Skiing Talking Point

Why Snowboarding Sucks and Skiing Rules the World

Written by Stuart Wickes

Why snowboarding sucks and skiing rules the world

Should I ski or snowboard? It’s a question many of us have asked and often it is a case of coming squarely down on one side of the fence or the other, because you can’t wear them both at once. But which is best? How do you choose? And who rules the piste – skiers or snowboarders? In this post, a collaboration with ski and snowboard experts Neilson, we wade into the skiers vs snowboarders debate with some opinions of our own. Snowboarders, you have been warned.

Skiing at La Molina Pyrenees

Skiing or boarding – what’s best? Let me tell you

Snowboarding or skiing? When two tribes go to war

Snowboarding vs skiing: two tribes or just different ways of getting down a hoary mountain? Some say it’s a rivalry as old as the mountains themselves. But that’s just not true. While skiing was ‘invented’ by Neolithic man, snowboarding only arrived on the scene in the 1960s, making it the new kid on the block by a long, icy run.

I met my first snowboarder in 1987. I was 23, skiing at speed down that long, icy run. The boarder was on his bum, sliding on ice, out of his depth and out of control. It was an unavoidable collision that left me with a pole through my lip and ten stitches. It also meant I had to use a straw for apres ski drinking the rest of that week. Enough to put anyone off boarders.

But that’s not why I’m not a boarder.

Skiers and snowboarders ascend a conveyor lift in Spanish Pyrenees, Catalonia

Today skiers and snowboarders happily share lifts, but it wasn’t always so

Should I ski or snowboard? Well if you are asking…

I was a ski nut in my 20s and 30s, taking to the mountains for a week or two every season. They were always the purest, freshest, most invigorating weeks of the year. They were also the most expensive which is one reason they stopped when the kids came along.

It took ten years for me to find a way to get the family out to a ski resort. When I told the kids we were going, they said they wanted to try snowboarding. It wasn’t a surprise; boarding is seen as the cool, young way to slide down the white stuff.

“It’s got tricks, fashion, style and people our own age,” they told me.

I was willing to give it a go. But they weren’t willing to let me.

“You can’t do boarding Dad, you’re too old.”

“And you’re not cool.”

I got it. At their age I wouldn’t want to be seen with a beanie wearing Dad in baggy pants. Although really I think they were worried I’d be better than them.

But that’s not why I’m not a boarder.

Views from ski slopes of La Molina at Sunset

Skiing in the mountains is one of the most invigorating things I know. Spanish Pyrenees at La Molina.

The emerging boarding scene

Neither of my parents were skiers; the closest they got to snow was building a snowman in the garden. I was introduced to the sport at 18 by a friend who invited me on a trip to the Austrian Alps. I’d never skied before, could barely afford the lift pass let alone lessons so took to the slopes with mates and taught myself. Bad habits? I developed a few. But most of all I developed a love of snow, speed and the skill of getting myself downhill in one piece with two planks of wood under my feet.

Boarders were a rarity back then but it was a growing scene. A couple of people in our group tried to learn but spent most of their time sitting in snow getting wet. It may be an age thing but boarding seems to take longer to get than skiing, so while us skiers were soon in the high mountains skiing miles between interlinked resorts, our boarding chums were stuck on the nursery slopes for days. They saved money on lift passes but spent a fortune on tumble dryers.

But that’s not why I’m not a boarder. It’s more serious than that.

Snowboarding at the Ski Show in London

On or off the snow, snowboarding is not as easy as it looks to learn.

Is cool dangerous?

Boarding may be the cool kid of snow sport but it’s also more risky, especially when learning. Most doctors agree that boarding carries a slightly higher risk of injury than skiing. Accident studies suggest rates of between 3-6 injuries per 1000 snowboarder days compared with 2-3 per thousand alpine skiing days. Put another way, you might expect to sustain an injury roughly every 222 days of snowboarding compared to 400 days of skiing. Do you hear that? Skiers can ski for twice as long injury free. Statistically speaking. As long as they don’t meet an incompetent boarder.

