Last weekend on Ski Trip, I tried snowboarding. Now, I've been skiing a fair number of times and consider myself moderately capable, but I'd never been snowboarding before. And I was terrible, just terrible. At least at first; my over-under of 25 times falling down the first day was pretty much blown out by my first trip down the hill. Which took me 25 minutes, by the way, and left every limb and my head and ass bruised.
But by the third day I was halfway decent, and now consider myself a fair judge for the below comparison. I even went down a black diamond at the end of the last day - and I was terrible, just terrible… but hey, it was a black diamond.
Certainly, how fast you can go is a big factor in how much fun zipping down a slippery hill on a piece of wood is. And while in theory hill slope and refusal to break have the most to do with snowy velocity, you just can't tuck and dive down a hill on a snowboard the way you can on skis. Maybe it's the added surface area of the board that leads to more friction, or those zany hats snowboarders often wear that slows them down.
ISSUE: Hurting Yourself.
I was pretty terrible when I first started skiing, too, but I swear I didn't fall down nearly as many times as I did snowboarding. I think it's just easier to stay up when you can move both legs independently, and can use your hands (poles). I would also argue it hurts more to fall down while snowboarding: facing downhill it's easy to fall flat on your face, unless you catch yourself, which them hurts your arms. Or worse, when facing uphill you can catch an edge and tumble backwards, experiencing the lovely combination of snapping your head back and hitting your head on the snow. That being said, however, with skiing there's a lot more risk of serious injury, like twisting your knee 180 degrees around when landing a jump with one ski facing wrong. Then there's that classic move of wrapping both legs around a tree. And let's face it; with snowboarding, there's just very little chance that you're going to somehow impale yourself with a ski pole. Speaking of which…
One thing for snowboarding, it's really nice to have to carry those clunky-ass poles around. Don't they teach you at first to ski without them, anyway? Once you get them, however, there's this never-ending temptation to overuse them, or misuse them by jabbing your friends or hitting them on chairlift poles as you pass.
ISSUE: Flat areas.
But… they do give you those poles for a reason. And that reason is flat areas. This is actually a biggie: one of the biggest pains in the ass with snowboarding is having to unbuckle partway and propel yourself across big flat sections with one clunky boot. Especially if you're not good at it, like I wasn't; I don't know how many times I just gave up and took off my board and walked. Isn't the chair lift supposed to take the work out snowboarding? If I wanted to walk across snow toting a big chunk of wood I would have become a sled dog.
Although Snowboarding has the advantage of being able to borrow from skateboarding a whole variety of already-sweet moves, ski jumpers have been able to come up with a whole array of moves. And the fact that pretty much anything you can do on a snowboard you can do on skis. And then there are those insane extreme ski jump dudes.
ISSUE: Expert Opinion.
Of course, I'm just a tyro in the eyes of real skiers and snowboarders, so I asked my friend Greg his opinion on the matter. Greg's a pretty capable boarder and a near Olympic-level skier, and added to the debate that slashing bumps is a bit more fun on skis, while cutting fresh powder can be more enjoyable on a board. Having only a dim grasp on his terminology, I decided to take his word for it.
Of course, anybody who's a badass at either skiing or snowboarding is inherently pretty cool. But to differentiate here, we need to compare the standard archetypes of skier versus snowboarder. On one hand you have the older, rich, white, Northface-wearing ski yuppie, with matching ski pants and jacket and hat and goggles. On the other hand, you have the younger, less-rich, also white, whatever-hell-they-want-to-wear (and probably under-dressed), grungy, pot-smoking alterna-boarder, who doesn't really care that his board doesn't match his jacket doesn't match his frozen uncovered ears. Who's cooler? Undeniably, years of rock and roll and MTV have shown us that youth and non-conformity and frozen ears are always cooler than SUVs. Sorry skiers, this isn't a contest to see who has more money.
In the end, skiing wins out, if only because having to walk from the chairlift across a plateau to the top of the hill seemed like a royal pain in the ass. But both definitely have their place, and now that I'm through bruising my tailbone fifty times per run, I'd be more than pumped to try either again.