How to Switch from Skiing to Snowboarding
Tips & Techniques for Trading Skis for a Snowboard
If you’ve spent the last several winters on two planks, eyeing snowboarders from the lift and wondering what it’s like, maybe it’s time to give snowboarding a try. But you may feel hesitant—do you really want to go back to beginner status?
One reason might be that you have a bunch of snowboarder friends. Waiting for them to strap in at the top of the lift can get old—so, why not join them? And while you might not forfeit your skills on a powder day, learning to snowboard can turn groomer days into an exciting new challenge. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find snowboarding is more your speed, and end up becoming a snowboarder for life.
Some say that the first few days skiing are easier than the first few days snowboarding, but that it’s easier to become an expert snowboarder than it is a skier. The truth of this probably depends on your own strengths and preferences as an athlete. But if you’re ready to brave those challenging first few runs, here are the logistics of making the switch.
Skiing vs. Snowboarding: The Big Differences
When you’re trying out snowboarding gear, a board, boots, and bindings are your foundation. Make sure these components are fitted to your comfort. Rent or borrow gear until you figure out the right sizing and what you like in a board and boots.
In the beginning, it’s best to ride a board on the lower end of your height range. Once you’re ready to invest in your own gear, you can check out our guides to choosing the proper board, jacket, and pants. As for a helmet, you can use the same one you ski in—just be sure you’re always rockin’ that brain bucket as you tackle this new adventure on the slopes.
The most obvious difference between skiing and snowboarding is your stance. The sensation of both feet strapped in together and facing sideways with one foot pointing downhill can be slightly intimidating.
Figure out your preferred stance on the board: which foot do you feel most comfortable putting forward? Typically, if you are right-handed, you will put your left foot forward, but that is not the case for everyone. Take a little Tom Cruise in Risky Business-style slide across the floor to see which foot you naturally put forward, and start with that one.
When switching from skiing to snowboarding, you’ll rely on different parts of your body. On skis, your power and balance come mostly from your legs. On a snowboard, it’s all in your core and lower back. And as you can imagine, your wrists, hands, and rear end are going to need some TLC after your first few days on your board. Before you know it, the sit-down/get-up routine will become easier and you’ll spend less time on the ground and more in that flow state.
Learning to Snowboard
Despite your years of experience on skis, learning to snowboard is much easier if you check your pride at the lift and stick to the green slopes. Spend a day learning to toe turn and heel turn on a gentle slope, and you’ll be carving turns in no time.
Skate and Scoot
On a snowboard, moving around efficiently on flat ground requires a learned skate technique. If you’ve ever skateboarded, you’ll catch on fast. Take your back foot out of your binding, leaving your front foot strapped in, and skate to push your board along. Soon enough, you’ll be able to bring your free foot up on your board and coast a bit for speedier transitions from point A to point B.
Getting on and off a lift can be a challenge for new snowboarders. Skate toward the lift and keep your front foot forward as you sit in the chair. When it’s time to make your exit, put your free foot on your board between your bindings and do your best to glide to safety. Pro snowboarding tip: Try to snag an outside seat and avoid the middle of the chair in the beginning. This will allow for more room to use an edge and check your speed as you leave the chair. And if you can ride up with other snowboarders rather than skiers, the dismount may be a little easier, too.
The Falling Leaf
The falling leaf technique is equivalent to the snow plow (pizza) strategy on skis. To start, turn to face down the mountain, sitting back on your heel edge. Tip your toes up and bend your knees slightly. Now, shift your weight from over your right foot to over your left, and back again. You can check your speed or come to a complete stop by turning your board horizontal on the slope and digging your heel edge in. Once you’re comfortable with the falling leaf technique, you can turn around and face uphill to continue the falling leaf on your toe side.
On to linking turns! Snowboarders use their upper body to initiate turns. Look where you want the board to go, turn your shoulders and hips that way, and your legs, feet, and board will naturally follow. Space for making big wide turns is helpful while you’re learning to roll from edge to edge, so stick to wide runs. Keep in mind that once you’re ready to link turns, a little speed goes a long way.
Still wondering if learning to snowboard is the right move? Consider this: it’s not about whether skiing or snowboarding is easier. Choosing to be a beginner again offers up a healthy slice of humble pie that’s good for the soul. Stepping out of your comfort zone opens the door to new learning, personal growth, and connection. Besides, once you link those turns at speed, feel that flow, and surf your way down the mountain, there’s no denying the little-kid-level of stoke you’ll feel with your new ride.
Lauren Humphrey is a proud weekend warrior, mama-of-two, and a full-time special education teacher of eight years. She resides in Connecticut with her husband, two little wild things, and her four-legged fur-baby. She is the Regional Coordinator of the Northeast for the non-profit Adventure Mamas initiative and is passionate about helping mothers connect, reset and find strength and personal growth through outdoor adventures. You can find her rock climbing, mountain biking, trail running, skiing and snowboarding, or just walking in happy, little, toddler-led circles on a nearby trail.