Snowboarding vs skiing. Two titans of the snow-sports industry. It’s a battle as old as time. So let’s settle this argument once and for all! Which one is better? Snowboarding or skiing?
Skiing might be easier to learn, but snowboarding is easier to master. Beginners may therefore prefer to take up skiing initially. Skiing is also faster than snowboarding, so it might be a better option for speed lovers. On the other hand, snowboarding enables freestyle tricks at a much earlier stage.
Whilst I clearly have my own opinions, this article is about finding which discipline is best for you. So stay with me!
Before we dive straight in, I should probably explain how this is going to work.
Firstly, I should acknowledge that I’m perhaps slightly biased in this debate. For this reason, I have tried to cover all bases and use a little objectivity.
Secondly, do I have a vendetta against my two-planked pals? Absolutely not – even if there are multiple resorts that still don’t allow snowboarders!
So how are we going to do this?
Well, I’m going to answer every single one of your questions in the snowboarding vs skiing debate. Welcome to the ultimate showdown!
Snowboarding vs Skiing: Pros and Cons
Let’s start out with the positives and negatives of each!
|Harder to learn||Easier to learn initially|
|Easier to master||Harder to master|
|More comfortable!||Less comfortable|
|Extremely fun||Extremely fun|
|Less expensive (on average)||More expensive (on average)|
|Activates more muscles||Activates fewer muscles|
|Less popular||More popular|
|Tricks possible at intermediate level||Tricks not usually possible before advanced skill levels|
Don’t think theres anything too contentious in the comparison table above. Hopefully we’re in agreement so far?
Let’s move onto some specific points…
Snowboarding vs Skiing For Beginners
When we consider a beginner’s progress, it’s safe to say that skiing is easier to learn. You won’t be falling over as much, and you’ll be able to move around on your own relatively quickly.
Snowboarding is tougher for beginners, and it takes more patience to learn.
However, things start to change after the first couple of weeks. Skiing is much more technical—there are way more things to pay attention to, which means achieving mastery in skiing is much more difficult.
On the other hand, snowboarding is less technical. Once you grasp the basics, you’ll be able to progress much more smoothly. After a week on a snowboard, it’s not unheard of to be throwing a few spins and grabs. Much less likely on skis!
Snowboarding vs Skiing: Which Is Easier?
Okay, so we’ve discussed which is easier for beginners. But how about which is easier overall, snowboarding or skiing?
Snowboarding is easier than skiing overall. Snowboarding is initially harder to learn for beginners, but after mastering the basics, progression is much easier when compared to skiing. Skiing is much more technical, especially the freestyle aspects.
One of the reasons snowboarding is more difficult at first is that both your feet must remain on the board. You will inevitably fall many times before you learn to stay balanced. Just make sure you’ve learned how to fall safely when snowboarding.
In skiing, having your legs separated makes it easier to keep your balance, but after you learn the basics, things quickly become difficult. You’ll have to worry about synchronizing your legs and poles. Not an easy prospect when spinning through the air!
Skiing vs Snowboarding Injuries (which is safer?)
Both skiing and snowboarding are actually pretty safe sports overall. As long as you don’t go off-piste on your own and don’t overestimate your abilities, you’ll be ok. Despite that, there are some interesting differences in the common injuries between skiing and snowboarding…
Statistics show that snowboarders have a higher chance of getting injured than skiers. However, the same statistics also show that snowboarders are far less likely to die. Therefore, we can conclude that snowboarding is safer than skiing to a certain extent.
Contrary to popular belief, skiing is also typically tougher on your knees. More on this later! Snowboarding damages wrists the most since snowboarders often break their falls with their arms (a big no-no!).
If you’re intrigued, I have written separate articles on the dangers of skiing and the dangers of snowboarding.
Is Skiing or Snowboarding Faster?
In the great skiing vs snowboarding showdown, this question was inevitable. Skiing or snowboarding, which sport is faster?
Skiing is generally faster than snowboarding. This is especially true for straight slopes without impediments. In a race on such a slope, the fastest recorded skiing speed was 157 mph (252.7 kph), while the greatest snowboarding speed was 126 mph (202.8 kph).
This difference is huge, and similar results tend to appear when comparing amateur skiers and snowboarders.
The reason for this discrepancy is that skiers have two edges gripping the snow (almost double the effect edge). They can also get into a more aerodynamic position and compress themselves, unlike snowboarders. Skiers also have better weight distribution, adding to their speed.
