Snowboarding vs Skateboarding: How to Transition & Survive

by Craig Jarvis | Updated On: May 20th, 2020
snowboarder

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All board sports cross over each other. Snowboarding and surfing, skateboarding and wakeboarding, sandboarding, storyboarding, and kiteboarding. They all have certain similarities and elements. Out of all of the sports, snowboarding and skateboarding are a pair that have a lot more in common than you would think.

1. Controlling Speed

It’s always a little bit nerve-wracking starting out on a new board sport. There are the basics to learn about equipment and etiquette and about the very basics of the pastime. Learning how to ride a new board from a new sport can be daunting.

You don’t just grab a skateboard and bomb the nearest hill. You also do not pick up a snowboard and head down the closest slope. You do need to do some homework first.

Skateboarding Basics

To be honest, skateboarding is quite a challenge to get the basics, let alone to master. There are a lot of tiny balance points on a regular skateboard, less on a longboard, but it is still quite a task to feel them and to get going.

Most people tend to not lean forward enough, and therefore fall backward. Other people pick up speed wobbles really quickly, often as a result of nervousness.

Skateboarding is fast and scary, and it is also quite complicated to stop if you’re a beginner. If you bomb a hill and you can’t stop, you’ll be heading for disaster. The only way is to jump, and if you’re jumping onto concrete or tarmac, you’re going to lose some skin.

Snowboarding is also not the easiest thing to learn, more so if you haven’t grown up somewhere in the world that has consistent snow.

The surface area of a snowboard is enough to make it really slippery over snow, and it is hard to find a way of turning it at first, of getting control of it. The hardest thing is trying to find an edge to turn off. Once you have that mastered, however, the growth curve tends to speed up.

Heel and Toe

The two turn edges are known as the heelside and the toeside. Many people find the heelside easier to manage, and learning to turn off the toeside can be quite tricky. Get it wrong, and you’ll be eating snow for a while.

2. Hard Concrete vs Soft Powder

Concrete

It’s quite apparent that it is going to hurt when you hit the cement or tarmac. You’re going to lose some skin, that is a given, and you might even break a few bones, but the majority of skateboarding accidents are minor. As mentioned, lost skin and often a whole lot of blood, but typically just superficial wounds. If you’re going to go for big jumps and technical trick and grinds, then you are at more risk.

Powder

Snow doesn’t really hurt. That’s not how you get injured while snowboarding. The injuries happen when you either land awkwardly or hit something that isn’t as soft as powder.

Awkward landings often end up in broken ankles or wrists, especially if you happen to find yourself over some pesky ice. A hand out to break your fall could result in a fractured wrist, while a leg firmly encased in bindings can result in a broken ankle in much the same way.

Underneath powder, there are rocks. They are usually so well covered by the snow that there’s no need to worry about them, but sometimes they show up closer to the surface. Possible dangers are always well recognized and marked on slopes, but if you should go cruising backcountry, then you run the risk of slamming.

Similarly, trees are dangerous, and skiing through trees is only for the highly skilled and experienced snowboarder. Finally, hitting another person on the slopes can be incredibly painful, the cracking of skulls and the force of a body slam can be very painful.

Skateboarders hit concrete and get more injuries than snowboarders, but when snowboarders crash, it is usually a proper accident.

3. Speed of Gravity

There is definitely a lot more energy expended from skateboarding than there is from snowboarding. Unless you’re bombing a hill, you have to push yourself on a skateboard.

Even once you have figured out the pumping motion to keep going on a skateboard, you do need to adjust and reset over various ground surfaces. So it turns out that skateboarding gives you a bit of a cardio workout.

Snowboarding, however, is all about sliding down a steep hill, pulled down that slope by the force of gravity. It is the slope angle that dictates speed, along with your skill level and your type of equipment.

4. Equipment Shapes

When it comes to skateboards, there are two main categories of boards. The street skateboard and the longboard skateboard.

The street skateboard is short and designed for urban tricks, on stairs, on handrails, and retainers walls that you might find.

A longboard is just that, a longer board that is designed for speed and for carving. Usually done on a long downhill, carving on a longboard skateboard is also akin to surfing, and to carving and cruising on a big open face, just having some fun. Those longer, drawn-out carves are too much like what you do on a snowboard in powder.

Snowboards have two main types, being the true twin, which is completely symmetrical, and the directional shape. The true twin enables a rider to ride forwards and backward equally, because the board is the same both ways, while the directional is made to go best in one direction only.

These boards, with their tapered shapes, are way faster than the symmetrical shapes. They get you down the mountain quicker, but there’s no switch fun on the way down.

5. Practice Makes Perfect

Skateboarding is actually so convenient to learn. Most often you can go outside and find a road or somewhere smooth to ride on and get going. There’s no need for an instructor or lessons, you just need to start pushing. You will quickly learn, and if you get discouraged, you can take a quick break and try again when you feel you’re ready.

For those of us who have scant to do, a quick skate a few times a day would lead to rapid skills improvement. A quick ride outside the house, or a cruise through a mall or a car park.

If you’re fortunate, there is a skatepark in your neighborhood. A park can feel just like a ski resort at times, with different terrain and different techniques needed for them.

Snowboarding, on the other hand, takes a whole lot more effort to get to the correct training facility, especially if, as previously mentioned, you are not in a snow country and need to travel far to get there.

Snowboarding, or even spending time on the slopes, is generally expensive, and even a two week holiday in a resort is going to cost enough to make it a once a year experience.

If you work at a ski resort then you might have access to more snow time than most, but then, you are working most of the time, so it evens out. On the whole, snowboarding is not that accessible, and it is a whole lot of cost and effort for most people to get to the slopes and to stay in the resorts. It often involves airplane tickets, hired equipment, expensive lodging, and pricy restaurants.

6. The Smooth Style: Longboards

There are significant similarities when it comes to carving, however, with longboard skateboard carving much akin to snowboarding carving. When you try to generate speed with a regular skateboard, there is much pushing and pumping to get the speed up.

With a longboard, there is a much slower and more gentle form of pumping, with bigger, more graceful pumps doing the same job of building and maintaining speed.

Snowboarding Is similar in that it is big and graceful arcs that look and feel good, but the snowboarder has less need for generating speed, as it is all on tap from gravity and the slope’s steepness. It’s the same movement though – wide and graceful, with big slashes and lots of powder flying.

7. Building Confidence & The Way Up

Snowboarding does have a higher ceiling than skateboarding though unless you’re going to go into competitive skateboarding or maybe pool skateboarding. After you become good at skateboarding, there’s not that much more to learn. You can get faster, maybe bomb a few bigger, steeper hills and build your bravery through confidence and experience, but that doesn’t last forever. Most people eventually outgrow skateboarding.

Snowboarding, however, just gets better, more dangerous, and more exciting. Then there is backcountry and the off-piste terrain. Higher mountains, bigger thrills. The ceiling of experience is high, and it will take you a long time to ever get near the top. Some people only get going on the slopes and on the boards when they are older and more settled, as it is a sport and a lifestyle that the whole family can do together. If mom and daughter ski while dad and son snowboard, it’s still the entire family on the slopes.

You would be hard-pressed to find a skateboarding family. They definitely do exist, but they are just less common than the family going on a ski holiday.

In Closing

A summation is that the two sports have plenty of cross-over, skateboarding is harder to learn, but snowboarding, ultimately, is way more rewarding and will stay with you for life.

Simon Naylor, the founder of New To Ski, started skiing in 2005. He has continued to practice his skills and wanted to share his journey and knowledge with other new skiers. He launched New To Ski in 2018 to help first-time skiers have more fun on the slopes and get out and explore the mountains safely.