Whether you prefer the challenge of off-piste skiing or the thrill of carving through fresh powder on a board, skiing and snowboarding are both exhilarating snow sports that offer extreme fun. Despite this similarity there is a colorful history between the two. While snowboarding is still relatively new to the slopes, the evolution of skiing dates back 5,000 years! When snowboarding came on the scene in the 60’s and 70’s, it didn’t fit the demographics that the resorts or their skiers wanted to see on their slopes and they strongly resisted this new culture. The small group of skateboarders, surfers and backcountry enthusiasts that this new winter sport appealed to were seen as “punks” and “troublemakers” by the more conventional community of skiers. Since then, this perception has changed and snowboarders have fought for and gained acceptance at most ski resorts* around the country. Now that skiers and snowboarders have met on a more even playing field, it’s fair to ask…who rules?
The other day I had a good-natured debate with a couple of snowboarders who had recently returned from Breckenridge and Arapahoe Basin (CO). As they described the intense fun they had carving deep powder and sliding rails, they tried their best to convince me that snowboarding surpassed skiing. Determined to stay faithful to alpine skiing, I told them that it was they, not me, who were missing out! It was all in fun, after all, I’m always willing to try something new when it comes to outdoor adventure. So I decided to find out what other snow-lovers had to say about which discipline rules the slopes.
Jason and Andie Emmett, of Nichols Hills, Oklahoma, were both involved in snow sports before they were married. Jason was an experienced skier and Andie was an avid snowboarder. After trying each other’s discipline, they both decided they preferred skiing. Andie liked having the ability to move her legs independently and maintain a wider stance. She also appreciated the use of ski poles for propulsion on flat areas of the mountain, whereas before she had to get off her board and walk. Jason noticed the difference in impact when falling while boarding. “The only way I can describe it is to say, when you are on a snowboard and fall, your head is at the end of a whip.” Ouch!
Michelle Jones, of Tulsa, had a different perspective to share. She started with skiing, switched to snowboarding and never looked back. Michelle describes snowboarding as more fun and free than skiing. She encourages beginning riders not to give up if their first day on a board seemed more difficult than learning to ski. “Getting up after falling is a skill in itself, but once mastered is easier and faster than putting everything back together after falling on skis.” Alf Zeilinger, a Tulsa transplant originally from Canada, began skiing at the age of three, but after trying snowboarding in his 20’s, found his new love. Alf shared another advantage to boarding: “Unlike skiing, it doesn’t put stress on the knees” with riders rarely reporting knee-related injuries. Alf also pointed out the importance of being safe whether on the slopes or in the terrain park, reminding skiers and riders alike to always wear a helmet. “It’ll save you whether you’re on skis or a board.”
I’ve concluded that being on the slopes rules, period, regardless of the discipline. As for the shredders who sparked this friendly debate, their zeal and enthusiasm to gain a convert are a true reflection of the discipline they love. Snowboarders are passionate by nature, and that passion has resulted in snowboarding becoming the fastest growing winter sport in the United States, with predictions that the number of people who snowboard will overtake skiing by 2015! So whether your passion is launching out of the halfpipe or skiing the bumps, ski/ride hard, get others involved, and always be willing to try something new!
*Mad River Glen (VT), Alta Ski Area (UT), and Deer Valley (UT) continue to ban snowboarding at their resorts.
Special Credit: “Thanks” to Terry Moore and Steve Spiegel for inspiring this article. I may give snowboarding a chance, after all!
(If you’re interested in receiving instruction in skiing or snowboarding before your next winter adventure, visit Sun and Ski Sports at 6808 S. Memorial in Tulsa for lessons on their synthetic slope. Call 918-254-0673 for rates.)