Ski vs Snowboard Speeds
Okay, so we’ve established skiing is generally faster (though I will still challenge most skiers out there to a race!). Let’s take a more precise look at the speed you might expect in both sports. These results are based on testing a small sample of riders.
Average Recreational Speed:
- Skiing: 10–20 mph (16.1-32.2 kph)
- Snowboarding: 20–30 mph (32-48.3 kph)
Average Expert Speeds:
- Skiing: Up to 95 mph (152.9 kph)
- Snowboarding: Up to 70 mph (112.7 kph)
- Skiing: 157 mph (252.7 kph)
- Snowboarding: 126 mph (202.8 kph)
Snowboarding vs Skiing Popularity
When considering snowboarding vs skiing, which is more popular?
Skiing is generally more popular across the world. Whilst snowboarding is more popular in the USA than probably anywhere else in the world, skiing still takes the cake.
This may be because skiing appeals to many different demographics. It’s suitable for small children, teenagers, young people, and even the elderly. This mass appeal will automatically attract more people and keep them in the sport.
In addition, skiing is a traditional activity in many places, particularly in Europe. It’s hard for some people to adapt to new activities.
Snowboarding has always had a rebellious aura and was originally mostly popular among young men. Many of them have aged out of the sport, while children typically don’t participate in snowboarding due to parents’ safety concerns.
Skiing vs Snowboarding Statistics
Snowboarding took a real hit in the last decade or so. However, this might just be following the general trend of winter sports losing their popularity.
Snowboarding hit an all-time high during the 2010–2011 winter season. More than 8.2 million people participated in the sport (USA). However, by the 2012–2013 season, this number dropped by around 3 million. Generally speaking, between 2003 and 2013, participation dropped by 28%.
Skiing has fared a bit better, but it also took a significant hit in the same time period. Between 2003 and 2013, participation dropped by 10%. This is far less than snowboarding, but it’s still a significant drop.
The 2019–2020 season was also pretty bad for both sports due to the Covid pandemic. Winter sports are recuperating from the hit, but they might not reach the glory they once had.
I discussed this in greater detail when asked the question, is snowboarding dead?
Skiing vs Snowboarding: Which Is Better for Your Knees?
Knees are a growing concern for many aging wintersports enthusiasts (myself included). So much so that many snowboarders have considered switching to skiing. But which is better for you knees?
Snowboarding is much better for your knees. Fewer snowboarders sustain knee injuries, and those injuries are usually lighter. On the other hand, snowboarders tend to suffer from more shoulder and wrist injuries, particularly beginners.
Surprised? Most people expected me to say snowboarding. However, a study by the Western Journal of Medicine found that 17% of snowboarders suffer from knee injuries, compared to 39% of skiers. The difference is truly staggering.
In addition to that, injuries in snowboarding typically come from impact, not from torsion. This means that they’re usually lighter.
Skiing tends to be worse for the knees because the legs are not strapped to a single board. This allows a lot of twisting, causing potentially debilitating injuries. For many elderly people, such an injury can signify the end of their skiing days.
This doesn’t mean that snowboarding is completely free of risk from injuries. Wrist and shoulder injuries are very common in the sport. These injuries are particularly common among beginners since they tend to fall a lot.
Skiing vs. Snowboarding for Older Adults
Light, slow-paced skiing might be better than snowboarding for older adults. Snowboarding requires a greater degree of flexibility and physical strength.
So, if you’re an older adult who suffers from joint stiffness and a lack of flexibility, skiing might be better for you—you’ll be in a more natural, upright position. In addition to that, beginner snowboarders fall a lot. Recovering from that many falls may be more difficult for older adults than these seemingly invincible youths.
However, for an older adult with bad knees, skiing is not necessarily a good choice. Experienced skiers can probably get away with it if they take it easy. But I’d think carefully before taking up the sport if you’re a beginner.
Another factor is culture. Snowboarding is somewhat of a youth activity. Older people may shy away from the sport, especially if they were surrounded by experienced young snowboarders. I’d strongly encourage against this viewpoint though. We’re a friendly bunch and would gladly have you join our ranks!
Snowboarding vs Skiing: Which Is a Better Workout?
Both snowboarding and skiing are great workouts and a great way to stay in shape, especially during cold winter months when jogging and swimming are not options. However, snowboarding involves more muscles than skiing.
Snowboarding vs Skiing: Which Burns More Calories?
Skiing reportedly burns slightly more calories than snowboarding. Skiing burns 500 calories per session, while snowboarding burns 450 calories. Calories expenditure largely depends on the way you do these sports. Naturally, light skiing will burn fewer calories than hardcore snowboarding.