What’s more injury rates for boarders are significantly skewed towards beginners; studies suggest 48% of boarder injuries are sustained by beginners compared to just 18% for skiers. Put plainly, beginner boarders get injured more often than beginner skiers. Of course protective gear, expert coaching and avoiding dodgy snow park antics will help you reduce the risk, but put bluntly you’re still more likely to hurt yourself boarding than skiing. Especially when learning.

But that’s not why I’m not a boarder.

Snow Boarders in Pyrenees. Image Visit Costa Brava

Skiing or snow boarding – which to choose?

A winning sport…

In my University days I was Captain of the Ski Team for a season. It was a glorious job organizing ski trips and training, subsidized by the Student’s Union. Those were the days. We trained every weekend on a small dry ski slope in Snowdonia, readying ourselves for the annual University Ski Championships in Scotland. In Aviemore we battled with ice, hailstorms and other uni ski teams to prove our prowess in slalom and giant slalom. Snowboarding wasn’t seen as a sport back then. It didn’t exist in our club and it wasn’t recognised as an Olympic Sport until 1998. There were no half pipes, snow parks or freestyle competitions so if you wanted to win stuff, you had to be a skier. Not that we won much. I placed 29th in giant slalom and as a team we won the wooden spoon. But we did win the drinking competition. By a mile. A credit to all our training.

But that’s not why I’m not a boarder.

Skiing Lesson at Plas Y Brenin, Capel Curig, North Wales

Ski slope at Plas y Brenin where the Uni team used to train. Hannah had more success when I took her for a lesson.

Too old to change tribes?

In the early days (how old do I sound now?) there was definitely a rivalry between skiers and boarders, a fight for the right to be on the piste. Boarders were invading our space, getting in our way, stealing the limelight. But that’s not the story today.

Now most resorts welcome both. Skiers and boarders happily share lifts, pistes and powder. Boarders have their snow parks, jumps and comedy hats while skiers mostly have the mogul fields to themselves. And while there is still something of a culture, dress and generation gap, the two tribes seem to mostly get along.

I like to think I could be a snowboarder, if I wasn’t so invested in skiing. It’s not that I’m too old to change my ways, nor that I’m worried about risks and I’m certainly not embarrassed to wear baggies and flannel. It’s just that I’ve spent years developing my skiing skills and would rather spend my precious time in the mountains skiing down than falling over and lying on my bum in the snow learning how to board.

But even that’s not really why I’m not a boarder.

Night Skiing La Masella, Catalonia

Skiers and boarders share the slopes quite happily these days

Won and lost on the dance floor

You want to know the truth? Well, it’s simple. Skiing presents a very special challenge. No, not on the slopes but in the apres-ski.

If you’ve ever tried dancing to Kool and the Gang in ski boots you’ll know what I mean. What’s easy for boarders in their soft, flexible boarders boots is a peculiar test of nerves, balance and poise for skiers clamped shin deep in rigid polyurethane clodhoppers. You don’t look cool. You won’t make many friends. Your family will disown you but you know if you can get through to the end of Celebrate Good Times without falling over you will have achieved something that snowboarders will never get the chance to do. It’s a lifetime’s challenge and I’m still working on it. That’s why I’m a skier not a boarder.

Snow boarder in Pyrenees. Image Visit Costa Brava

Sure, snowboarding looks cool when you can do tricks

An expert hand can make a difference

I learnt to ski the hard way, on my own, with a little help (and laughter) from mates. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Whichever sport you choose, some expert coaching and guiding can help you stay safe, reduce the risk of injury and get more from your snowsport. While Neilson are gently stoking the friendly rivalry between skiers and boarders they also welcome both and offer guests on their Mountain Collection holidays access to Neilson Mountain Experts. These are qualified ski and board instructors who guide and coach, offering informal sessions to guide guests around the mountain and help you improve your skiing or boarding with tips on technique. Sessions are graded for different levels of experience and there are some family oriented guiding sessions during school holidays for accompanied kids age 12+.

They won’t be able to help you with your ski boot dancing though. But if you want a few tips, do let me know.

Dry Slope Skiing at Kendal

Skiing wins. Every time. At least for me.

What about you? Team ski or team snowboard?

So, what about you? Are you on team ski or team snowboard? Do leave a comment and let us know where you stand! Or what you like to dance to in your ski boots.

