It’s a question that’s been around as long as both snowsports have: which is faster - skiing or snowboarding?
With both sports relying heavily on gravity to get from top to bottom, perhaps it’s not as simple as you think? Unfortunately, we think it is.
But let’s look at the detail:
Skiing vs Snowboarding: Which is faster for beginners?
Starting as being a beginner, it is a lot easier for a skier to keep their centre of mass over and between their skis. Whereas boarders must constantly worry and concentrate on their centre of mass shifting between both of their edges.
While this may not make a huge difference to speed, it’ll affect the rider’s confidence levels and interrupt forward momentum, resulting in a slower pace.
Skiing vs. Snowboarding: Which is faster for intermediates & advanced?
Even as you get better at both sports, the odds are still stacked against the snowboarders.
While both skiers and snowboarders could be bombing the same slope, on the same tuned board/skis with the same wax, the largest amount of drag and the biggest setback for both is on the person on the plank(s).
The human body moves a lot more efficiently in forward motion than it does laterally (try sprinting sideways) and when you turn on skis the symmetry of your body is the same for left and right turns, whereas boarders there is a lot of asymmetry between toes turns and heels turns.
Ultimately, the skier’s straightforward tuck position reduces drag significantly more than the snowboarders. Inevitably, this results in higher top speeds for skiers.
What about the equipment?
Another differential is the length of the average ski and snowboard. Skiers will generally be on longer skis than the boards that snowboarders ride. This means there is more surface area for the skier to ski on. More surface area means your weight is distributed more evenly, meaning more speed.
Another important point is that when you can divide your weight on multiple edges then that also means more speed. Snowboarders must put everything on a single surface/edge, whereas skiers get to divide it, once again, between multiple edges.
Are there figures to back this up?
Yes! The result is backed up even more when you look at world record speeds for both sports. Snowboarders have a recorded top speed of 203km/h (126mph), whereas skiers trump them with a whopping 252km/h (157mph). 126mph is still pretty frightening and faster than most skiers will ever go anyway, but there’s a clear difference.
What about jumps – does this affect jumps?
Yes, as you’d expect this also affects how far each discipline can jump. Skiers’ world record for ski jumping is 251 metres - the mighty length of two and half football pitches. There’s a reason there is no snowboard jumping event at the Olympics!
So I should pick skiing then?
So, it seems pretty clear that Skiing is the faster snow sport. Fortunately, that is not all that skiing and boarding is about. You will rarely, if ever, see an instructor tearing it around the mountain at a hundred miles an hour with his lesson in tow. So, skiing should definitely not just be chosen based on speed. Snowboarding more than holds its own in every other enjoyable or necessary aspect compared to skiing.
The choice is never a simple black and white one anyway. But if you’re at the point where you want to take up one or the other based on binary matters like speed (and maybe even teach others how to do it too) then here’s some more about skiing and snowboarding as a career:
- Ski instructor courses in Canada, NZ, and Europe
- Snowboard instructor courses in Canada, NZ and Europe
And if you'd like to know which sport is easier to learn for beginners - then take a look at this blog post: