Skiboards & Snowblades: Why Ride Short Blades Instead of Skis? (Beginners Guide)
Over the years skiboards have had a chequered career, with interest peaking in the 1990s but then strangely running out of steam during the beginning of the new millennium. They still have their advocates, and they are certainly a lot of fun, so why do some people choose short blades over traditional skis?
For beginners, skiboards are useful for improving your confidence and ability on the snow quickly. At the end of the first day, even first-timers will be able to negotiate simple runs. For experienced skiers, the fun in skiboards is their versatility when it comes to cornering and carving.
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Origins of Skiboards
Alpine mountaineers in the 1940s wanted a specialist ski to help them easily traverse glaciers during the summer months. They named these skis, Firn Gliders and they consisted of boards that were 50-65 cm in length.
Skiboards eventually took off commercially in the 1990s when the Australian ski company, Kneissl started to mass produce them. Their popularity ballooned during that decade but for no discernible reason it didn’t continue, and the popularity of skiboards was once more off the grid.
The terms snowblade and skiboard are sometimes used interchangeably. Snowblade is a commercial name, which was trademarked by Salomon, however, the name is still used by some to describe the sport of skiboarding.
The sport of skiboarding involves elements of different snow sports, including snowboarding, skiing, and ice skating. Each skiboard can vary in length from 30-53 in (75 cm -135 cm) and has the appearance of a small snowboard, although you use one on each foot.
Key Takeaway: Skiboards are generally constructed with tips, at the front and rear, while the wood core construction offers enhanced stability and performance.
There are a number of different binding options that fit both standard ski boots, as well as snowboard boots. Both release and non-release bindings can be fitted, as the shortness of the ski won’t lead to the complications of a non-release longer ski in a fall.
What’s the Skiing Like?
Key Takeaway: Skiboards handle in a similar manner to skis, but they are much easier to get the hang of.
Newcomers say it feels very natural to stand and ski on them so that even on the first day, they are making good progress, which would be unimaginable on conventional skis.
The stance for skiboarding is much more upright and natural than skiing, which is partly why new ski boarders feel their skiing is effortless and more relaxed. The skis are constructed in the same way as snowboards, which enables ski boarders to carve easily, as well as negotiate varied conditions such as steep slopes, powder, and icy surfaces.
The shortness of the ski and the short turn radius makes carving with skiboards almost automatic, where you don’t have to consciously change.
Skiboard Pros & Cons
Advantages of Skiboards
1. Easier to Learn On
The shorter length of the skiboards makes them much more maneuverable on the snow. Turning corners and stopping is much more intuitive to a beginner when you don’t have to manage the length of a full-size ski.
Beginners that learn on a skiboard don’t experience the problems of crossed tips and awkward cornering. Learning on a skiboard helps to eliminate the awkwardness.
2. Easier to control
Shorter skiboards need much less ankle power to manipulate them when cornering and stopping, so beginners find their ability to control the skiboards is easier and more automatic. Beginners often make the comparison between skiboarding and roller skating or rollerblading on the snow.
Disadvantages of Skiboards
1. Skiboards are slower on the snow than regular skis
The surface area of the base of a skiboard is much smaller than the surface area of the base of a regular ski. This means a skiboard will create much more drag against the snow when compared to a regular ski and it will consequently move slower over the snow surface.
For beginners, the lack of speed might even be an advantage where they can feel more in control of their progress, without the speed running away with them.
2. Versatility Concern
While skiboards are initially much easier to use on the snow, they don’t have the same versatility that a regular pair of skis have. So, while skiboards perform well in lighter powder and on medium-difficulty slopes, they will struggle with more extreme conditions such as deep powder and half slopes.
The limited surface area of the base of the skiboard also becomes problematic in powder. The skiboard is less able to ride over the powder surface and instead tends to sink down into it.
Are Skiboards a Standard Size?
Skiboards come in varying lengths and widths with different performances. Narrower skis are set up for faster, tighter turns, for example, while wider skiboards perform more like a snowboard with better carving ability.
How Does Skiboarding Compare to Skiing?
At first, experienced skiers transferring to skiboarding can run into problems with their stance. Skiers naturally lean forward but this isn’t required with skiboarding, where a more upright stance, such as used in skating, is more effective.
The rules change for different activities when changing from skiing to skiboarding, and it’s just a matter of learning and adapting your technique to find the optimum.
Do Skiboards Fit Regular Ski boots?
Skiboard bindings generally accommodate regular ski boots, as well as hardshell snowboard boots.
For the more experienced skier, skiboarding can offer a new experience, where quick turns and easy carving provide plenty of fun. Most skiers will be able to pick up the new techniques required quite quickly and adapt their existing skills to the skiboards.
Key Takeaway: For beginners, who haven’t skied before skiboarding is a good introduction to winter sports.
The techniques of turning and carving are much easier to grasp compared to conventional skis. Beginners can progress on skiboards much faster so that at the end of their first day they should be able to make steady progress on runs as well as accomplishing turns.