What’s Harder to Learn Skiing or Snowboarding?
By. Jenna Rickard
So you’ve decided to venture out to your first ski resort. Maybe your friends are doing it, or maybe you’ve just always had the desire to fly down a mountain with wood strapped to your feet. Either way, you’re now got one of the most important decisions of your life to make; should you ski or should you snowboard. Ok, so maybe that’s a little dramatic, but you’re probably also wondering which is easier to learn. In the 13 or so years that I’ve worked in the industry I’ve probably been asked “what’s easier to learn, skiing or snowboarding” hundreds of times, and my answer is always the same. They just have a different learning curve.
Initially, a first day skiing, tends to be a little less frustrating than a first day snowboarding. Skiers can generally make it down the “bunny hill” or similar beginner runs without many major issues or spills. Style won’t be great, but due to the use of what is referred to as “pizza” or “snowplowing” where the skier puts the tips of their skis together and lets the tails of their skis slide out, they are able to regulate their speed even if they are not able to make turns yet. A first day snowboarding can often be a bit more frustrating, mostly due to the fact that riders tend to have more trouble slowing themselves down without catching an edge. Similar to the “snowplow” new riders tend to turn themselves sideways across the hill trying to use their heelside edge to slow themselves down, but still have to transfer their weight back so that they return to facing the appropriate direction. Learning to transfer your weight is the toughest part of snowboarding.
On the flip side however, once you get over the initial hump of learning how to turn on a snowboard, dialing in and perfecting your style tends to be easier on a snowboard than skis. Perhaps it’s the fact that skiers can slowly learn to turn while in the comfort of their “snowplow”, making it easier to keep bad habits, while with snowboarders have to get over the weight transfer hump, and once they do everything sort of clicks and it becomes much more natural. In the long run, it may be tougher to become a “good skier” in terms of style, then a “good snowboarder”.
So which is easier to learn, skiing or snowboarding? As you can see, they’re just different. One thing, however, will make either experience much easier, and that’s taking a lesson. “Friends don’t let friends teach each other to ski or snowboard”, as they say, and your initial experience will be 100 times better by getting a lesson from an instructor who deals with beginners on a daily basis and understands how to verbalize what you need to do.
Other factors can play into ease of learning as well. Athletic ability as well as experience with other similar sports can greatly reduce the learning curve. Skateboarders, wakeboarders and surfers reduce the curve because a lot of the principles of their sport are the same as snowboarding. Waterskiers, and avid inline skaters shorten up their learning curve as well because again, those motions and feelings are similar to skiing. Athletic ability does also come into play. While you don’t have to be a fitness guru or gymnast to excel at skiing and snowboarding, having a strong core and generally good balance will often reduce the learning curve of the snow sliding activity you choose.
Wearing the proper protective gear is also key to enjoying this initial experience. Helmets are important for either sport, but those learning to snowboard especially should also look into wrist guards, as broken or sprained wrists are the most common injury. Knee and butt pads also exist to make the learning curve a little less painful. Overall though, the most important part of learning to ski or snowboard is determination. No one should expect to become an expert in a few days regardless of which they choose to do, but the rewards to learning either sport are endless.