Judging from the number of skiers on any mountain, skiing is undeniably more common than snowboarding among the general public. Skiing is often seen as easier to learn than snowboarding – but much harder to master. Many snowboarders choose to switch to skiing for several reasons.
For a snowboarder, skiing offers more flexibility and convenience, making it easier to hike up hills, traverse flat snow, or manage children all while strapped into skis. It doesn’t require unstrapping bindings at the bottom of the run and re-strapping at the top.
Snowboarders are generally able to learn to ski down a run in less than a day. Why balancing is easier on skis, the main challenge is transitioning from a sideway riding stance to a forward facing one, and using your dominant legs instead of your core and hips for turning and stopping.
If you’ve mastered the art of snowboarding, switching to skiing should be a lot easier. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons you might consider switching to skiing and how best to make the switch.
Why switch from snowboarding to skiing
Here are some of the reasons people switch to skiing:
- It’s a more comfortable and easier sport to learn than snowboarding and can be used as a retirement sport for older snowboarders who need to slow their activity down.
- Skiing doesn’t require unstrapping and strapping your bindings after and before every run, freeing up your hands e.g. if you need to look after children on the slopes.
- The convenience of moving your feet separately and using ski poles to push your way up hills and traverse across flat stretches without having to unstrap.
- Skiing boots are easier to tie up and bindings are simpler to strap into, saving you valuable time on the mountain.
- Skis are a lot easier to control when faced with bumpy moguls, icy groomers and crusty snow.
- Slowing down on narrow roads is easier for skiers. Snowboarders must be careful to avoid pivoting horizontally and crashing into other skiers and snowboarders. Skiers, are able to wedge their skis into a snow plough position and slow down without blocking the track for other riders.
- Confident skiers are able to ski a lot faster than the average snowboarder because of the aerodynamics of their gear and body position.
How hard is it to learn to ski for a snowboarder
Skiing is a lot easier to learn if you have experience boarding. In the same way, skiing should come naturally to you if you have experience water skiing or roller skating.
One of the reasons switching from snowboarding to skiing is generally quite easy is because we are used to walking with our two feet pointed forwards. For most people, the ski stance feels more natural than the sideways stance of snowboarding.
Snowboarders also find skiing to be much less demanding in terms of balancing, likely as a result of standing with your feet parallel and facing down the slope as opposed to riding sideways and using your upper body and hips for turns.
As a result, most snowboarders typically learn how to ski very quickly. A snowboarder who has never set their feet into skis may be able to get around on the mountain within half a day with minimal instruction.
Of course, becoming a confident skier and making solid carves down the hill will require a lot more practice for most snowboarders turned skiers.
Main challenges of transitioning between boarding and skiing
The hardest thing about switching from snowboarding to skiing is getting used to having your feet separated and moving on two different units vs their being fixed on a single snowboard.
Another challenge of making the switch is that skiing typically works your legs and thigh muscles even harder than snowboarding does. Snowboarders, in contrast, are able to glide down a mountain by using their entire body weight to turn, which requires a more sophisticated level of balance but less muscle power.
Snowboarders tend to use their entire body weight to turn, shift momentum, and shed speed by leaning backwards. In skiing, they must retrain their muscle memory and learn to rely more on their legs, using their dominant leg instead of their hips for turning.
One of the frustrations of switching from snowboarding to skiing is the feeling of having to start learning from scratch. As a snowboarder, however, you come in with a sense of movement on snow, speed and control that will likely make your transition a lot faster.
That being said, not every snowboarder is able to learn to ski within a day, some boarders actually find the switch difficult. Depending on your natural stance and what other sports you practice outside of the mountain, it may take you up to a couple of months to be able to keep up with a crew of skiers.
In particular, snowboarders with primarily surfing, wakeboarding and skateboarding experience might find it harder to adjust to the forward leaning movement of skiing.
Still, many snowboarders are able to figure out the balance of skiing and to retrain themselves quite fast. Mastering ski form and technique, however, can only be achieved with experience and time on the mountain.
How to best make the switch
While most snowboarders will get by on skis within a few hours or a couple of days, getting 5 or 6 lessons can greatly help you become an advanced skier within the same ski season you made the switch.
Snowboarders often rave about going from complete beginner to skiing down black runs and powder with trees after taking a few lessons. They view ski lessons as imperative in acquiring good technique.
Even an initial lesson going down a green run followed by a blue (without trees and with trees) can really jumpstart your learning.
Snowboarders switching to skiing on their own often debate about whether they should learn the snowplow/wedge. While it’s considered a beginner technique, it has the advantage of providing you with balance and control on narrow runs with packed snow and little room for hockey turns.
While learning the wedge is helpful, some boarders argue it’s an unnecessary learning step and should be skipped, instead focusing immediately on parallel skiing with body and ski tips facing forward.
Expect to trip over your skis in the beginning though.
Tips for transitioning from boarding to skiing
Learn the movement of facing forward
Facing both your feet forwards and leaning down the mountain can be scary for a snowboarder. Water skiing, rollerblading or roller skating can be a good way to get used to the stance.
Get decent boots
Good quality boots that fit well and are comfortable enough are essential. Although ski boots will always be less comfortable than snowboarding boots, it’s important to have your own boots that have molded themselves to the shape of your feet.
Use appropriate skis
Don’t try to learn on twin tips, start out on something more traditional. Look for skis with a reverse camber and less rocker to learn on. If you are planning on sticking to green groomers, go for all mountain skis which are about chin height. While it’s common to rent narrow beginner skis, it’s best to learn on wider and more stable skis.
Use the snow plough
But not too much. On narrow runs or when coming into a ski lift line, the snow plough is the most effective and non-intrusive move you can make to ensure you don’t hit anyone or speed out of control into a snowbank.
While transitioning from snowboarding to skiing may be a cool move, maintaining your snowboarding ability after learning to ski is a good idea. You’ll be able to choose whether to board or ski based on the resort you visit and the particular snow conditions on the day.
Being able to both snowboard and ski also allows you to keep up your strength in both sports for a nice rounded level of fitness.
Featured image: “First Turns” (CC BY 2.0) by Zach Dischner , “Eaglebrook-School-Winter-Carnival-201420” (CC BY 2.0) by EaglebrookSchool
(2) “Downhill” (CC BY 2.0) by FtCarsonPAO
(3) “Paul” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Mike Saechang