Many people believe that there is an underlying tension between skiers and snowboarders, and indeed, there sometimes is. Here are some tips you can bone up on to prepare for the day you find yourself in a skier vs snowboarder flamewar.

The skiers' complaints

(Snowboarders' response in italics)

  1. Snowboards are dangerous because, unlike skis, they don't release in a fall.

    Snowboards are attached to both legs, and therefore do not create as much twisting force (which is what breaks legs and knees) as a single ski attached to only one leg.

  2. Snowboards are dangerous because, unlike skis, they don't have a "brake" to stop them sliding down the mountain if they release.

    But they don't release, remember?

  3. Snowboarders are dangerous and out of control. They crash into skiers.

    If this is truer for snowboarders than for skiers it can be explained by the different demographics of the two sports. Snowboarders will more often be younger, male, and have been doing the sport for less time. These are all strong indicators for dangerous and risk-taking behaviour.

  4. Snowboarders are rude and swear a lot. They can be aggressive and threatening.

    Same as above. And what about this patronising attitude you seem to have?

  5. Snowboarders scrape off all the soft snow, ruining the snow quality.

    Novice snowboarders and skiers scrape off the soft snow. The issue is lack of skill, not the type of equipment.

  6. Snowboarders cut wide tracks through the powder, ruining the snow quality.

    It's true. Get used to it.

  7. Snowboarders are always sitting down on the slope, getting in the way.

    Snowboarders sit on the snow because, unlike skiers, they can. But only the unthinking ones sit in inconvenient or dangerous places, just as unthinking skiers stand in the way of snowboard jumps.

  8. Snowboarders make wide turns that take up the whole slope, getting in the way.

    Somewhat true. Get used to it.

  9. Snowboarders clog the lift exit and entry areas as they always take a long time to strap in and out of their bindings.

    True, but it's no big deal.

  10. Snowboarders wear ridiculous baggy clothes.

    They did a couple of years ago, when it was in fashion. But for real crimes against fashion, what about the one-piece suits that skiers wear?

This dispute has died down over the years as the skiers have stolen ideas from snowboarders (terrain park riding, twin tips) and older people have started to take up snowboarding as they realized how much easier it is on the legs compared to skiing, especially in deep snow.

Being someone who alternates between the two sports, I might be in a good position to make unbiased comparisons.

I have come to the conclusion that there is only one difference between skis and snowboards that is worth talking about: snowboards have only one short edge, whereas skis have two long ones. This results in snowboards having less edge traction than skis, which means it is harder to stay in control and the act of staying in control usually involves more sideslipping. Sideslipping is what does the real damage to the snow; the effects of a snowboard's wider track are pretty negligable. Also, since you can't turn as fast, it is more difficult to navigate moguls that have been created by skiers, which usually means you end up "destroying" them if you try. Moguls that have been tracked over by snowboarders usually consist of widely spaced piles of snow sitting on a sheet of ice.

Do I think that snowboarders should be banned from ski areas for these reasons? Definitely not, although I would like to see each ski area designating several runs as snowboarder-free mogul runs. Where I live, this would barely be necessary as the ski areas around here get snowstorms often enough that any wrecked moguls or ice will be covered up by new snow fairly quickly. In powder, edge length is less of a factor in producing traction, so snowboarding is more fun and less damaging in powder. For this reason, a lot of the snowboarders around here either go off into the backcountry or stay in the park during days when there's no powder in the ski area. I usually just go skiing instead.

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