There are so many times that I have been asked about this question, I myself have also given a few turns to the subject that, rather than looking for a simple answer, which is easy when it comes to snow, what I intend is to reflect and give my opinion on what seems to me a very interesting question and that there are not few who ask it and try to give some clues for those who have not just decided.
I do not pretend to be more papist than the Pope, there will be studies and opinions with more rigor and depth than mine and these are just the thoughts that fall from my mind in white and that snow my beard and that are the result of what I have been observing for years.
From my point of view, today, due to the great variety of material to practice both disciplines, there are no big differences between practicing one or the other and I would almost say that it is a matter of aesthetics.
From free-ride and freestyle, boarding or ski-cross to racing (styles that are common in both disciplines) going through what most people practice and what I call ski (or snow) tourism, which is nothing more or less than having a good time with your friends or family.
Of course, there are differences. Let’s see some of them, always from my point of view and without going into technical details. In the old days, there used to be a not always very friendly competition between “palilleros” and “surferos”, which still exists, although with much less intensity, and as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t exist at all.
The two snow activities can perfectly coexist. What makes the difference is the way of practicing either of the two sports and in which respect for “both sides” must prevail. Both sports have developed massively and have matured a lot in this aspect.
There is a belief (for me erroneous or not entirely true) that learning to snowboard is easier. Although at the beginning it could be said that it is so and in the first days you evolve faster with “the board” than with the skis and in a couple of days you hold a little better with that one and on the third day you think you are a “pro” while with the skis you just begin to understand something, the truth is that in both cases there is still much to learn and many hours to practice; what really happens is that generally, and unfortunately, in snowboarding the lessons with instructor are abandoned before and the learning of such an interesting sport is left to improvisation and colleagues.
A pity. This at least in Spain, where this effect is very noticeable and the difference between good riders who ride great and have very good technique, the lesser ones, and the rest of the “surfers” is abysmal.
I think that in skiing, although there is also everything, the forces are more balanced and it is
noticeable that there are more hours of teacher and courses.
Personally, I would encourage both sports to take very seriously the need to give more hours of class for the benefit of more safety, respect and fun on and off the slopes. Unfortunately, in our country the snow culture leaves much to be desired, especially in recent years, and as soon as we are able to go down a blue run, people stop taking lessons, just when they are most useful, since they are more useful and make you evolve much faster and above all correctly.
I have seen many times that we spend money on equipment that will still take time to master and that are beyond our possibilities as skiers or snowboarders and completely abandon professional instruction and dedicate ourselves to self-learning.
But that’s another story. Anyway, in the specific case of snowboarding, there are the statistics, and although I am not going to consult them at this time, I have already said that I would write according to what I have been observing on the slopes, on the lifts or discussed with professionals and colleagues, for every hour of class that is given in snowboarding, in skiing it is multiplied several times. It is evident to anyone at a glance and in any mixed school they will corroborate it.
in this aspect, although there are differences, the look that can present some riders and others (“surfers and paddlers”) can even be the same and you can find yourself from looking like you just came out of a hip hop dance club with clothes two or three sizes above what you need to believe that you are on a catwalk with the latest trends in snow clothing.
The truth is that brands of all types of ski and snow equipment are well aware of this phenomenon and there is a wide variety of products in one way or another, more or less exaggerated and for all tastes.
For practical reasons, snowboarding equipment must be loose because you are constantly bending down to fix your boots or sit and stand up in the snow while with skiing you don’t need so much movement and you can stand calmly on the side of the slope leaning on your poles.
Ski clothing is not as wide and is very useful for demonstrations of correct skiing posture. It is true that snow clothing has more of a role, although sometimes some people get carried away, and there are many skiers who make it their own, especially freestylers and freeriders.
So, when it comes down to it, you can see everything on the slopes and there is more and more crossbreeding.
For tastes the colors and doctors have the Church. There are many brands that manufacture their products, helmets, goggles, gloves, hats …, for one or another discipline or both and each one adapts them to your taste. The truth is that the tracks are filled with the most varied colors.
I think you could associate snowboarding to a rather street culture, influenced by skateboarding (from which it was born) and musical trends such as “Hip Hop” and “Rap”, more neighborhood with a strong anti-system identity, freaky or urban tribe that contrasts with other more traditional and familiar, more urban and socially more exclusive in skiing, although it is only in appearance because the reality is much more complex and today, both sports are widespread in different social strata and enjoy great popularity.
Although I think it is true that in certain worlds it has permeated the belief that snowboarding is more street and cooler which has contributed to many having signed up to the fashion of the board by imitation against skiing which would be considered rather “posh” or elitist people.
This may seem a bit superficial, but I think that this belief, although not confessed, exists and is noticeable in the environment although the reality is very different and anyone can practice any of the two sports, including both, and that the snow dilutes to a large extent that feeling.
Differences in technique and equipment
Although the goal is basically the same in both sports, to go downhill on and off piste, there are a few differences. Just look at the boots of some and others. I will only talk about some of them.
Regarding the purely technical aspect, for me, snowboarding is very well adapted to deep and loose snow, although even the double tip skis with wider freeride ridges for downhill and off-piste have evolved so much and so well that they have nothing to envy to the “flow” sensations of the board.
However, on hard snow, skis behave with more integrity than the board, which will be more difficult to enter with the edge and will end up with skidding, which means less control and more need for braking and turning space, circumstances in which skis have an advantage as they are more versatile in all types of snow.
The same happens with freestyle skis, also with double tip, with which you can perform as many tricks as with a snowboard in a park. By this I mean that you have to take into account in which season you are going to ski most of the time.
It is not the same as the snow that you will find in the Central System or Sierra Nevada, more southern and with hard snow, for which in my opinion snowboarding is less advisable than in the Pyrenees or the Alps with colder and drier snow.