Skiing vs. snowboarding: Which is better?
- According to Snowsports Industries America, during the 2019-2020 winter season, 25.1 million Americans, ages six and older 'participated in winter sports.'
- Britannica notes that skiing originated in prehistoric times, with 'the oldest known skis dat[ing back] to between 8,000 and 7,000 BCE and...discovered in Russia.'
- Snowboarding became mainstream in the 1980s, with tensions between skiers and snowboarders from the start. Britannica relates that skiing was seen as more traditional and snowboarding more radical, even with the sports' respective clothing, 'The nontraditional aspect of the sport was clearly reflected in the title of snowboarding's first magazine, Absolutely Radical, founded in 1985.'
- Olympic snowboarding can be classified into two different categories: freestyle and racing. Writer Amber Sayer explains, 'Freestyle snowboarding includes Halfpipe, Slopestyle, and Big Air, and features tricks and jumps. Snowboard racing is all about speed and includes events like Parallel Giant Slalom and Snowcross.'
Skiing and snowboarding are two of the most popular winter sports, with a market size of about $3.46 billion in 2019. While either method can get you down the mountain in fun and style, skiing is objectively 'better.'
Skiing allows you to access more of the mountain and the backcountry as you can move forward not only going downhill but also on flat surfaces and even up inclines. You can even use skis to climb mountains with alpine terrain bindings and skins. Skis have been a helpful mode of transportation in the snow for more than 10,000 years.
Except for split boards, most snowboarders are relegated to sticking to the resorts or relying on snowshoes, snowmobiles, or other means to access the backcountry. Their lack of utility and self-sufficiency in moving about the mountain is why many resorts do not allow rescuers and patrollers to use snowboards while on duty.
Skiing is also more popular than snowboarding and is watched more during the Olympics, with ski jumping and alpine skiing beating out snowboarding in viewership. Skiing represents six of the top 15 sports in the Winter Games.
While snowboarding is seen as the 'rebel sport,' skiing is more popular. It has a much longer and more useful history than snowboarding. But, at the end of the day, both are enjoyable activities that allow you to access nature, get exercise, and make memories with friends. It's just that, as a 'knuckle-dragging' snowboarder, your friends will continually be having to help get you around.
When it comes to skiing versus snowboarding, snowboarding is the obvious choice.
While snowboarding is at first more difficult to learn when compared to skiing, mastering a snowboard is much more doable. Snowboarding is also more affordable than skiing from an equipment standpoint—a good set of skis will cost you around $500 at best, while you can purchase a decent snowboard for as little as $300. But affordability isn’t the only benefit of snowboarding gear; it’s more comfortable too. Even skiers will agree that snowboarding boots are warmer and easier to walk in than ski boots. Additionally, when taking to the slopes, a snowboard is easier to carry than ski gear—would you rather lug around one snowboard or two skis and a set of ski poles?
If you’re hoping to brave the off-piste (i.e., untouched snow) areas of the mountain , you should also consider ditching the skis. According to avid skier/snowboarded Phil Teare, “on a snowboard the [off-piste] technique is far more similar to that of on-piste snowboarding, and most people find the transition much quicker and easier to learn.” Even if you aren’t planning to participate in any off-piste activities, a snowboard is still the smarter choice when it comes to safety. According to the National Ski Areas Association, 23 of the 41 “catastrophic incidents” during the 2020-2021 season were suffered by skiers, compared to only 16 suffered by snowboarders. Similarly, 34 of the 48 fatalities during the 2020-2021 season were attributed to skiers, while only 12 were attributed to snowboarders.
Ultimately, the benefits of snowboarding easily outweigh the benefits of skiing—it’s easier to afford, statistically safer, and more practical to master.