Skiing or Snowboarding? The Age Old Debate

Since snowboarding entered the scene a few decades back, snow aficionados have had to contend with a major question: Are you a skier or a snowboarder? Any mountain town resident will tell you that your answer says a lot about you (although what they think it means depends, of course, on whether they’re a skier or a boarder themselves). 

The debate’s been raging for decades, and every few years, one sport or the other becomes more popular—and then, a handful of seasons later, things shift again. Like any long-term discourse, there’s no obvious or “correct” answer; there’s a lot more nuance to the issue. Ready to make the big decision for yourself? Here’s the breakdown of pros and cons.


This probably won’t be the deciding factor. When it comes to cost, skiing and snowboarding are relatively evenly split. Lift tickets are the same price whether you’re on two planks or one, and transport to and from the mountain is the same regardless of what equipment you have with you. Your outerwear can be interchangeable (of course, fashion and culture may dictate a wardrobe change, but that’s up to you). As far as the skis or board themselves, the cost—to buy or rent—isn’t significant enough to really influence your decision.

<<Why not give both a try? Sport rental packages for skis and snowboards make this an affordable option. Book skis in the morning and swap for a board in the afternoon. >>


Snowboarders tend to have more comfortable boots and equipment, but they sometimes have to do a little walking between runs. © Vail Resorts

Ski boots have a reputation for being terribly uncomfortable, but they’ve come a long way since the early days when hard-sided ski boots were practically guaranteed to cut off circulation or leave blisters. These days, they are much comfier than their predecessors from the seasons of yore. Still, when it comes to all-day comfort on the mountain (and how easy it is to walk into the lodge and out to the parking lot), snowboard boots are unbeatable. They’re warm and cozy, and they can’t force your legs into an unnatural position—they’re basically Uggs with a purpose. 

Learning Curve

The first few days of picking up any new sport can be tough, but skiing and snowboarding are worlds apart in that regard. Skiing uses a lot of the natural movements you’re already familiar with—in other words, you’re used to moving both your legs independently, whereas having both feet strapped into the same board can feel intimidating at first. Most folks find that there’s a short honeymoon period with skiing where it feels like you’re learning (and improving) by huge measures in a short period of time.

Snowboarding, on the other hand, can take a bit more practice to initially get the hang of it, much like surfing or skateboarding, which require the use of some of the same muscle groups. After that initial learning curve, though, it’s much easier to become an intermediate or advanced snowboarder. 

If you’re looking to make a long-term investment in snow sports, you could go either way; if you only have a week on the slopes, consider skiing, which you’ll likely feel more accomplished sooner. 

Negotiating Lifts

3iZ7zG2CaAEQM0M6eGaIk2The experience on a lift is a little different for skiers and snowboarders. © Vail Resorts

It’s not just the downhills you have to consider: you have to get up to the top of the mountain, too. Lifts are a beautiful thing—after all, they make it possible to get in more runs with a lot less effort than hoofing it, but they often present a challenge for newcomers. 

For skiers, negotiating lifts is pretty straightforward. You need to take your pole straps off and look over your shoulder to be ready for the chair, but aside from that, there’s not much guesswork. 

For snowboarders, though, things can be tougher. You need to unstrap one binding each time you get ready to get onto the lift, which also means doing some hopping about in the lift line. Depending on how surefooted you are, hopping off the lift on a board with one foot unstrapped can be difficult to navigate the first few times until you become more comfortable on the board. Everyone falls, so don’t let this be the sole deciding factor against riding. 

Bonus for skiers: those on two planks can get right to skiing downhill as soon as the chair hits the top of the slope, whereas snowboarders will have to strap back into their bindings, which for beginners often requires sitting down.  

Keeping Track of Gear

Ever heard the expression “yard sale” on the mountain? Often used as a term of endearment, it refers to skiers and riders spreading gear all over the slope after crashing. Skiers have to contend with two skis (which you can pop off with the right amount of force at the correct angle), not to mention poles. Snowboarders, on the other hand, are essentially immune to the plight of the yard sale. Your board is firmly strapped on and can’t go flying off, and there are no poles to worry about. Boarding definitely keeps the “yard saling” to a minimum.

<<Renting gear may help you choose between skiing and riding, but it brings a ton of other benefits along with it as well.>>

The Dreaded Catwalk

At most resorts, there’s a flat spot or run that everyone tries their hardest to avoid. It’s usually the run that brings skiers and riders around from one side of the mountain to the other and while flat may not sound too intimidating, it can be tough to negotiate. 

