Ski or Snowboard: Which Should You Learn First?
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Arguably, one of the best ways to have a fun winter vacation is by going skiing or snowboarding. What many people don’t realize, though, is which sport they should learn first. So, is it better to ski or snowboard first?
Generally, it’s better to learn how to snowboard first. This is because snowboarding is safer and easier to learn and master than skiing. Notably, skiing requires more physical effort and coordination, so beginners may take more time to become competent in this sport.
The rest of this article will explain why you should learn how to snowboard first, the pros and cons of skiing and snowboarding, and the safety statistics of the two sports. Read on for more details on these and tips on how to learn both successfully.
Is It Better To Ski or Snowboard First?
It is better to snowboard first. Snowboarding has a more forgiving learning curve, and skiing tends to be more difficult. Skiing requires you to get on your knees and push yourself across the snow while carrying your weight, which can be challenging for a beginner.
On the flip side, snowboarding is easier to learn because you don’t need much physical effort to move around.
One way to decide between skiing or snowboarding first is by identifying your level of expertise with each activity.
That being said, you’ll find that both skiing and snowboarding are fantastic activities. However, it is usually a better idea for beginners to start with one first rather than jumping right into both at the same time.
The reason for this is because it takes practice to become skilled- either on the slopes or with your body’s direction. Once you have mastered one form of winter riding, moving on to the other will seem much easier.
If you make practicing both your main focus from day 1 in taking lessons, then there’s a chance that you won’t be able to do as well with either right off the bat.
When starting, it can be hard not only learning how snowboards work but also being nervous about doing something new.
In that regard, a beginner should start off learning snowboarding; intermediates will generally want to do both; experts may only want the sport they are better at (usually that means skiing).
Is Skiing or Snowboarding More Dangerous?
Skiing is more dangerous than snowboarding. The main danger of skiing is the risk of falling, as it is not easy to stop your movement or direction. On the other hand, snowboarding can be dangerous if you’re not paying attention and don’t have enough control over your board.
Skiing Accident Statistics
Skiing accidents have been on the rise for the past decade. The National Ski Areas Association reports that the catastrophic injury rate increased from 0.52 to 0.56 per million skier visits between 2019 and 2020. Additionally, of the 42 fatalities reported during the period, 36 were skiing, representing about 86% of the total.
What makes skiing so dangerous? The most common accidents happen in an area called the out-of-bounds slope, where there are no marked trails and terrain features like cliffs, steep slopes, or rocks can be found anywhere.
Snowboarding Accident Statistics
Snowboard accidents can be just as serious, and sometimes more so than skiing-related accidents.
Based on the statistics from the National Ski Areas Association I mentioned, 6 out of 42 fatalities reported during the 2020 period were due to snowboarding, representing about 14% of the reported fatalities.
Therefore, a person is about six times less likely to die snowboarding than skiing.
That said, 14% is a high number – the ideal situation should be that everyone is safe snowboarding or skiing.
Some of the common causes of skiing or snowboarding accidents include:
- Going over jumps without knowing how high it will be first.
- Attempting terrain features or maneuvers without knowing how to do them.
- Not being able to see what’s coming next on the slope.
- Attempting a stunt but falling before completing it.
Caution: Not wearing a helmet is one of the most common causes of traumatic brain injuries among skiers and snowboarders. Therefore, I advise that you always wear one.
If you’re in the market for a quality helmet, I recommend this JetBlaze Snow Sports Helmet from Amazon.com. The protective gear comes with incredible features, such as two reinforced layers for additional protection, adjustable venting that lets you control airflow depending on the ambient temperature, and a size adjustment dial for a perfect fit.
The Difference Between Skiing and Snowboarding Equipment
The difference between skiing and snowboarding equipment is that the former uses skis instead of snowboards which are usually made out of wood or metal. Skis have two edges for stability on the slope (as opposed to four) and are designed shorter than snowboarders would prefer because they’re easier to navigate, especially in heavy snow.
Snowboards are generally cheaper, lighter, and easier to carry around when not being used than skis, which can be bulky or heavy depending on their makeup.
Skiing vs. Snowboarding: Pros and Cons
Skiing and snowboarding both have different advantages and disadvantages. Here is a summary of their pros and cons.
The Pros and Cons of Skiing
- Skiing allows you to spend time outdoors in the fresh air and among nature.
- The activity provides a healthy cardio workout that is perfect for the whole family.
- It’s a great, total body workout.
- Skiing strengthens your lower back and abdominal muscles, improving your posture while developing nice, lean muscle mass all on its own.
- It can be expensive depending on how many times you ski in a season or how much equipment you need (e.g., skis, boots).
- You can easily get injured when off-roading, especially if you’re not experienced or don’t have sufficient knowledge about the area.
The Pros and Cons of Snowboarding
- In the short term, snowboarding is a great exercise because your entire body is engaged.
- It can get you fit very quickly if you’re trying to lose weight or get in shape as well.
- Unlike skiing, snowboarding is a major sport and will rarely cause injury or bodily harm when done properly.
- Snowboarding has an extremely low barrier to entry in that anyone who needs a board, boots, layers of clothing (usually this means gloves and headgear), and skins for getting up slopes should be good to go right from the start.
- Gravity is your greatest enemy in this activity, and you are at risk for more serious accidents like head trauma when falling.
- The boards can be difficult to control, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing or haven’t learned how to do it, increasing the chances of getting injured in other ways, such as breaking an ankle from landing incorrectly after performing a trick wrong.
