Comparison of the week: Skiing vs snowboarding

Posted: 20 May 2019 9:45 am News

Skis and a snowboard sitting in the snow. Image: Getty ImagesReady for your next snow adventure but don't know whether to attach one plank to your feet or two? We're here to help.

We compare virtually everything at Finder and our Comparison of the Week isn't afraid to tackle the big questions. This week we put snowsports to the test.

Most of us know about the longstanding rivalry between snowboarders and skiers. Snowboarders are often seen as reckless and thrill-seeking, skiers can be stereotyped as uptight and elitist. In reality, there isn't as much of a division between the two as you might think and athletes from both sports coexist peacefully on the slopes (for the most part).

If you're a first-timer on the easy bunny slopes, it might be hard to decide which one to try. We'll walk you through everything you should consider including cost, insurance and how your first day will go, to help you make an informed decision and have the best snow day possible.

The essentials

Skiing has been around for thousands of years as a means of travel, but downhill skiing like we know now didn't appear until the mid-1800s. Chairlifts weren't invented until 1936 so before that, skiers had lifts like rope tows or T-bars to be pulled up the hill.

Snowboarding began more recently in 1965, when a man attached two skis together and called it the "snurfer" (snow and surfer combined). The term "snowboard" didn't come around until a decade later and was coined by the founder of Burton Snowboards, which is still one of the biggest snowsport brands.

The rivalry between the two can probably be attributed to snowboarding being banned at ski resorts for a decade. It was seen by resorts as unsafe and damaging to the slope, with some resorts making snowboarders prove they could ride before letting them in. Even now, there are a few diehard ski resorts who don't accept snowboarders on their slopes – Deer Valley and Alta in the US, to name two. But unless you're planning to head to any of those resorts, the question remains – is skiing or snowboarding better?

The comparison

Let's jump in and compare the two sports side by side, so you can see which one might be right for you.

Skiing Snowboarding
Comfort Learning to walk in stiff ski boots is a lesson in itself. The buckles lock your ankle in place so it's completely immobile. The hard shell can also cause pain, especially if your socks have a wrinkle. Expect to see strange bumps appearing on your feet and the front of your shins.

Also, the more experienced you get, the stiffer the ski boots get.

Snowboard boots feel like a comfy pair of Ugg boots in comparison to ski boots. Boarders have a lot less equipment to deal with than a skier – only one board, compared to a skier with two skis and two poles.
Cost of equipment Skiing equipment generally costs the same as snowboarding. For five days, the basic adult hire package ranges from $115 to $240. Kids cost about half that, at $40 to $110.

Try and hire your gear before you get to the mountain – it'll often be much cheaper.

The hire costs will be the same as skiing. If you're looking to buy, snowboarding gear can be slightly cheaper. A new snowboard and boots can cost between $300 to $400, while a full set of skis, boots and poles starts at $500. Find out how to get cheap snow gear in our guide.
Insurance Both skiing and snowboarding are covered under the same kind of insurance, called snowsports insurance. Basic insurance won't cover it, so you'll need to make sure your plan includes it. Keep in mind that off-piste skiing (going off the prepared, groomed runs) may not be covered or if it is, there'll be extra conditions for it. Also no drinking and skiing – unless you want to void your cover. Snowboarding is covered by the same insurance as skiing. However, your insurance won't cover you if you're intoxicated, so try to leave the apres-ski beers until you're done for the day.
For kids Most kids start off skiing, especially younger ones. They'll be able to pick it up faster than snowboarding. Ski and snowboard schools generally take kids as young as three years old. You'll see fewer kids learning how to snowboard, but that doesn't mean it's not possible. It'll take longer for your child to become competent, but the class sizes are almost guaranteed to be smaller. The rigidity of skiing might not appeal to kids, especially teenagers. Snowboarding has a reputation for being a lot more laidback, owing to its skateboarding roots.
First day as a beginner You'll spend your first day getting comfortable sliding on the skis and learning how to stop in a snowplough, which is a position where your legs are wide and ski tops are pointed together. Most people will start turning by the end of the first day and get a feel for how to change direction using body weight. Prepare to fall a lot, especially on your butt. Snowboarding is a lot less intuitive than skiing – you're facing side-on and both your feet are strapped in. If you fall, there's no real way to catch yourself.

It'll feel more familiar if you've surfed or skateboarded before, with the main difference being your weight is always on your front foot and your feet are completely locked down. You'll likely spend the first day learning straight glides and C-turns.

