the snow (skis) will generate more friction (ie grip) than having only one edge on the snow at a time like a board. This is why skiers froth over big, steep committed couloirs in the spring under corn snow conditions while most snowboarders would rather build a kicker at that point. Simply put we don’t have the same ability to create edge hold that a skier does on firm snow. Hence developments like Magne-traction, and quadratic sidecuts.

    The main reason I think skiing is lame as shit is because it looks kooky. You’ve got two things on your feet, two things on your hands, and boots that make you walk around like you just had a nice long conjugal visit with Bubba at the local prison. I’m biased as shit being a life-long snowboarder, but I’d rather watch an expert rider drop a line than an expert skier any day. As you point out, the boarder will make it look more fluid and clean every time, even if the skier is good. It just doesn’t look as good to the eye. Add to that the country club mentality held by the old guard in skiing, and the fact that pretty much most skiers try to dress like us and deep down wanna be us, and you’ve got a lame ass sport on your hands.

    Further, as you point out, most skiers don’t pay attention to terrain. They think nothing of poking along on traverses or cat tracks because they can. They think nothing of following the fall line down a run because if it gets too flat they can just walk out. I would argue that snowboarders have a better eye for terrain than skiers because we have to. Fuck the flats, stick to the fall line and carry your speed. And if I pass you on a traverse and you’re on skis, I believe that you should have to ski the rest of the day with your dick out like you would in golf if you don’t hit your drive past the ladies tee. Yes, I’m aggro, yes, I’m intense, and fuck yes, I’m a snowboarder. It was better when you hated us. :)

  12. jt October 17, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

    at jayne seanard

    I worked as a snowboard instructor and a coach for 10 years at 3 different mountains in northeast PA, I was a level 3 certified instructor and had a freestyle cert also. Might have even worked at the same place you did. I have witnessed every type of crash you could think off. I have seen people get run into in lessons, on open trails, in lines for hits in the park, lift lines, run offs from jumps or rails. I had my board run over I have been hit more times than I can count. I had a board broken, bindings split, whatever. Guess what, there were just as many beginner two plankers doing a split down the trail running into people as there were out of control snowboarders hitting people. If you work in pa, at least 60 percent of the people on the snow are out of town beginners. It’s the judgment of the person not the equipment. Sorry your friends got hit and all, but you’re ignorant. Pay attention and watch what happened without any bias, it’s a 50/50 split of jackasses cutting people of being dicks, and people going too fast to handle.

  13. Daaaave October 17, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

    I’m about to embark on my 44th season on skis. Surf and skate for the past 35ish years. I tried boarding a few times when I moved here to Tahoe 20 years ago. It just wasn’t for me. All three of my kids started on skis but now board, one of them competitively, one on ski patrol and one in high school. Yes, early on, I did see a larger percentage of boarders riding without proper etiquette. The sport opened up the mountains to a broader group with many varied lifestyles and cliques. WHO CARES! In my years I’ve learned that there are d-bags and heroes in every walk of life at every level of affluence. The uptight skiers spurn the “mosh pit” boarders and vice-versa. Those who are comfortable in whichever discipline they choose have no problem with any other. Except snowlerblades. I hate those guys!

  14. MattB October 18, 2013 at 12:03 am #

    Douchebag bakers are the worst!

