Skiers and snowboarders – why can’t we just get along?

I’ve been thinking lately – why is it that skiers and snowboarders have such a strong rivalry, and sometimes even a mild antipathy towards each other, considering we have so much in common?

A snowboarder & skier catching air above the snow

I have to start by saying, once again, this blog is likely to be highly biased since for 28 years I have been in favour of the two planks! But with an older brother who veered over to the dark side of the snowboard a decade ago, I will try and create a more balanced argument than you would expect of me!

  • We share the mountain
  • We share the breathtaking sunrises that encompass the white snow in pink hues
  • We share the lift rides (and the queues!)
  • We share the sweet first tracks on the perfectly groomed pistes
  • We share the fresh track after a night of deep snowfall
  • We share the exhilarating rush of air as we let gravity fly us downwards

Only one thing really tears us apart – I ski on 4 edges, they ski on two!

Snowboarder doing an impressive run - Monarch Airlines blog

How I perceive snowboarding? Two worlds – cool and creative. It is an expressive form of artistic sport – from the amazing tricks in big air to how they look. I have nothing but admiration for their incredible skills.

I used to dabble with a board. Back in the day my father imported ‘clipper’ snowboard bindings so naturally I had to be a big fan! I took to it quite easily in its very basic form. Personally I think because of having just 2 edges to think about it can be easier to learn than skiing. But I found having my feet strapped to a board restrictive (still today I love surfing and yet feel slightly awkward wake-boarding for the same reason) I found I couldn’t generate as much speed as I can on skis.

Snowboarder on snowbank - Monarch Airlines blog

Obviously this was partly due to the fact I was a very basic snowboarder and like to think I am a slightly more professional ski racer! I think there is more evidence to suggest one can be faster on skis – to quote Wikipedia “(skiing) is one of the fastest non-motorized sports on land. The current world record (2006) for skiing is 251.4 km/h (156 mph), held by Simone Origone.” Speed skiers are as the name suggests skiers, not boarders, however after much internet searching I did find this:  the highest recorded speed by a snowboarder is 201.907km/h (125.459mph) by Darren Powell (Australia) at Les Arcs, France in 1999. So actually not a huge amount of difference!

Snowboarder doing an aerial trick - Monarch Airlines blog

Snowboarding used to be what the cool kids who didn’t want to wear lycra and race downhill did. It let them be loose, creative and demonstrative – a way to show off your talents without using a timer. However the last decade has definitely seen a resurrection of free skiing and slope style on skis. Tricks that boarders invented have been re-born by skiers who put their own twists on them. I can’t say one of these art forms is better than the other because I don’t follow the sports closely enough but both talents are wondrous to me since they are so foreign. I could never hit a jump and do tricks – I fly through the air in an ‘egg’ shape aiming to touch down on the snow ASAP and make more speed (air time is slower than on snow time!)

Close up on snowboard - Monarch Airlines blog

If I could change one thing about snowboarders it would be to implant eyes into the back of their heads. Obviously snowboarders have a ‘blind’ side and I think it is this side that causes the most agro for us skiers. I am sure boarders don’t (always) intentionally cut skiers up but a lot of crashes are caused this way since they can only see one direction. My father had a really bad crash a few years ago – he is a formidable 6 foot 4 and even still the perpetrator had trouble seeing him!

I am sure boarders too have qualms about us skiers to so if you are a boarder and want to let me know comment at the bottom!

Snowboarder & skier on piste together - Monarch Airlines blog

Will snowboaders and skiers ever be compatible? Well as far as sharing the T bar goes, I don’t think so! But let’s make piece let’s shake hands, respect each other and our love of the white stuff.

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About the Author: Chemmy Alcott

Number one British woman skier, Chemmy Alcott, is the the brand ambassador for Monarch's new ski routes which launch winter 2012. Chemmy is making her return to the slopes following an accident in Canada whilst practicing for the World Cup event in 2010. She is currently training for the forthcoming World Championships in Schladming.

6 Comments + Add Comment

  • I agree snowboarders have a blind side. To try and avoid and alert them to my prescence I have at times rattled my poles…… Unfortunately nowadays I think the problem is not helped my MP4’s or any sort of music pods…they simply can’t hear anything other than their music . Same with cyclists for whoever mentioned it. Sadly the music thing is not isolated to boarders. With some kamikaze skiers just as irresponsible. I am a diehard skier :-)

  • As a ski instructor who’s only boarded for a half-day ever, I know what I prefer personally. I don’t, however, believe in a divide between skiers and boarders. The shred sessions that I head out with on days off or in between classes are based more on ability than equipment, plus what people are feeling in terms of riding that day. Some of my best days on the hill have been when I’ve taken the fat skis out and ridden pow in a group where I’ve been the only skier! For those that know what they’re up to on a mountain, there’s no divide and the only question is are you up for it.

