Whether you like snowboarding or skiing mostly comes down to personal preference, says Louis Boudreault, vice-president of sales and marketing North America for the National Snow Industries Association.
With skiing, each foot gets its own thinner ski and you face downward in the direction you’re headed. You also have the benefit of two ski poles to help maneuver you around and get up from a fall.
With snowboarding, your feet get strapped onto one wider board and you face sideways to the slope you’re headed downward. And when it comes to falling down…well, you’ve got your hands—and that’s about it—to help you get back up.
Which is faster to learn?
“I find the learning curve for snowboarding is actually faster than with skiing,” says Lauralee Bowie, owner of Vancouver-based Lauralee Bowie Ski Adventures. “That said, snowboarding is more painful because the injury rate in learning how to snowboard is greater than learning how to ski.” Snowboarders can suffer from more wrist injuries given the falling factor, and using their hands for support in getting back up after they’ve tipped. And with both skiing and snowboarding, your core and legs are the parts of your body experiencing the biggest muscle boost.
The gear you need
While the gear recommendations for both sports are similar—layered clothing, goggles, long gloves, a helmet—one difference is the boots. “With skiing, you wear much harder ski boots rather than the soft boots for snowboarding, which usually are more comfortable,” says Boudreault.
How to tell which you’ll prefer
Often you can compare sports to find out what you might like. So…
If you like wakeboarding or surfing in the summertime, snowboarding will likely be a good sport for you. “It’s similar movement so you may catch on faster to snowboarding than you would to skiing,” says Savijarvi.
If you like skating (either on ice or rollerblading) or cross-country skiing, downhill skiing might be the better fit for you, says Bowie. “To you it might be more natural to stand on two skis because of what sports you enjoy than it is to be in that side position of standing on a board,” she says.
How to get started
With either sport, the best place to launch your new sporting interest will likely be at a ski hill with the help of an instructor so you can master proper technique, cover the basics and not pick up on someone else’s incorrect snow sport habits.
“The number one thing is your best friend shouldn’t go out and teach you how to ski or snowboard,” says Savijarvi. “If you want to be a good skier or snowboarder quickly, go out and get some lessons, break yourself into it slowly and use decent equipment.”
Which do you prefer? Share your tips in the comments.
November 2009 web exclusive