Snowboarding vs. Skiing: Muscles Involved
Snowboarding activates more muscles than skiing. Skiing mostly targets the glutes and hips. On the other hand, snowboarding activates your core, quads, calves, and glutes. Snowboarding is the better option if you want to activate as many muscles as possible.
I have written a separate article on the muscles worked during snowboarding.
Snowboarding vs Skiing: Cost
Snowboarding equipment is generally much cheaper than skiing equipment. Other costs are more or less the same, but the equipment costs make snowboarding more affordable. Let’s examine this in greater detail:
Snowboard vs. Ski Boots
An easy win for snowboarding here. In my skiing days, I couldn’t wait to take my boots off at the end of the day. Even a die-hard skier has to concede that snowboard boots are more comfortable.
Ski boots are notoriously stiff, making it extremely difficult to walk. On the other hand, snowboarding boots are much less stiff, way more comfortable, and allow you to walk around with ease.
Snowboarding vs Skiing: Which Is More Fun?
This question is very tricky to answer. I don’t want to tell anyone how to have fun. Nobody can do that! The diplomatic approach is to say that it depends on your preferences.
If you’re an adrenaline junkie and like to play around, you’ll probably have much more fun snowboarding initially. On the other hand, skiing might be better for you if you want to progress to a reasonable level more quickly and focus on cruising or turning.
That being said, a study from 2013 concluded that skiers experience more enjoyment in their sport. Skiers reported that they enjoyed their activity five times more than snowboarders. However, this might be simply due to the snowboarders in the survey downplaying their answers.
It’s difficult to objectively conclude which sport is more fun. You should just go for whatever floats your boat!
Skiing vs Snowboarding in Powder
Snowboards are a much better tool for getting around in powder. Many skiers will accept this, even if they do so begrudgingly. There’s no better sensation than surfing through a powder field on your snowboard!
Of course, skiing in powder is awesome too. However snowboards are perfectly designed for slashing powder. Skiers are now using “fat skis” to get the same float and sensation. Hence snowboarding wins.
Skiing vs Snowboarding Backcountry
A similar theme but a more complex question. Is skiing or snowboarding better for the backcountry?
Whilst snowboards are arguably better designed for descending in powder, skis are much more suitable for backcountry ascents. Skiers are more easily able to traverse flat or cross-country sections. They are also able to apply skins to the base, speeding up the ascent.
Of course, snowboarders can now buy split-boards. However these are basically a worse version of skis when it comes to ascending the mountain. Skis are also better adapted for rescues, allowing side-stepping, lateral traverses and snow-plough descents (should you need to tow a stretcher).
Skiing vs Snowboarding Tricks (Freestyle)
For the average rider, snowboards allows you to perform far more tricks than skis. Snowboards were, in fact, made for this purpose. This is not to say that you can’t perform some epic tricks on skis, but it’s much easier to do on a snowboard.
Snowboarding is responsible for much of the recent innovation in the freestyle winter-sports world (having taking inspiration from skateboarding originally). Before the invention of snowboarding, skiing remained a relatively upper-class pastime.
Skiing has since embraced the freestyle world and some of the tricks possible on skis are simply mind-blowing. Nonetheless, it generally requires more experience on skis before you’re able to try your first tricks and rotations.
Snowboarding vs Skiing: Reddit Decides
Nowadays, few debates can be settled without asking the tribes over at Reddit. So I did exactly that. Let’s take a look at the results…
When polled, the winter-sports enthusiasts at Reddit almost universally recommended snowboarding for younger riders (aged 15-35) and skiing for over 35’s. This might be somewhat biased. Snowboarding attracts the same age groups as the biggest bulk of Reddit users.
Redditor’s had some passionate and differing opinions on the matter (as might be expected). according to some Redditor’s, snowboarding is simply more exciting.
For example, one Redditor has remarked that snowboarding turns a mountain into a playground. If you like tricks and adrenaline, snowboarding is the better choice.
Other Redditor’s remarked that they grew bored of skiing after some time. Once they learned how to ski, they found that there wasn’t much they could do on a pair of skis but ride around.
On the other hand, the skiers of Reddit often remark that skis are simply a better way of getting around in the snow. Skis were designed explicitly for getting around in snowy areas, and people have been using them for centuries.
