Should I ski or should I snowboard? Before we went on our recent snowboarding trip to Hakuba, we had loooonnng debates on which winter sport to learn.
For a couple of years I skiied on a dry ski slope in the UK as a teenager and also went on a week long ski trip to Italy, which was one of my most memorable experiences as a child. I’ve always wanted to go again, but the cost has always been prohibitive. Finally, over 20 years later, we decided to give it a go.
As neither of us have snowboarded before, we decided this might be a good move as both of us could start from scratch with an instructor together. Although I haven’t skiied in decades, perhaps I might still have an edge, as I can clearly remember the adrenaline rush and feeling of cutting through snow. But questions about the safety of snowboarding had put me off, and it certainly doesn’t look as safe. However, upon further research we found out that skiing tends to have more serious injuries than snowboarding and is definitely worse for your knees and, if you’re unlucky with your ski poles, your thumbs. Beginner snowboarders can be prone to wrist injuries, which sounds concerning as a musician, but finding out that wearing wrist guards can reduce your risk by 85% gave me some reassurance! I was also worried that I might be on the old side for learning snowboarding, but our instructor said he taught a 60 year old, and frankly, as long as you’re relatively fit, we should stop overthinking it. Neither sport is the safest activity ever, but both are super fun.
In conclusion, and with limited experience of skiing, I think snowboarding rules! It was so much fun and I loved the freedom of having no poles and only one board to control. It reminded me of standing up on a sledge as a kid, sliding down the snowy local golf course – total freedom. I also think it’s great that your legs are safely tied together and that there are no parallel turns to worry about. I did fall over quite a lot at first though and felt a bit battered afterwards. I’m also sure there will be more bumps to come.
There is a scary moment when turning a snowboard that you have to point straight down the slope and thus accelerate quickly, that maybe isn’t quite so scary in skiing as you can always use a snowplough technique to slow down slightly. This was a mental block for me for a while, and probably will continue to freak me out now and again as I’m learning. It resulted in tense, rushed turns and falling over, especially during one disastrous descent of a steeper slope on day 2. However, snowboarding in the fog and powder snow at the top of the mountain on our final day gave me confidence as I couldn’t see how steep the slope was and could relax and concentrate on the next turn. Our instructor explained that a common mistake is to try to avoid the scary part of the turn, and actually increase your chance of falling over. Fear of the turn, and your muscles tensing up through nerves seems to be the biggest danger for a beginner learning to snowboard. ‘Fear is the biggest danger’ and (partially) overcoming this was my favourite takeaway from this experience and surely transferable to other areas of life!