  15. LYNYRD October 18, 2013 at 6:00 am #

    SNOWBOARDS ACTUALLY HAVE 4 EDGES THANKS TO THE TORSIONAL FLEX OF THE SNOWBOARD DING DONG!!! BEEN RIDING A SNOWBOARD FOR 18 YEARS NOW AND TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SNOWBOARDING AND SKIING ANY MORE THAT FIGHT WAS OVER YEARS AGO!! ALSO ONE MORE FLAW I’D LIKE TO POINT OUT ABOUT THIS LITTLE THREAD IS PARK SNOWBOARDERS ARN’T OUT OF CONTROL AND THEY CAN TURN JUST AS SHARP AS SOMEONE WITH TUNED EDGES OR EVEN A SKIER FOR THAT MATTER JUST LIKE I STATED UP TOP WE ALSO HAVE 4 EDGES… ITS ALL A MATTER OF SKILL WHEN IT COMES TO BEING EFFICIENT WHEN TURNING A SNOWBOARD!! THE BIGGEST ISSUE I HAVE WITH THIS BLOG IS YOUR CLEARLY A SNOWBOARDER THAT AVOIDS RIDING PARK FOR ONE REASON OR THE OTHER BUT LET ME JUST SAY THERE ARE JUST AS MANY DICK BAG “BIG MOUNTAIN ONLY RIDERS” AS THERE ARE “PARK ONLY” RIDERS!! HONESTLY I DO IT ALL PARK PIPE POW JUMPS AND YES SOMETIMES I EVEN JUST GO OUT AND BLAST BIG LINES BUT I MAKE IT FREESTYLE ORIENTED BECAUSE I LIKE TO PUSH MYSELF PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY NOT BECAUSE IM SOME PARK DOUCHBAG THAT HATES ON SKIERS!! BUT I DO HATE ON SNOWBOARDERS THAT THINK THEY ARE GODS BECAUSE THEY VENTURE OUT TO THE BACKCOUNTRY EVEN WHEN ITS BLOWS JUST TO HIKE AROUND AND WAIST THEIR FUCKING TIME TAKING PICTURES OF BIRDS AND SHIT!!

    • Ben October 18, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

      Stop the Internet, we have a caps problem.

      Please explain to me how torsional flex gives a snowboard 4 edges.

      • Matt Gibson October 19, 2013 at 2:57 am #

        Ah ha ha ha. Ben, I think that you are actually way more qualified to write the About.com snowboarding guide than me. Maybe I should pass it off to you. That was gold!

        • Ben November 5, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

          Only if you have your hands full. I could use the cash and fame.

      • Matt Gibson October 19, 2013 at 2:58 am #

        Ah ha ha ha. Ben, I think you’re more qualified to write the About.com Snowboarding Guide than I am. That was golden!

  16. Joel October 18, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    Interesting conversation. I too used to be a “triple treat” – ski, snowboard and tele (another interesting, but less hostile relationship between free heelers and locked). I abondoned snowboarding around 2000 for the technical and emotional reasons you describe. I felt limited by having both feet locked to the same board. The technical and emotional freedom that I feel on my skis far out weighed the few moments of surf float on a board. That said it is all just ways to play on snow. That is what is important. Part of playing on snow for me is ribbing my less fortunate, less athletic, less attractive, less interesting and overall gross snowboarder friends. Keep up knuckle dragger!

    • Ben November 5, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

      Try noboarding if you want to feel truly free.

  17. Charlie October 19, 2013 at 12:29 am #

    Here in NZ I find a Snowboard and skier split sometimes, the commercial fields have both muppets on boards and skis but far more muppets than what you would find at a club field. Once you go to a club field where the terrian and nutcracker rope tows are tough, traverses are tough and generally hiking is the norm the gap between the skier and snowboarder rivalarly closes as does the muppetry.

    Go to Temple Basin NZ where the terrian is another step up and the out of bounds access is not just backcountry but starting to introduce more mountianeering accents for your lines the gap closes so much that no-one even thinks about it. You have the goods or you don’t, no one sits in peoples way or traveses like an idoit because if your an idoit at alot of these fields you generally will leave or not go because the chunk is too big for you to chew.

    I think the the aggrevation is actually a muppet aggrevation and split between the two, however the snowboarders get a worse wrap because when they hit someone they tend to do more damage to the person wearing the collision. I don’t know about the learning curve, but perhaps snowboarding attracts males around the 20’s more than skiing did or does and sometime that age group has a few more ” free spirits” in it.