    Where the problem comes in is kinda twofold. People new to the sport who buy the hype about skiers hating boarders and vice versa and get tribal about their choice is half of it. The other half is just idiots who would be considered idiots in any walk of life. Doesn’t matter whether they’re all-the gear-but-no-idea boarders side-slipping a black run all the way down or image skiers wearing designer gear and posing. GoPros don’t help, as Kodak confidence is all good when it’s quiet but not so cool when people are concentrating on putting on a show on a crowded green run!

    And Kevin, I hear ya re: cat tracks and flats. That’s why you need to keep a friendly skier around, cos there’s a few of us who aren’t averse to offering pole tows to stranded one-plankers…. ;)

  • MY gripe is that snowboarders sit and congregate in the worst places , lone snowboarders are usually sat over a rise so you dont see them ! most i have encountered in my 12 years plus skiing have no manners , either on the chair lift or on the mountain ,setting off without a care in the world ! there should be more ski only resorts .

  • The speed thing I completely agree with, I am a snowboarder and I think the whole vibe with us is not to get to the bottom as quickly as possible but to just enjoy the ride. In general skiers probably have more speed because of less friction coming from 2 smaller planks (take road tyres and mountain bike tyres in cycling for example)
    I don’t agree with snowboarders causing more accidents however. I have been cut up by more skiers weaving slowly down a mountain than snowboarders. What really drives me mad is when older skiers weave slowly through cat tracks holding everyone up as no one can get past, we snowboarders need to maintain our speed on a flatter cat track to get through so to all those weaving skiers out there could you please just fall line and get a bit of a shifty on.

    • To agree with Kevin I would need to ignore one key point in the blog;

      “snowboarders have a ‘blind’ side and I think it is this side that causes the most agro for us skiers. I am sure boarders don’t (always) intentionally cut skiers up but a lot of crashes are caused this way since they can only see one direction”

      I think many people need this pointed out to them – I am very aware of it when I come up behind a boader and I ski accordingly – Skiers and boarders should remember it when they are on the mountain and ride accordingly. It used to be called Ski Etiquette, you don’t seem to hear that so much anymore?

      As for the speed thing I have friends that board who just love flying straight down on some days but not on others – just like I do. That’s part of the freedom that we all find so alluring isn’t it?

      • This will always be a topic of debate unless you’ve given them both a real good go then you can truly voice your opinion.

        Many years ago people thought snowboarding was going to be just another fad that would die out like the wind but it hasn’t and seriously it’s here to stay.
        Look at winter holiday brochures and you’ll see skiers & snowboarders. Coimpetitions around the globe for halfpipe, jumps and tricks where there is big prize money. Big companies are investing where there is excitement and snowboarding brings it in.

        You only have to look at the majority of large ski resorts, they are replacing many of their drag lifts with chairs, gondolas, funiculars and cable cars. More resorts are catering for the growing trend of snowboarders.
        It may also stem back to the mid-80’s when some ski resorts banned snowboarding and still do to this day with places like Alta, USA. Snowboarding was taking off real big back then and a lot of people don’t like change. Even today people don’t like change but the average age of a snowboarder isn’t 15 anymore it’s more like 25 to 40.

        I’m an avid 45 year old snowboarder of 20 years(some 30+ weeks) experience and after skiing quite well for 3 years(5 weeks) and waterskiing prior to that, I could see the attraction for a snowboard. I wakeboard also and now I’m learning to kitesurf too.

        The issue sometimes lies with the learning curves with both sports. After a week of skiing you are just getting to grips then it’s time to go home as with snowboarding it’s a few days and you are tackling red runs. However some people think that they have then mastered it and stop having lessons. It looks cool, easy and youthful so when we see these tricks flying high we want to of course try it.

        Skiing on the other hand is very technical and though you can go alot faster you still need to keep up your fitness levels quite high.

        Then there’s the latest expensive ski gear you’ve just gone out & bought only with the thought of trying another snow sport and liking it means the old equipment tends to sit in a cupboard gathering dust or goes up on ebay for a pound.

        At the end of the day it’s all about having lots of fun and sharing good old stories.

        Happy snow trails

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