Disclosure Note: This post is brought to you in a collaboration with Ski and Snowboard experts, Neilson as part of a campaign to stoke the friendly rivalry that exists between skiers and snowboarders. The views, opinions and experience, photography and videography are all, as ever, entirely our own.

About the author

Stuart Wickes

Stuart's the adventure addict half of the team, always trying to persuade the family to get out, do more, go further. As co-founder and co-director he handles the business, creative, design, technical and publishing aspects of the project. He is our chief photographer and videographer. With training as a professional learning and development consultant. an engineer and musician, his contribution is eclectic and unpredictable!


  • Ha. Snowboarding. Coming from the North, the city by the sea, my first encounter with snow holidays was during my studies with a mate, and that mate was a snowboarder. So since I had nothing and that was all I’d get, I took a board. It was disaster. A white, silent blanket to cover it. So, my second encounter with snow holidays was when I married a Swiss girl, we had kids, and their family decided it was unimaginable to continue that disgrace. At least the children would have to learn what their mother had learned, and if that man could be dragged along, the better. So I did, but this time I did what we all did, take skis, and take classes. And that made all the difference. Today, the children are Red Queen and King, and I, too, have managed to feel relatively secure on my skis, and even squeeze the occasional moment of fun out of it. It still is a foreign world to me, though, and will remain so. I enjoy the nature, a quiet, silent run, but I cannot enjoy the crowd.

    • Funny how we find ourselves drawn into others worlds, some of which we get. And some of which we don’t. Like you, while I enjoy skiing I don’t enjoy the crowds. Some of my best experiences have been ski mountaineering and Nordic skiing where you can find a mountain to yourself or indeed do without a mountain. In fact for Nordic skiing the flatter the better as I really cannot stand up or control myself at all on a hill with Nordic skis on!

  • Hi Stuart! Great post!! I belong to team ski, while my husband is team snowboard!!! 🙂 actually our 5y son began with ski last year… but definitely he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps!! 🙂 🙂 🙂
    I’ve tried twice to change tribe, but snowboard is not for me… It’s just a matter of feeling and I’m not comfortable at all!!

    • How much fun to have a split in the family, a bit of parental ski snowboard rivalry and a child over whom to fight to win allegiance to your tribe! 😉 Despite sharing the piste, they are quite different disciplines. Maybe one does have more of a “feel” for one over the other. Thanks for stopping by to comment 🙂

  • I’m totally a skier. I tried boarding once and it just felt so alien, especially when skiing was easy by then (I admit it, I’m too lazy to learn).
    Maddie has the same ski jacket as Hannah – very easy to spot on the slopes 🙂

    • That’s 3,0 to skiers so far! I’m with you. Boarding is another world. When you’re already good at something it’s more thrilling to go do that then spend hours getting wet, falling over learning something new. We must be careful if we end up in the same resort we don’t ski off with the wrong kids!

  • SKI all the way – spent 5 hours one day when I was 16 trying to get down a green run on a board and managed to perfect the pose but still took 5 hours to go down the slope. Husband is a snowboarder but only been 4 times so hoping that as I’ve put the kids in for ski lessons for their first forray onto the slope this year he may convert!

    I was also on a ski team at a Welsh University and treasurer of said team that trained in Snowdonia in the 90’s – we did our competitions on dry ski slopes in the UK and France for the Competition – snowboard had made it by then into the competition, I came 17th for the females slalom, but we did win the drinking competitions and did the uni proud.

    • Cerys, that kind of dedication is to be admired. 5 hours to get down a green run on a board. No-one can say you didn’t give it a try!

      How come you decided to start the kids on skiing rather than boarding?

      Nice result on the slalom by the way, and on the drinking competition. Welsh universities clearly do well at that.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      • With the kids I know that I will be able to help and support them – they are 4 and 3/4 and 6. My husband although he can get down a run well on a snowboard he can’t help them to snowboard it would be a case of taking the board off and helping them. On skis I’ll be able to ski backwards with them, sit them in my legs to practice and I’ve also looked at the ski ropes to help with once we’re on the pistes.