First week as a beginner As soon as you're comfortable stopping and turning, you'll be able to get off the bunny slope and start conquering green runs. You may even get up to a blue run by the end of the week. It takes most people a few days to feel comfortable doing an S-turn, which involves turning both directions in one turn by changing the edge you're balancing on.

A lot of beginners are only able to turn one way – the "heelside hero". Once you connect turns, you're safe to get off the magic carpet and begin taking on harder terrain.

Progression from beginner to intermediate and advanced Skiing is a lot more technical than snowboarding. When you go into powder or bumps, it's like going back to being a beginner. There's always more to learn. Going from skiing in a snowplough (like a triangle or pizza slice shape) to having your skis parallel takes more time than just learning how to stop and turn at the start. Once you get the basics down, your days of getting a face full of snow will be behind you and you'll soon be able to progress to steeper terrain and off-piste. Snowboarding in powder is usually easier than on skis.
Getting up after you fall Kids can usually push themselves up pretty easily. It gets a bit harder when you get older and not only less flexible, but further from the ground. It takes a lot of strength to push yourself upright because your ankles are restricted in the boots. Adults often end up taking their skis off and getting up, especially if they're on the flat and have nothing to push up against. Getting up after a snowboarding fall is typically easier, especially if you're facing toeside, which means your body is pointing towards the slope of the mountain so you can just push yourself up. If you're facing the other way – heelside – it can get a bit harder.
Getting on and off chairlifts Chairlifts are much easier to navigate on skis than a snowboard. Since you're facing straight on, all you have to do is sit down when the lift reaches you and then stand up when you get to the top. Keep in mind, if you're using poles, they can get tangled easily – make sure not to poke anyone in the eye. With a snowboard, you'll be facing sideways and have to twist to sit on the chairlift. When you get off the chairlift, you'll need to be facing sideways again and it can be quite nerve-wracking to get in this position while up in the air. You'll also have to take your back foot out of your binding and then re-strap at the top. With only one foot strapped in, it's a lot harder to steer when you get off the lift. Expect to fall a lot while you're learning.

Either way, a chairlift is a lot easier than going up the T-bar on a snowboard.

Fitness level Skiing is most demanding on your thighs, but you'll likely end up sore everywhere at the start. Your upper body will also get a work out from using your ski poles and pushing yourself up.

As you get more advanced, both skiing and snowboarding get a lot more dynamic and aerobic – think short, intense bursts of energy. At the end of the day, it's a good idea to stretch out and jump into a spa to take care and recover your joints.

Snowboarding is a workout for the core and calves. If you're stuck on toeside for a while, like on a traverse, your calves are going to feel it.

If you're unfit, snowboarding might be a bit harder than skiing since you'll be falling and getting up so much more. Even when you get more experienced, you'll need to sit down to strap on after every lift, and pushing yourself up is like doing a push-up on every run. It will also be more challenging to push yourself along flat areas.

Getting around the ski resort Having poles makes it easy to get across any flat land. As you get more comfortable, you'll also be able to skate in your skis. If you hit flat land on a snowboard, you're in trouble. Your options are: unstrapping one foot and scooting yourself along, unstrapping both feet and walking, or begging one of your skier friends to pull you along. If the ski resort has a lot of traverses (flat sections between ski runs), then you're going to get a serious workout.
Injuries A third of all skiing injuries are knee injuries and a torn ACL is one of the most common. Knee injuries often come from problems with your bindings, so make sure to always get your skis fitted by a professional.

Head injuries are also common for both skiers and boarders, so always wear a helmet.

The upper body is the most prone to injury for snowboarders. Think shoulder, arm, wrist and elbow fractures. Beginners will often injure their wrists from putting their hands out in front of them when they fall, so take time to learn how to fall properly. Tailbone injuries can also happen from falling backwards.

The lowdown

A line you hear often around the slopes sums it up – skiing is easier to learn but harder to master, while snowboarding is hard to learn, but easier to master. Although you're going to fall a lot at the start of snowboarding, skiing will also give you its fair share of wipeouts.

If you're taking a short trip, you might want to try skiing. You'll probably spend the first few days on a snowboard mostly on the ground, whereas you'll be a lot more mobile on skis in the same amount of time. However, both take time and practice to get good at.

At the end of the day, think about which appeals to you more – the more technical aspects of skiing, or the smoother parts of snowboarding? Whichever you decide, remember to use Finder to check out the latest snow holiday deals for your next trip.

We're all about helping you make better decisions. Do your own comparison by heading to the Finder home page to compare credit cards, savings accounts, shopping deals and much, much more. Go on, be a Finder.

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