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Skiing vs Snowboarding: Which is Right for You?

I’ve been a skier all my life. During summers I learned to wakeboard. Naturally I felt like snowboarding would be a good fit too. A few winters ago a friend of mine invited me to snowboard up at Snowbird, UT. He’s 6’5 and about 300 pounds. As we sat on the bunny hill lift together I asked for any tips on getting off safely. He said, “No clue. This is my first time too.” Classic blind leading the blind situation. I got my first and last taste of snowboarding that day. No injuries, but my love of skiing was too strong.

There’s no objectively correct answer to the question “is skiing or snowboarding right for me?”. Hopefully this guide can help you answer some questions you may have and point you in the right direction. Here we go!

Is snowboarding more expensive than skiing?

Both sports require similar investments. Boots/bindings and skis/snowboard. Skiing requires poles too, but that added cost isn’t materially different. Gloves, outerwear, helmet, and goggles are the same or similar in both sports. Lift tickets are the same. Rental packages for either are similarly priced too. Overall, snowboarding is likely a slightly cheaper option. Either way you can be smart and make the big purchases in the off season and wait to commit until after a few runs on the rentals.  

Is skiing more dangerous than snowboarding?

Snow sports are inherently risky. A full yard sale is going to happen when you start out. On skis there’s the added complexity of two planks instead of one. On snowboards you could experience the dreaded catching an edge. Either way, progressing slowly and taking lessons (either from a pro or a friend) on mellow hills will help. In my opinion it is easier to take a fall on skis than a snowboard. On skis you face forward, which is more natural. Snowboarding has blind spots as you face sideways and can’t always see directly behind your backside. Managing risk is all about riding within your skill set and progressing at the right pace. Either way, be sure you wear a snow helmet and protect yourself.


Is it easier to ski or snowboard?

A better question is “what is the learning curve for skiing vs snowboarding”? Again, objective answers here are tough. My opinion is that skiing is harder to progress in, but easier to start out. Snowboarding has a steep early learning curve, but faster progression. With snowboards you have fewer moving parts. You don’t have to worry about staying parallel or managing poles. Once you learn how to move from edge to edge on your snowboard and stop effectively, you’ll begin exploring a lot of terrain. Snowboarding is also easier in deeper powder. There’s more surface area for a board to float in. Skiers enjoy advantages in moguls, flat spots, and other tougher terrain. Skiers can make quicker, tighter turns with fewer blind spots. 

Is skiing or snowboarding better for beginners?

If you don’t have any experience with snow or board sports, skiing is maybe your best option. Simply because you face forward in a natural stance with easier ways to control your speed as you learn. The counterargument is that snowboarding progresses faster which helps with confidence. It might be best to try 2-3 days on each before you decide. Age can also be a factor. Falls tend to be harder at first on snowboards because of the edging that occurs. If you’re young and spry it’s easier to bounce back. Age shouldn’t hold anyone back, but is a consideration. 


Can I learn to ski AND snowboard?

Yes! I ski with friends all the time who switch it up depending on the resort and conditions. Some ski resorts are still holding out and only allow skiers (I’m looking at you Alta and Deer Valley). The sports feel different with different pros and cons. If you’ve got the time and money to double up on gear you should be able to take on both. I’d start with snowboarding to get through that steeper curve first. 


Where are some good resorts to learn in? 

Some resorts are steeper than others. All resorts usually have a bunny hill. Bunny hills are runs that are flatter and without obstacles (besides other newbie riders!). If you don’t have a season pass like IKON or EPIC, then choose the lowest cost resort closest to you. Committing to 5-10 ski/snowboard days your first year will pay big dividends in progress. Once you learn the basics, choose resorts with a good mix of blue and green runs. Resorts like Jackson Hole and Snowbird have reputations of being steep and difficult. These reputations are well deserved. So do your own research and make sure the terrain is good for your abilities. 


Conclusion

Skiing OR snowboarding is awesome. You can rent skis and snowboards. You can find them cheap at off season ski swaps or online used marketplaces. Don’t let cost hold you back. If you aren’t sure, try both. If you grew up skateboarding, snowboarding may be a natural fit. If you’re planning on these new hobbies for the long haul, take your time. Progress appropriately. Invest in your own gear when you know you’ll love it. Give it time. At least one full season is needed before you’ll feel confident most of the time. The most important thing is to get out there and just give it a go!

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