This is THE question that divides skiers and snowboards. It is often said: “Skiing is easier to learn but harder to master – whereas snowboarding is harder to learn but easier to master.” If it’s your first time on the snow mountain, here are a few things to consider when deciding which one to pick.
Your feet function separately as a skier with each foot connected to its own individual ski. You stand front-on and move in a forward direction, as if you are walking down a slope. Using balance, core and leg strength, you first learn the basics such as how to stop and turn. After a few days of continuous skiing, you should be able to make some basic turns on beginner runs. As you start to advance, you work towards having your legs move in symmetry and simultaneously (commonly known as “parallel”). This takes time and more effort to achieve; for most it requires years of continuous practice.
Snowboarders stand side-on to the mountain and have both their feet attached to the board. They move in a sideways motion and switch between facing up and down the hill. For most newcomers, this can feel unnatural, awkward and restrictive when starting out. If you are a surfer, skater or wakeboarder, you will find this stance more familiar. However, either way you are likely to fall a lot during your first few days. It can be tiring picking yourself up every time. However, if you take it as it comes and have fun, something usually “clicks” after a couple of days and you suddenly get the hang of it. From this point, progress improves quite quickly. By the end of the week, you should be able to cruise down beginner runs of the resort, although you might fall down every now and then.
EQUIPMENT AND CONVENIENCE
Imagine having to walk from the carpark to the ski lifts. This is a lot easier when you only have to carry a single board as a snowboarder versus a skier who is carrying two skis and two poles. Snowboarding boots are also softer and more flexible so walking around is more comfortable compared with ski boots. Ski boots are heavier as they are made of plastic and do not have much give. You may initially feel clumsy and unbalanced as they are harder to walk in. But don’t worry, the more you walk in them, the sooner you’ll be strolling around with ease and style.
GETTING ON AND OFF THE LIFTS
It is much easier as a skier to get on and off the lifts as your boots remain locked on the skis the entire time. Once you’re off the chairlift, you can start skiing down the mountain without having to stop. For snowboarders, they will ride the lifts with only 1 boot attached to the snowboard, meaning you have to balance the weight of the board while riding the chairlift. Once reaching the top, a snowboarder has to slide their way to a flat surface, kick the accumulated snow off their other binding and attach their free foot before they can start going down the mountain. If you are not one for patience, skiing may be the way to go.
Both skiing and snowboarding require some level of fitness, even when you are starting out. In the early stages, skiing is more demanding on the legs and thighs, whereas snowboarding relies more on core strength as you utilise your upper body for turns and balancing. Whichever you choose, it is best to start stretching and doing some exercise before your first day on the mountain. Here are some exercises you can try without even going to the gym!
Skiing has long been the traditional snowsports discipline that children start with. Since young children have not yet mastered balance nor developed fine motor skills, skiing is often easier for them to learn. If your child doesn’t have a preference for skiing or snowboarding, it’s probably easier to start with skiing. However, young children are also learning to snowboard these days as well. If they’re enthusiastic to try it, there is no reason why they can’t. Whichever one your child chooses, it is recommended that he/she stays with the one discipline until a solid foundation has been established. When it is time to give the other discipline a go, he/she are less likely to pick up bad habits that will impact the technique of the first discipline.
Above all else, it is most important that your child’s first learning experience is fun and positive. A happy experience will see your child asking a week after your snow holiday when the next one will be. Having a bad first time can be extremely scary and upsetting for your child; more often than not, he/she will be left with terrifying memories and will never want to go back to the snow. Bad experiences can happen for many reasons but it is often due to the instructor’s inability to teach and connect with the child. Having an instructor who can engage your child through age-appropriate teaching techniques and methods is vital. The instructor must be able to create a world of fun and excitement, and inspire your child’s love for the snow and the sport. Without these, the child quickly becomes disinterested and the snow becomes nothing more than an icy annoyance that he/she wants to get away from.
Private ski and snowboard lessons are a great way to introduce children to the snow. With smaller groups and more flexibility than group lessons, the instructor can carefully tailor the lesson to the child’s learning style and personality. The instructor will also stay with the children for every lesson, allowing a trusting relationship to be built that will enable the child to continually progress and develop their ski/snowboard skills.
SO WHAT'S OUR VERDICT?
In our experience, skiing is for most people easier to learn when starting out at the snow for the first time. It is also preferred when the trip duration is short as spending a couple of days constantly falling on a snowboard doesn’t feel like much progress is made. However, there are always those people who find that snowboarding comes naturally. Whichever one you choose, the most important is to relax and enjoy yourself.
If you would like any further information about skiing or snowboarding, or advice on which is best for you, our team is more than happy to help. Hokkaido Ski Club specialises in private ski and snowboard lessons, and can advise which program is most suitable, including those tailored for children. Please contact us for more details or to make a booking.