        They are having a week of ski lessons at Christmas time and I hope by Easter when we go again they will have enough confidence to join us on the slope in the afternoons to practice what they have learnt during the morning ski school.

  • Definitely skiing, I can relate to many of the comments and yours Stuart, been skiing about 30+ years, tried snowboarding about 3 times but could not get the hang of it , found skiing easy by then and could not be bothered to keep falling and battering my thumbs, knees and back again. I’m generally a ‘live and let live’ with snowboarders and they have got better. When I began skiing in the mid 80s there were no snowboarders then they started to appear on the slopes and were usually hopeless, out of control and kept wiping me out but they have got better as the years have gone on. The worst thing about boarders to me is when you have a superb sunny pisted slope with plenty of snow then two or three novice boarders come slowly down the middle facing forward with the board across the slope at right angles to it which results in all the decent snow being scraped off the slope leaving a 6 foot wide track of ice, that slope now had it for the day, nightmare!

    • Definite theme emerging here Allan. For skiers with some experience the prospect of learning all over again just doesn’t seem to be that appealing. Boarding just doesn’t seem to offer enough to entice us away? So it’s skiers 5, boarders 0 now in the comments. Where are the boarders? Are they too scared to come and make themselves known here? Or just too busy scraping the ice of the best pistes?

  • I’m convinced! I’ve only skiied a few times but I loved the fact that after a couple of lessons, I could get down a small slope without going straight into a tree – no-one was more astonished than me. Given that I can’t skateboard either, I doubt I’m going to develop a hidden talent for snowboarding overnight. So combine not enough time and a very impatient streak, and I’m sticking with two skis. My dance skills are even worse than snowboarding, so no-one will have to endure those!

    • Cathy, we found that with the kids too, that after a few lessons on a dry slope and a pretty short time on snow they could get down a simple run and we could all do some skiiing together. It’s great for those of us who suffer from impatience, me included there. Are snowboarders just more patient beings or is there some other thrill we are missing that makes all the challenges of learning so worth it. As for the dancing, well everything improves with practice.

  • I’m a skier – but a very slow and careful one. Like you, I learnt with friends. I was working in the Italian Alps and we could just about afford to pay for ski hire and lift passes but definitely not lessons, so we just kind of worked it out ourselves. I’d never get the hang of snowboarding!

    • Nothing wrong with slow and careful; see more, crash less. And when it comes to boarding never say never Gretta! Perhaps the world needs a few more slow and careful boarders?

  • I have never boarded, but actually I’ve always thought it looked like great fun (don’t hate me). I have only tried skiing once, when I was a child, but I’m sure I’d get all tangled up now, and as for the apres-ski, I’d be sure to embarrass myself either way if I tried to dance in public…

    • How could I hate you for wanting to do something fun or try something new. In fact I’d encourage it. And as for the apres ski, I don’t think anyone is supposed to remember the embarrassment.

  • I have only tried very sedate cross-country skiing….and that was years ago. This winter I’m off to the slopes to learn properly and it’s skiing all the way for me – for some reason having my legs stuck in one place seems harder than on two moveable objects!! If I were half my age I think I’d be giving snowboarding a go though, I do think it looks cooler!!

    • You managed to make cross country sedate? I was all over the place with that too. Skis too thin. Can’t please me. Boards too fat, cross country too thin. Two legs, two skis, makes sense. Otherwise it’s like a three legged race. I just don’t know if age is a barrier to boarding though, although the kids tell me it’s a barrier to being cool. Good luck with your ski season.

  • Oh skiing wins. Definitely. It’s the sophisticated way to swish down the slopes.*

    *secretly wishes she was a cool, trendy snowboarder with a funky board and lime green trousers

  • Definitely a skier! I haven’t done it in over a decade but I remember loving it and being quite confident after a week. However, I tried snowboarding last year in an indoor snow centre and I was useless! And scared. The instructor said I didn’t stick my bum out enough. I wanted to be amazing at it because boarding is way cooler but I’m not doing it again!

    • Instructors, so helpful! There’s definitely something a little more unnatural to boarding, having both legs bound together. And stickig your bum out. Maybe it’s just a question of practice though. Lessons in the snow centre could be a good way to learn the basics so you look cool as soon as you hit the snow.