    As for the feeling of snowboarding being better… I don’t know about that mate. I Telemark, now you should hear the shit I get for that. I tele with boarders or skiers but latley have found the tele turn depicts a boarders turn and use of terrian more than skiers even though if you wanted to group me you would pop me over there with my two sticked friends. If all the sitting down and traversing muppets are annoying, then perhaps you have out-grown the playground and need to some touring or backcountry, perhaps its time to step it up? perhaps its time to free the heal and free the mind? I have plenty of scroggin to share.

    • Matt Gibson October 19, 2013 at 3:15 am #

      I can’t say that I understand all of your slang Charlie, but I think we’re on the same page. You’re right. When you hit the serious terrain, all that matters is the person riding, not what they’re riding.

      I can’t speak for all snowboarders, but I don’t group telemarkers with skiers.

      I group then with maniacs who take on a sport more difficult than any sane person would.

      And I definitely agree that the smoothness of the tele style is more fluid than skiing and maybe even more than that of boarding.

      In either case, it’s a sport for madmen who are wiling to punish their body for the best ride and any person who can tele even reasonably well has my full respect, no questions, hands down.

  18. Ian October 21, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    The impression I get whenever I go boarding is that there are more people renting snowboards than skis. So it’s more than likely a case of having more of the snowboarders on the mountain be beginner renters than anything else.

    And as far as lessons, none of the people I go with (who are all beginners that rent) get them. Although that has more to do with lessons costing money than a rebellious attitude, some of them are school teachers.

    But there are just as many jerks on skis as on snowboards. I have had a skier ski right over the top of snow board while waiting in line for the lift and I have had snowboarders cut me off and fall down right in front of me. I really do think the biggest contributor to bad hill behavior is people who are renting for the day and have no clue what they are doing (that and little kids, they are the worst).

  19. Hannah October 25, 2013 at 2:34 am #

    We haven’t done this yet so this is definitely in our travel bucket. But most of the time, we prefer warm climates compared to ice cold areas. But once in a while we would love to explore and this is a good chance for us. Hope we have our ski skills at that time hehe

  20. Ross January 10, 2014 at 9:31 am #

    Great article. A very balanced view from an informed position. I have done both but am from Ireland so with much more limited experience than yourself. Personally I never found snowboarders to be any more rude than anybody else. Some may dress a bit different but so what.

  21. Christian Friberg February 16, 2014 at 9:05 pm #

    When a novive skier encounters a slope that is too steep/difficult for their skill level, they generally avoid the slope or traverse, not sideslip. Most novices on skis don’t have the edge control to sideslip down steep terrain.
    Novice boarders can simply face down the hill and heelside straight to the bottom without attempting to make a turn, effectively negotiating expert terrain with novice ability. And to say that boarders don’t ruin bumps is the biggest crock of bullshit I’ve ever heard. I have skied for 35 years and boarded for 25, and there is a HUGE difference in how boards affect the snow compared to skis. This is why moguls at places like Mad River and Alta are rhythmic and evenly placed. they flow like water straight down the fall line. As opposed to moguls frequented by boarders, which are vertically upright, with the troughs scraped down to ice. No flow whatsoever. Now, understand, novice skiers will traverse moguls and make turns on the side if the trail to get down. Once again, the novice boarder will heelside straight down the middle if the trail, and scrape the snow down through the trough into a giant, vertical pile. I was alive and skiing bumps before snowboards came along, and there is NO QUESTION that novice boarders ruin moguls. Are there boarders that negotiate moguls skillfully, making turns with the flow of the line? Absolutely. But that number of boarders is so minute as to be inconsequential. There are extremely few experienced boarders that actively seek out moguls to ride. Have you ever seen even ONE mogul segment in a snowboard movie? Maybe there was one in like ’88 or so with Damian Sanders and Chuck Barfoot.
    I do not care about cultural differences, differences in clothing, attitude, age, whatever. The simple fact us that novice snowboarders affect the snow much differently than novice skiers.
    Here’s a fun fact: did any of you know that Mad River was one of the first ski areas to allow snowboarding? And that due to a problem with boarders derailing the cable on the single chair, (offloading requires a lateral move, there is no ramp to slide down.), they closed the single chair to boarders while they tried to figure out a solution. During that downtime, several boarders accosted the owner of Mad River in the parking lot of the grocery store where she was shopping. Due to the aggressiveness and the vulgarity of the verbal attack on her, she decided Mad River would remain closed to boarders indefinitely. And so the ban stood until the mountain was sold to the skiers themselves as a co-op. There’s is a vote every year at the board meeting about whether to liift the ban, and it has been voted down every year since. Just a Little history lesson for you mad river/alta haters.

