Which snowsport is for you?
Your friends have invited you for a weekend in the snow and the excitement is building. The drive is going to be fun and you know you’ll have a blast at the après ski parties. There’s just one tiny problem though: you don’t know how to ski or snowboard. And...which one should you even do? Here are some things to get you thinking:
Pedigree vs Punk
For an explanation of why there is such a long-standing rivalry between skiing and snowboarding, you only need to look at their histories.
Skiing - Skis have been around for a long time, with ski resorts as we know them, taking off in popularity by the mid 19th century. Regular ski goers were usually wealthy, as they could afford to travel to these mountain retreats. To keep the slopes “civilised”, there were rules and to this day, there are many unofficial mountain dos and don’ts.
Snowboarding - Invented by an American engineer in the 1970s, the modern snowboard surged in popularity amongst young “skate punks” who brought with them personalities, fashions and attitudes that “snobby” skiers didn’t appreciate. In the following decades, some mountains even segregated skiers and snowboarders, adding fuel to the fire.
These days, the rift between the two sports has healed and there are virtually no limits on where you can go or what you can do. While there are still some differences between the disciplines, both are extremely fun and very addictive ways to travel down a snow-covered slope. So as a beginner, which one is for you? We list some pros and cons for both sports to help you decide.
The learning curve
Skiing - It’s often said that learning to ski happens very quickly, because like walking, skiing involves independent leg movement. Once you learn how to make a “piece of pizza” shape with your skis (called a “snowplough”), you’ve mastered braking and by your second day, you’ll probably be able to execute decent turns. Poles help to keep you stable and off the ice.
Snowboarding - Having both feet clamped together takes a bit of getting used to, as does rolling back and forth onto the edges of your board. You might also find yourself using your wrists (and your bum!) a lot to brace your fall. However, once you’re over this relatively big learning hump, you’ve pretty much nailed the sport.
The gear factor
Skiing - Finding a pair of comfortable ski boots is in itself a challenge, let alone walking, climbing stairs or dancing! You also have to wrangle two poles and a pair of skis when getting on and off chairlifts.
Snowboarding - On this point, snowboarding wins. Aside from getting to wear soft, flexible boots that are easy to walk in, snowboarders only have one piece of equipment to contend with - a board - effortlessly carried on one shoulder or across your lap on the chairlift.
Skiing - The most inconvenient part of a skier’s day is usually the walk to the first lift, lumbering along in stiff, cumbersome boots, with skis threatening to slip off your sore shoulder. However, once you’re on the slopes, happy days! On flat terrain, skiers also have the upper hand, being able to glide their way across the snow with added push from pole planting.
Snowboarding - Boarders have to unbuckle their bindings before getting on every single chairlift, often causing delays at lift queues. They are also regularly found sitting on the ice at the top of the mountain strapping themselves back in. On flat ground, snowboarders have to unclip again and walk, or pull each other along.
Skiing - A forward-facing stance allows you to see where exactly you’re headed, so you can avoid obstacles. As you have separate control of both legs, you can always throw one leg out to stop yourself from falling over or use your poles for support. However, this blessing is also a curse as you may find it difficult to keep both your skis straight in the so-called “french fry” position!
Snowboarding - A side-on stance reduces your peripheral vision (blind-spot), so collisions are a real possibility. Beginner snowboarders also generally fall more, so it helps to learn where the snow is soft.
So how do you get started?
It is always recommended to first take a lesson or lessons from a qualified ski or snowboard instructor. They can coach you in the early stages to make you feel comfortable and make sure you are using the right techniques.
You should have no issues finding suitable terrain in Australia to get started on the snow. All ski resorts in Australia offer beginners of every age the chance to ski or snowboard on designated beginner slopes, whether it be Victoria’s Mount Buller and Mount Hotham resorts, or the slopes of Perisher and Thredbo in New South Wales.
If you don’t have your own equipment or snow gear, no problems, each resort and often the towns close-by have rental options available to budding skiers and snowboarders.
The final word
In our opinion, which sport you choose comes entirely down to personal preference. If you want to draw your own definite conclusion, why not try both?