If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll have seen I recently visited Chill Factore in Manchester to do something I’d been wanting to do for a long time… learn how to snowboard! To say I enjoyed it is an understatement! But how does snowboarding compare to skiing?
In this post I thought I’d attempt to unpick what’s different between these 2 winter sports. Having been on a few skiing trips and of course my recent snowboarding day lessons at Chill Factore, I’d like to think I’ve got a good understanding of both!
Carrying ski’s, poles and walking in heavy boots can be quite difficult, it can get a bit tiring depending on how far you have to walk to the lifts. Snowboards on the other hand are fairy light and easy to carry!
Ski boots and Snowboard boots couldn’t be much different from each other. Ski boots are very rigid and aren’t that comfortable to wear, I even have my own pair and still find them uncomfortable! I’m often having to undo the buckles when on the lifts and at lunch time to relieve a bit of pressure on my feet.
Snowboard boots on the other hand are a lot more comfortable to wear and you can actually walk normally in them unlike ski boots where you feel a bit like Robocop! I was surprised at just how comfortable snowboard boots were and they’re also a lot quicker and easier to put on and take off!
You ski with a straight forward stance, you have total peripheral vision and you can see where you’re going. Snowboarding is done with a side on stance, your peripheral vision is limited and takes a bit of getting used to.
With skiing it’s always important to have your body weight forward, a good tip, is to be able to feel your ski boots on your shins! Snowboarding is quite different; your body should be aligned over your board, your knees and ankles slightly bent and heels, arms by your side and looking where you’re going. Your head position is so important in snowboarding, it helps with control, direction and stopping!
Learning the basics
For someone getting on ski’s or a snowboard for the very first time, it takes a certain amount of getting used to! After all, you’re stood on something that is designed to slide on snow!
Skiing can be relatively easy to pick up the basics. Learning how to stop, the ‘snow plough’ and the ‘snow plough turn’ can both be taught in the first few lessons. The snow plough is made by pushing your heels out to make a ‘V’ position with your ski’s. Then to introduce a turn, push your weight on to the opposite foot you want to go. Once you’ve mastered both of these you’ll be able to tackle some beginner slopes.
Snowboarding takes longer to learn the basics, and longer before you’ll be able to link your turns down a slope. The learning curve is steeper and takes commitment. Just getting used to having both feet strapped to one board can take a bit of getting used to. Learning to heel and toe slide and the introduction of change of direction will take up the first few lessons, developing into a full C turn. For me, I found the heel (back) side turn a lot easier than the toe (front) side turn, at first that felt really unnatural… give it time though, it will get easier. One thing’s for sure, falling on a snowboard hurts a lot more than falling on ski’s!
Learning to ski parallel takes a little more time and practice, getting both legs to move in symmetry takes a lot of practice. To be able to conquer the harder runs you need to pivot just your feet, keeping your upper body still. This is more intermediate to advanced skiing and takes time to learn.
The ultimate goal in snowboarding is being able to get on your edges (heel and toe) or carve. This is the hardest part and does take time to learn. Once you’ve conquered this, you can definitely you’re a snowboarder and you’ll have got to a standard to be able to go down a mix of slopes. The best tip I can give when learning to snowboard is Take Your Time! There’s a temptation to rush through your turns, don’t! Just slow them down and you’ll notice a big difference and they’ll be a lot smoother.
— Yorkshire Gentleman (@TheYrkshrGent) April 12, 2017
Getting on lifts with ski’s is quite easy, you just need to point your ski’s in the direction you want to. Conquering lifts with a Snowboard is a bit trickier, especially the drag lifts, after all, they were designed for skiers! You need to have your rear foot out of the bindings and be able to scoot along. Get in position early, wait for the pole to come round and grab it with you leading hand, it’s likely it will jerk you a bit initially! Maintain good posture, keep your shoulders in line with your board, leaning back a little bit, but don’t sit on the button! I found keeping my rear hand over the rear of the board also helped with balance.
Both are physically demanding sports, you need to have a basic level of fitness to do either. I’d have to say skiing is more demanding on your legs, for me, it was my knees that seemed to take the most impact! Snowboarding uses more core strength and your upper body is involved a lot more.
So which is better?
Both are fantastic winter sports to learn, which you choose is down to your personal choice. Skiing is definitely the easier of the two to pick up and you’ll be able to start going down some beginner slopes sooner. Snowboarding takes time and commitment, but once you’ve mastered it, its the most fun you can have on snow. For me, I think I’ve found my preferred winter sport in snowboarding! If only the next season wasn’t so far away!
Have you tried skiing or snowboarding? Let me know in the comments below.