    I spend about 40% of my mountain time on a board these days, and when I do, I avoid moguls and terrain that’s over my head.

    • Matt Gibson February 20, 2014 at 2:37 am #

      To be honest, you make some pretty good points Christian. I work under the assumption that nearly all snowboarders (except the few, like I, who can actually enjoy them) avoid moguls all together.

      You are right though. My point was that skilled riders will affect the hill in very similar ways. I didn’t account for the novices. A sideslipping novice boarder will affect the snow very differently than a snowplowing skier.

      Thanks for calling this to my attention. You’ve definitely broadened my perspective, which really is what this article was written for. Starting dialogue so we could all learn.

      Last, I’d like to note, I do not begrudge any hill for banning boarders. Some people like exclusivity and are very picky about the company that they keep, and that’s fine with me. I do think that is more of a cultural phenomenon than a snow quality issue, though.

  22. Alan April 9, 2014 at 7:17 pm #

    I’m a little late to the party but I wanted to say thanks for putting this post up – the points you make are solid.

    The sport of snowboarding has matured a lot and the mountains are such a wonderful place to be it seems a waste of energy worrying about what someone is using to play in them. It’s taken me a while to get to this point but I may take snowboard lessons next season; that smooth quality you described sounds appealing as does walking in a softer boot! We’ll see if my kids have progressed enough to give me the time to experiment.

    • Matt Gibson April 9, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

      Glad you found the post useful Alan! I hope you enjoy riding as much as skiing! If you need any tips to get started, check out the About.com Snowboarding Guide (http://www.snowboarding.about.com) which I also write.

  23. Liam August 13, 2014 at 9:43 am #

    I’m a Telemark skier (I instruct Telemark and Alpine) so my bias is Telemark!
    I’m not a good snowboarder at all! (2 days practice), so I can’t judge for myself.
    Only from what I can see.

    So given your, Matt Gibson, clear experience I’m interest to know your take on the theory that snowboarder have a blind spot on there heal side.
    I’ve seen many many snowboarders hit skiers and it’s mostly when they can’t see them behind there held side, I find. What do you think?

    Personally I have nothing against good snowboarders,
    I do however take issue with some snowboarders who go on runs far to hard for them.
    I have notice that, and maybe an ironic reversing of the stereotype, they tend to be 14 year old boys trying to be a hero as they think that’s what the stereotype cool snowboarders should do.
    Not so say skier don’t do them same, but for reason I don’t understand there is ether less of them, or they end up hurting themselves before someone else.

    What you take?
    Do you know of any statistics?

    • Matt Gibson August 13, 2014 at 10:31 pm #

      Hi Liam,

      It is definitely true that snowboarders have a blind spot on their heel side. I’m sure this has caused problems before, but I doubt many, because skis and snowboards are so noisey that unless you are wearing an iPod, you can hear it when other skiers and riders get close to you.

      I personally have never noticed a difference between skiers and snowboarders when it comes to trying to tackle runs beyond their skill level. But, it’s possible that I just haven’t noticed.

      I have read some statistics on skier and snowboarder injuries. This is a good sheet to look at: https://www.nsaa.org/media/68045/NSAA-Facts-About-Skiing-Snowboarding-Safety-10-1-12.pdf

      Cheers!

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