  • I love snowboarding and used to do it exclusively, but after one too many injuries, including a knee injury that resulted in my having to get electrical impulses shot down my nerve to ascertain the damage, I decided to try skiing. It seemed so easy in comparison! Last year I finally sold my soft, comfy snowboard boots and I rent ski boots when we go. As for dancing, well, I just pack a pair of fleece-lined boot and make do.

  • I started skiing when i was 16 switched to snowboard when i was 24 and having kids switched to skiing again.
    But every skiholiday I take my board with me . When there is fresh snow powder I take the board . The feeling of surfing over the snow can not be found on skis. I admit with the fat skis it gets close but yes I am on the boarder side.

  • lets admit it old ppl ski and young ppl board. Boarding is a lot more challenging and requires way bigger body movement. Not saying older ppl cant do it but it just takes a lot more flexibility and effort. The feeling of board and body moving as one gliding across the snow is a divine feeling that skiers trying to achieve but boarders have without trying from day one.
    I skied for 10 year before I started snowboarding and never looked back. I do both now but 90% boarder and only ski occasionaly.

  • I started skiing at June Mountain, Ca. in April of 1967, that’s 51 years ago! In those years the vast majority of skis in use, were Head Standard, 2.05 or 2.10 meters long. Snowboarding did not exist and nobody imagined that one day there would be that kind of contraption on the slopes. I have nothing against snowboarders except that for some strange reason they are always involved in crashes with skiers…(They rarerly crash beteween them). I am not a skier of one or two weeks a year, I ski between 90 and 110 days per season in Argentina and then another week in Colorado, by this I mean I have some experience on the snow . Both in Argentina (Where I live) and the USA, most coalitions include a snowboarder. Snowboarders have a way of being totally different from the rest!, they think and behave differently!. When they have to stop on a slope, they rarely do it on the side of it, they stop and they throw themselves in the snow, where they are more comfortable, usually in grups of 3 or 4. They enter a run from a convergin side, without ever looking if someone is coming! (Skiers also do these things but not often). Maybe with the passing of the years boarders will mature and stop being a nuisanse on the mountain.

  • Okay, someone needs to weigh in for the guys in the black hats . . .

    I learned snowboarding at age 40, while my kids took skiing lessons. I had skateboarded as a kid, and never skied, so it seemed like the natural thing to do. After taking a beating for the first three or four lessons, I got a private lesson and all of a sudden I was on the chairlift going down all the blue square runs and having a blast. I bought a Burton board, boots and bindings and took the kids out for 20-30 days every year until they were in high school. I got quite a few questions from other adults on the lift (this was 1998), and admittedly enjoyed the whole ‘badass outsider’ rep that all snowboarders seemed to get automatically. I’ve never really gotten the whole dichotomy thing — I think any way you get down the hill is great as long as you do it without interfering with others. I was never one for the terrain park or the halfpipe, though, and had to stay away from steep terrain on icy days (which is most days here in the east). I was just out grooving and not challenging myself.

    Then I saw some guys carving beautiful semicircular turns one day on their narrow boards and simply couldn’t duplicate it on my Burton. I did some research and discovered the world of alpine (a/k/a hardboot) snowboarding. I went online, damaged the credit card for a new rig, and I’ve never looked back. 10 years later I now own 3 boards and I’m on my second set of boots. Since lessons are impossible to come by, I went to a summer camp for racing on Mt. Hood for four consecutive years. I can race fairly respectably on a GS course, ride icy black diamond terrain with confidence, and on good days, carve deep ‘S’ shaped trenches all the way down the hill. It’s more fun than anyone should be allowed to have.

    The only problem is that now I’m an outcast from both camps . . .

  • Well done Dan Tiede !!, nothing can compare to a high speed carved turn!. Linking SL carved turns on a gentle run it’s also so satisfying that you get to the base feeling younger, irradiating well-being!, you are not an outcast from both camps!, you are where you should had been from the beginning, the mother lode!

  • I’m a hardcore snowboarder!!! I was 19 when first started snow sports and my background in skateboarding pushed me towards snowboarding

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