Skiing vs Snowboarding Video
The tribalism between skiing and snowboarding has thankfully (mostly) become a thing of the past. When snowboarding first burst onto the scene in the 80’s, it’s fair to say that the skiers weren’t happy!
This hilarious video is a perfect example of that:
Whilst I won’t give this one a rating, it’s a clear loss for skiers. We’ve all done embarrassing things in the past though, so we’ll let them off…
The clock has stopped. The votes are in. It’s time to declare the official winner. The best winter sport is…
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. The votes were rigged. But you can’t argue with the iron-clad comparison methods used above. Snowboarding scored 12 points compared to skiing with 11. The results speak for themselves…
All jokes aside, I answered each of the above categories as honestly as possible. As you can see, there are benefits to each discipline and certain people will enjoy one more than the other. It’s all about preference!
It’s also increasingly common for people to practice both sports. I’m even tempted to throw on a pair of skis now and again. So if you do choose to ski and change your mind, it’s not too late to see the light.
Thanks for reading!
(If you want to know my uncensored opinion… I’ve added it below).
Why Snowboarding Is Better Than Skiing
Disclaimer: I’ve finished the (relatively) unbiased section and will now be voicing my own opinion. Strap in skiers, it’s going to get rough!
Each to their own. There’s no right or wrong. Except skiers, they’re wrong (warned you).
It used to be the case that snowboarders on the mountain were the minority. That’s not the case anymore. I think it’s fair to say that both disciplines are big. And these days skiers and snowboarders ride the same terrain: piste, parks, pipe, powder, street rails…
…and I find myself asking the question: why do people bother skiing, when snowboarding is simply better?
Freestyle and Powder
Let me qualify the statement above. I know that both skiing and snowboarding are fun. I’m not taking that away from either, nor am I trying to invalidate skiing as being fun, exciting,
exclusively for rich people challenging etc.
What I am talking about is freestyle and powder.
To be honest, it’s freestyle that I’m really getting at here. But even with powder, snowboarding is the better choice. I mean, snowboards were invented to ride powder, to float in the fresh stuff, to give that surf-like feeling…
But let’s focus on the freestyle elements for a moment. Here’s a few reasons snowboarding is better than skiing when it comes to freestyle.
1. You Can't Get That Flex and Pop on Skis
Snowboarders take a lot of their tricks from skateboarding. The design of a snowboard, combined with your body position when riding one, allows you to ollie. You can load up the nose or tail and pop out of it. This flex mechanism is at the core of so many snowboarding tricks. It’s what makes the freestyle opportunities almost endless.
You just can’t get the same on skis.
2. Rails, Grabs and Switch...
Think about 50-50’ing a rail, nose-pressing a box, tail-slides, change-ups… Skis on rails and boxes don’t make sense to me. It’s basically just one trick with different rotations.
And then there are butters, nollies, boned out grabs. Tweak it. You might convince me that one or two ski-grabs look ok, but come on… compare that with a slow backside 180 tail grab, or a boned out stale-fish shifty.
And there’s switch, too. In my mind, riding switch on a snowboard opens up tricks. It adds to the freedom of snowboarding. When you land switch, you’re still snowboarding, just in the other direction. It’s the same principal.
With skiing, it just doesn’t make sense to me. Really talented people do ski backwards towards huge jumps, looking awkwardly over their shoulder, then they pull an insane trick. It’s really impressive-
-But skis weren’t designed to be ridden that way. I know you can get twin-tipped skis and all that, but it seems like a fudge to me. A hack. It’s difficult for sure, but your body is working in the opposite way, like driving a car in reverse.
Switch snowboarding just has a perfect symmetry.
If you like freestyle and jibbing, I can’t see any reason to choose skiing over snowboarding. The snowboard is simply a better tool for the job.
I understand that if you can already ski, you might feel inclined to stick with it, to not throw away your investment, to learn freestyle on skis. And that’s fair enough. But let’s be honest, snowboarding is better suited to this stuff.
I’m not saying freestyle skiers don’t have fun, don’t do gnarly and technical stuff. They do. I just think snowboarding is better in this arena. It looks smoother, there are more options, it’s more styled. Just look at the video above. It’s better.
Disagree? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
This is the most comprehensive post i’ve ever seen on the skiing vs snowboarding debate! Whilst as a skier I was mildly offended by the last section, I have to say it was pretty hilarious actually!
My feelings are that skiers and snowboarders no longer really care about the divide between the disciplines. The only people that really care are the older generations who are slowly ageing out of the sport anyway.
Thanks for a great read. Hope to see you out on the slopes!