When it comes to downhill pursuits, you have two options. Skiing or Snowboarding. As some one who started off skiing, and transitioned to snowboard in my late teens I often think back to why skiing in my mind was suddenly uncool.
I grew up in a family of ex national ski team athletes, so as soon as I could stand I was put on skis. I don’t remember a time without skiing in my life. I know that as a child I was fearless and my parents had to bribe me with sour keys to make turns down the hill, otherwise I would bomb straight down the hill, and only my dad and aunt could keep up with me. I wish I could tell you skiing was easy to learn – but I have no memories of it at all – it to me was the same ask walking, I learned at such a young age it just came naturally.
Around the age of 9-10 I was interested in snowboarding, but my parents were not really into outfitting me in another set of gear and sports (I was heavily involved in show jumping) a well as having to go back to the beginning and start at the basics. After all, we all skied as a family activity, and it would impact the entire families experience (something I had no regard for as a pre-teen) and then by the age of 16 I had lost interest in skiing all together and stopped.
Once I hung up my saddle and said good bye to the farm life, I was ready to dive straight into snowboarding. I watched all the snowboard films I possibly could – Travis Rice, Devun Walsh, Shaun White, Danny Davis, Jess Kimura, Robyn van Gyn and up and coming Jamie Anderson filled my screen and I had more stoke than I knew what to do with. At age 19 I knew it all, and the fact that I had skied my entire life meant this would be a breeze. FALSE. The first thing I did wrong was not taking a lesson. I figured I would be able to figure it out naturally. The second thing I did wrong was go in with expectations that since I picked up skiing so easy this would be the same. After the third tail bone slam I said ENOUGH and signed up for some lessons. The instructor was great, he told me to void my mind of all of my preconceived ideas and to think back to being a kid, and just trying and trusting yourself. He assured me that there is a steep learning curve, but once your body figures out the motions I’d be progressing like crazy. I made a plan to go out at least once a week, and snowboard for a minimum of 3 hours (as it was very tiring). I started in January and by the end of March I was able to link turns and cruise down the hill with ease. I wasn’t picking the steepest runs, but I was able to navigate down the hill quite well. The next year I entered the terrain park and spent the next few years confidently riding all the small and medium features I could find. Fast forward 12 years, and I still ride every week, and have fun on my board. I look back on the days of skiing and think that I could have gone the same route and entered the freestyle world on skis when I was board instead of forcing my parents to buying new equipment and start from scratch again. Being an ambi planker (skier and snowboarder) is great, but I wish I had realized there are so many disciplines I could have explored before trading two planks for one.
When it comes to making the decision on which to choose – it is a matter of preference first and foremost. You can race, spin, flip, find pockets of pow, chase the corduroy in both disciplines. Gone are the days of having to be a ski racer, because you like to go fast! There are hardboards for that. Freestyle has gone from ski ballet (yes you can laugh) to impressive and technical spins and flips of 40, 50 and 60+ foot jumps.
From my observations and personal experience, this is what I have gathered.
Skiing is an easier starting point, as it is more natural movements. You’re going downhill, so you face downhill. Everyone can do what I like to call the Thigh Master (staying in a deep squatted snowplough) down the entire hill. Does it look good? NOPE! But are you skiing? Technically yes. Progressing takes longer as you can ski in a snowplough for as long as you want. Getting your skis parallel, learning the correct pole planting and quick tight turns takes time.
Snowboarding takes a bit more finesse to learn, as you have the scary back edge of turning your back to gravity and facing uphill, but once you figure out your edges the progression comes quick. One thing most people ignore (myself included) is riding switch. It is your unnatural way, and makes you feel like a beginner all over again if you don’t keep it up.
Before you decided which you’re willing to try out remember that none of these are easy, and if you are going to commit it takes more than one go. It blows my mind how many people are mad or frustrated at the end of a single lesson (1 hour) or at the end of the day because they’re not “ripping”. Think of anything you did as a child, the more you did it – the better you got at it. You didn’t start off on a two wheel bike, you had a tricycle, then training wheels, and then went shakily on two wheels and ended up with some road rash and likely in a few shrubberies (I hate rose bushes to this day). You didn’t give up as a kid, so why is it so easy to give up as an adult. The same goes for skiing and snowboarding. I cannot stress it enough that lessons are a necessity as well as putting the time in on your own. If you only stick to your lessons, you don’t get any time to practise on your own.
We asked our resident expert – Assistant Manager of Snow School Alex Mann to weigh in on the Ski or Snowboard debate. Why is Alex an expert, well he is a Level 4 CASI, Level 2 Freestyle Coach, Carving Instructor, Level 1 CSIA, Level 2 PMBIA and PMBIA Evaluator. Alex said “The MOST important thing to know for both whether it is your first time skiing or snowboarding is to take advantage of the amazing beginner lesson resorts have to offer; they are often the cheapest way to try the sport and are definitely the best way to make the experience enjoyable. I know your friend or partner is a self-proclaimed expert; however, do yourselves a favour and save any frustration by letting CSIA and CASI certified instructors help shape your first experience on snow in a fun, positive and successful way.
The last thing to know is that the end result of skiing and snowboarding is the same; with learning and practice you will be able cruise your way anywhere around the mountain safely and enjoy all the exhilaration that these sports has to offer. The journey to get there however is a little different. With skiing right away you may feel that you are in a more familiar mobile position and be able to get from one place to another quicker and more easily. After that the challenge is to start coordinating all the movements and equipment together to gain control and build confidence to be able to take you all over the mountain. Snowboarding you will initially need to become comfortable with a different sideways position however after that you have less things to coordinate and keep track of as you only have 1 thing attached to both feet and learning starts moving a bit quicker (Also you can’t beat the sensation of floating through all that powder!! Oh Yeah!).
Regardless of which on you choose they both take practice, time and a positive outlook towards the journey. Enjoy and hope to see you put off hibernation and head out on the slopes to enjoy all winter has to offer”