Thursday, February 22, 2007

Skiing vs. Snowboarding

So today I rode my snowboard again after a couple days on my new skis. I found myself wishing I was on the skis. Conditions were what I call "fast-running," so the snowboard was not really in its element, but that's one point against snowboarding right away - it seems to have a narrower range of conditions in which it's fun. If I'm riding at speed, surface irregularities mess with the snowboard a lot more than with the skis. Probably at least in part my technique and the size of my board, but I think that the single-edged aspect makes it a lot more vulnerable to that sort of thing.

My board's got a lot more surface area than my skis, and now that I have the binding placement tweaked it performs well in powder, although I have some trouble in choppy stuff. I'm going to hold off on trying the skis in powder until the second day following fresh snow, when I start hiking for powder and I think that I can start getting my equipment to work for me instead of me having to carry it under my arm or something. Of course, skis are better at traversing too, although this pair gets death wobble at low speeds. It occurs to me that the leading edges might need to be detuned.

I have a truly bizarre foot that's actually more comfortable in a hardshell boot with buckles than in a snowboard boot. Weird, I know, but there's another point in favor of skiing.

Skis can do more kinds of turns than snowboard. If I'm doing a nice, clean turn on the snowboard, there's basically only GS and powder turns. If I want to travel pretty close to straight down the fall line, I do longish carving turns and change edges before I get too far from the fall line. On skis, I can keep my chest pointing straight down and my body on one line, and turn the skis under me (OK, my body probably moves laterally a little bit. But it doesn't have to.) Linked turns on skis also seem to be more stable than doing a near-straight wavy line down the mountain on a board, and I can do them through smallish moguls. I think larger moguls are probably a matter of practice for me at this point. Skis can also do GS turns, of course.

For people who are dodging the issue of whether one or the other is ultimately "better," and of course what "better" means, there's always the discussion of which one is easier to learn. In the past my attitude about this has been that with skis you can be sort-of skiing on Day One, but it's a lot harder to get to be a good skier, whereas with snowboards, if you commit to the Three Days of Pain, you very rapidly become a pretty good boarder afterwards. I'm going to stick with this. I think that in learning to be an intermediate skier as a kid and teenager, I learned a lot of technique that I wasn't a good enough athlete to actually do. Since then, I've trained in ballet and done a lot of other things that have made me a better athlete, as well as learned to snowboard. I think all of these have contributed to me being able to get on skis last Friday and discover that I'm actually a better skier now, after not skiing for about six years, than I was last time I went skiing before this recent re-discovery. All this leads me to believe a couple more things about the learning process for the two sports.

Snowboards will teach you how to ride them. If you make a mistake, they dump you on your butt. It's helpful to have a couple lessons, I think, but mostly, it's a matter of feel. The board also forces the rider to learn edging, which I think it's possible to avoid learning for a pretty long time on skis.

It doesn't take that good an athlete to be a good snowboarder. The posture is fairly erect and relaxed, and getting the board up on its edge is just a matter of leaning over.

Skis, because there are two of them, are forgiving enough to allow someone not to learn good technique. They also require a better athlete to learn good technique because getting the ski up on its edge is done in the hip and leg, and requires a pretty deeply bent knee, especially as the slopes get steeper.

I think snowboarding has contributed to my ability to ski, because of the forced learning of edge work, something I don't think I could do when I was skiing in the past.

So which one's better? I'm glad I learned both, and I'll be on my board tomorrow for the fresh snow and the next day for the deep stuff that should be on the way.


Anonymous said...

fool snowboards are good in everything

Anonymous said...

"It doesn't take that good an athlete to be a good snowboarder" can you even think that, I see more fat asses on skies than I do on boards.

Andrew said...

I didn't bother replying to the previous comment - I thought it spoke quite well for itself.

As to the second one... My summer sport is cycling. I see a lot of fat asses on bikes, but that doesn't mean they're strong cyclists. On the other hand, I've also taken class from some pretty fat ballet teachers who could still dance circles around me - when it's an anaerobic sport, someone's BMI doesn't mean as much.

Re-reading these posts is always instructive to me. When I wrote this, my argument for skiing requiring a better athlete was the deeper knee bend. Over time, and since getting onto some bigger, stiffer skis and switching to a pair of boots with less forward lean and a less ramped binding, I've also gone to a more upright skiing posture, and I think I work less hard. So really, it takes a better athlete to get through a day of being bad at either sport.

I'm not sure that I'm ready to give up my position that being a good skier requires a better athlete, though. On the board, both feet are strapped on pretty firmly. If I can stand upright and lean forward and back, I can ride my snowboard. On the skis, I need to keep my feet parallel, be able to lean to either side, and withstand a lot of force if I do a sharp turn at speed. So my legs do a lot of work that they don't have to, or at least do much less of, on a snowboard.

Ruby said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dave said...

Sorry to resurect this old post of yours, but have you tried alpine snowboarding? In the last couple of yearsI've given up riding softboots on snowboards. These days I use plates and hardboots and freeride all over the mountain. The hardboot interface gives you more power to the board edge and keeps you from getting chucked around by the chop like you describe. Additionally there is no better feeling than railing a turn you have initiated on your downslope edge.

The only downside being that hardbooting is technically more difficult and far more physically demanding than softbooting. But in my opinion the control you get from a hardboot interface more than makes up for the learning curve and slop you are losing when you switch.

If you don't spend your time in terrain parks there isn't much of a reason to be in softies.



Andrew said...

I actually have tried hard boot snowboarding. I thought it was lots of fun. I only got a chance to try it on a carving board - while there's no particular reason one couldn't put that kind of binding on a freeride board, there seems to be a "Why would you??" attitude among hard boot snowboarders. It does seem to me like it would be less forgiving of chopped up snow conditions.

Since writing this post, I've spent more and more time on skis in preference. I got a set of Volkl Mantras, so many of the advantages I saw in snowboard equipment have been erased for me - they're a pretty kickass ski, best described as a really wide GS ski. I also have a set of dedicated carve skis with a narrow waist, and I don't choose them much. Haven't done much skiing at all this year, due to being in a chapter of my life with a very low budget, but hopefully in another couple I'll be back on the slopes a lot again.