- Snowboarders need to take extra precautions when riding a board because it’s much easier to lose balance since they’re designed with four edges instead of two.
Tip: Ensure you practice and master each sport before attempting any stunts. Also, ski or snowboard with someone who has more advanced skills so they can teach you how to make turns easier or even try out new moves.
When It’s Best To Learn Ski vs. When It’s Best To Learn Snowboard
In most cases, an individual’s personality, the environment, and preferences determine whether they choose skiing or snowboarding.
Generally, it’s best to learn ski if:
- You want to try out a high-adrenaline sport with intense physical demands.
- You’re ready to manage the higher injury risks (i.e. you have all the necessary safety gear).
- You want to strengthen your lower spine muscles.
Conversely, it’s best to learn snowboarding if:
- You want an easier time with less injury risks.
- You are ready to manage the injury risks involved (although the risk of injury is lower, it’s best to have quality safety gear before trying this sport).
What Gear You’ll Need To Get Started
What Gear Do You Need for Skiing?
The gear you need for skiing includes skis, boots, ski poles, ski gloves, and goggles. Additional gears include a helmet, sunglasses, and a ski bag or carrier.
The gear needed will vary depending on the type of skiing you intend to do.
The most important gear for skiing is the skis and ski boots.
Skis are generally made of metal or wood that has been shaped to glide over snow and concentrate power on one end. There are two types of bindings for these that should be used – Alpine Bindings and Nordic Bindings.
The common trait of both is the heel-toe free-heel release system which opens with a downward pull on a lever when putting your foot in or out of the boot. Your feet grow stronger while climbing uphill by gradually pushing down with all their weight onto your toes as they’re curled, and then by pulling with their toes to push up the heel.
What Gear Do You Need for Snowboarding?
To snowboard, you need a board, boots, goggles, and gloves. It’s important to wear protective equipment such as a helmet and bindings that cover your whole foot (not just straps), and a long sleeve shirt/jacket with zip neck or collar-flap closure in case of a fall.
For beginners, it may be best to use boots made specifically for snowboarding since they have more flexible soles than regular winter boots do. These will provide a better grip on slippery slopes as well as make turning easier.
Aside from gear, it can also be helpful when learning how to ski or board at first if someone has experience doing so who can teach you how to make turns easier or even try new moves.
Pro Tip: I recommend that you always carry a walkie-talkie when going skiing or snowboarding. It may come in handy in case of an emergency.
Tips for Beginners on How To Ski or Snowboard Successfully
Here are some tips to learn skiing or snowboarding faster:
- Push with your toes to push up the heel when climbing.
- Practice and master each sport before attempting any stunts or tricks on snowboarders.
- Skiing is about balance, so use your knees for stability instead of bending at the waist as much. This will help you stay upright and balanced more easily while skiing downhill.
- When snowboarding, try to make as few turns as possible. This will help you cover the most ground in one run and avoid overexerting your muscles from turning too much.
- If something goes wrong while skiing or snowboarding, it’s best to get off your board immediately so that it doesn’t drag you down with it!
- Always wear a helmet, goggles, and gloves when snowboarding.
- Learn to ski on gentle slopes first before moving to steeper ones.
- Ski or board with someone who has more advanced skills so they can teach you how to make turns easier or even try out new moves.
- When snowboarding, adjust your weight distribution by leaning back a little bit on the board to make turns easier or quicker depending on how sharp they will be (make them sharper if using less lean).
- Ski or snowboard in powdery snow, not on the ice, to stay upright easier.
For more beginner tips on skiing and snowboarding, I recommend that you watch this 4-minute video:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can Skiers Switch to Snowboarding?
Skiers can switch to snowboarding. Skiing has more of a learning curve due to the complexities in technique and control, but that doesn’t stop ski racers from snowboarding. Snowboarding is often thought of as an easier condition because it is less prone to injury than skiing.
Can Snowboarders Switch to Skiing?
Snowboarders can switch to skiing. Although skiing is much harder, snowboarders can overcome some of the challenges, like the physical demands of skiing, with the right amount of time and practice. Generally, skills learned on one type of terrain nearly always transfer to another.
My two cents is that skiing or snowboarding is more about balance than anything else, which means that your body can learn either sport with just enough practice.
Nonetheless, it will require a significant adjustment period because of the different physical demands and the initial difference in how snowboarding reacts when coming off an obstacle versus skiing (snowboarders must rely on momentum, whereas skiers need to exert power).
Adjusting would be tough enough, so one should consider whether they want to put this much effort before switching to the more demanding sport.
What Should I Do if I’m in an Accident While Skiing or Snowboarding?
If you’re involved in any accidents during your time on skis or snowboards, always remember to get off of them immediately so that they don’t drag you down with them.
Many injuries happen when people stay attached to their board and try to right themselves up instead of trying a different method.
So, if you want to learn a sport this winter and are considering which one to start with, consider snowboarding. Snowboarders can have more fun on the slopes without worrying about injuring themselves as much. It takes less time for beginners to master the basics of this sport than skiing does.
With all of this information, I hope you can make an informed decision when deciding which sport is right for you or your child. That said, the best way is usually just by going out into the fresh powder and getting started.
- National Ski Areas Association: NSAA Fatality Fact Sheet
- National Ski Areas Association: NSAA Catastrophic Injury Fact Sheet
- The Guardian: Two Planks or a Tray?
- NCBI: Potential Health Benefits From Downhill Skiing
- Pennsylvania State University: Speeds Associated With Skiing and Snowboarding
- NCBI: Physiological and Physical Profile of Snowboarding: A Preliminary Review
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