For skiers, it’s a no-brainer: your feet are on two separate planks, so you can skate a bit and regain the momentum you’d otherwise lose when things flatten out. For boarders, on the other hand, it’s liable to bring your run to a complete standstill—literally. With no feet available to move you along, you’ll likely end up having to unstrap a foot (or accept a ride from a skiing friend) to get things going again.

The ‘It’ Factor

4uI9wil4bSaS8Ki4qYKGyGWhich sport has the “it” factor? It depends which crowd you follow. © Vail Resorts

There’s no point in pretending coolness doesn’t matter, but fortunately for both skiers and snowboarders, there’s something to recommend either sport. When it was first introduced, snowboarding was the super-cool, punk-rock thing to do, while skiing was widely considered (by younger audiences, at least) to be for old fogeys. In the intervening decades, though, things have changed considerably. These days, skiing is making a comeback, and there are tons of heroes to admire both on planks and boards. In other words, if you want to be cool, you could go either way.

Try Them Both

Hmm, seems about even, doesn’t it? If you’re still having a hard time deciding to ski or ride, why not just try both? It may sound crazy, but renting gear makes this an affordable option. And you can take advantage of the expert fitters in the shop to pick their brains for tips and tricks before heading out on the slopes. 

There are two ways you can go about this. First, you can rent skis for a day then rent a board for a day and give them both a fair amount of time trying them out. Or, you can rent skis in the morning and then swap them out for a board in the afternoon. Try them both in one day and see which one you like better—this choice also comes guaranteed with a good night’s sleep. 

Overall,  there’s no point in making a decision like this without any first-hand experience. Once you’ve picked a winner, rentals are a great way to try out different styles and brands to figure out what works best for you before you buy your own gear.  

While proponents of both sports can bend your ear for hours talking about why their sport is best, it boils down to which you think you’d enjoy more. So go ahead and give them both a try—there’s no law that says you have to stick to just one. You’ll likely gravitate toward one or the other as you progress.

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  1. Once again the third option is overlooked or forgotten about. The short fat things called skiboards. I’m talking about what’s evolved since the early days of Bigfoots and SnowBlades. Canon, and Line were the big names in the 90s and got to show them off in the X-Games for a couple years back then with Line later changing over to only making longer twin tip freestyle skis.
    For years skiboards were short enough for most riders to be ok with the non release bindings they came with but since then came up with another option. The Spruce Riser is probably the greatest solution to happen to skiboarding safety while maintaining the fun performance. The Riser uses the same center mount standard inserts of wood core skiboards used with non release bindings to give select traditional ski bindings an aluminum mounting substrate while retaining the full flex of the boards. Unlike the direct mounting of bindings allowable on Summit skiboards due to an extra substrate manufactured into their boards the Riser method retains the full flex of any boards independent of boot size. The increased stack height is unnoticeable when riding plus is a leverage advantage for edge transfer on the wider nature of modern skiboards. Since that skiboards have been even more accessible to anyone of all ages and skill levels not willing to ride non-release plus we even have longboard skiboards up to 130cm with the Spruce Sherpa 130 for all mountain. RVL8 has a wide variety for parks to all mountain carving as well at skiboards and Summit has some nice stuff like their all mountain cam rock 118 Invertigo. Most of the fun of alpine sliding sports comes down to getting your carve on and modern skiboards amplify that with their easy tighter turning radius while still maintaining stability at speed. You simply can get more turns in per run and just have a lot of downhill maneuverability fun and skip the heavy learning curve of snowboarding and traditional skis. Enjoying carving down the slopes or hitting the park with a far shorter path to confidence, safety and most of all fun on the mountain is what skiboards deliver. As for boots the latest three piece designed ski boots like the Dalbello 85 or 120 offer easy in and out with excellent performance and comfort. There’s also one more option if someone wants to go the easier route to both skiing, skiboarding and snowboarding with soft snowboard boots. The Envy Skiframe and MadJacks offer a separate exoskeleton solution to convert single BOA or lace style snowboard boots into step in ski boots. So hopefully that will inspire those on the fence to get out to the slopes with another option they may not know about as the gear investment in skiboards can also help with the budget.

  2. As someone who skis most of the winter I have noticed boarders are.getting less and less almost becoming an endangered species especially over the past 4 or5 years . I am not sure why but i think a lot of it may be down to the new skis

  3. I’m surprised the article said nothing about safety. Is snowboarding or skiing inherently more prone to accidents and of which nature? I’m personally a skier who has tried snowboarding.

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