Winter Sports Rivalry: Why Skiing Wins

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By William Fallon

Ever since 1965, when Sherman Poppen invented the first snowboard by attaching two skis to each other and named it the “snurf board,” there has been a rivalry between skiing and snowboarding. I have tried both skiing and snowboarding, playing on the slopes in some form since the age of 2. Snowboarding was relatively easy to learn, but one day I started to miss skiing. I missed having two skis, and the lifts were a pain. The snowboard was not fun for long runs and was less versatile and compliant when it came to steep and complex slopes. I was already missing skiing greatly and highly considering switching; limiting myself was not something I wanted to do. I changed back to skiing the next day and have pursued it with passion, as it is now my favorite thing to do. Skiers believe that skiing is better than snowboarding, and snowboarders think snowboarding is better than skiing. It is a debate unsettled for decades. Until now.

Ski Lifts and T-Bars

Have you ever noticed how complicated and challenging it is for a snowboarder to make his or her way through the lift line directly, or to just get off? I have yet to spend a day on the slopes and not see a snowboarder wipe out while getting off the lift and knocking over the people next to him or her like dominos.

It is too much of a process. Taking out a boot from a binding. Shuffling through the line while the board wacks people in the boots and knocks snow up into the air. Getting on the lift again. Having the board sway in the wind, taking up most of the room, and clipping people’s skis or other boards.

Then, finally, once they make it to the top, they either make it down the eight-foot-long 10º angle slope, meant to assist you off the lift, or wipe out easily. After unloading, they then sit down in the middle of the path, impeding everyone else, and clip their boot back on. With skis, you make it to the chair with ease and get off with ease. Moreover, the only skier you will see fall at the end of the lift is usually a five-year-old child or a forty-five-year-old mom or dad who’s skiing for the first time and has goggles upside down or sunglasses that look like bug eyes.

A T-Bar in Breckenridge, Colorado. Photo credit: Erin Jelmini.

Now for the T-Bar, a rivalry as old as the snowboard itself. The T-Bar is a lift where you do not have the option to sit down, and it pulls you up the mountain. It is a bar attached to an extendable wire that is shaped like a “T.” To ride it on skis, you slide it directly under your butt and let it pull you. However, for snowboarding you have to stand to the side and push it between your legs, which takes up most of the room. To see what happens when a snowboarder tries to go up a T-bar, click here or here.

Candide Thovex in the French Alps. Photo credit: Faction Skis.

The coolest athlete alive is a skier.

Candide Thovex is one of the greatest skiers of all time, as well as one of the greatest action sports athletes on the planet. Thovex is the creator of One of Those Days, two short films of him skiing around and performing outstanding tricks in his hometown of La Clusaz, France. The series has over 30 million views. If this video does not inspire you to ski, I am not sure what will.

Thovex also successfully landed Chad’s Gap on the first try. Chad’s Gap is a 120-foot gap in Alta, Utah that had never been successfully cleared until Thovex did it in 1999. He also set the world record for the highest jump above a quarter pipe when he flew 33 feet above the coping, the uppermost part of the pipe, in 2007 at La Clusaz. He has won three X Games gold medals and became the Freeride World Champion when he won the Freeride World Tour in 2010.

Thovex clearing Chad’s Gap. Photo credit: Teton Gravity.

After breaking his back in 2007 on a jump called “The Big Bertha,” a 150-foot kicker at the Candide Invitational in La Clusaz, and being told he’d never ski again, he went on to win the Freeride World Tour. Moreover, in 2012 Thovex had a documentary made about him called Few Words, which was a bestselling movie on iTunes and won many awards. Following this, he signed with Faction and has developed four signature model skis.

Promotional poster for Few Words, feat. Thovex climbing a mountain in the Alps. Image credit: Quicksilver.

Sure, snowboarding does have celebrities, like Travis Rice and Shaun White, but they can’t compare to Thovex, who defied odds after almost being paralyzed and went straight from an injury to win the Red Bull Linecatcher and the Freeride World Tour. Thovex also popularized freeskiing and park skiing.

Rails, jumps, pipe, and backcountry.

Tricks are cooler on skis. In snowboarding, both feet attach to the same board, and the rider has to look either right or left. On skis, two separate boards face in the direction you are traveling, allowing for more speed and awareness for jumps. Having two boards provides more opportunities and more grabs. There are more options for tricks, like crossing your skis and looking like a helicopter.

Eirik Sæterøy doing a cross-ski blunt grab cork in the X-Games. Photo credit: X-Games.

“You can tweak out more and way better grabs on skis,” says Canadian high school sophomore and skiing enthusiast Neil Mikkelson. Tricks on skis can look off-axis and on-axis, creating more stylish looks.

Skier riding a “C-Rail” Photo credit: Arena Snowparks.

“Most boarding tricks look on-axis, which does not look unique or cool, and their flips look lame,” says Canadian high school junior and outstanding park skier Tomaz Cigler. When skiers slide down rails, the rail is under their feet and is harder to pull off. For snowboarding, “the rail is between their legs and is not as cool as riding rails on skis,” says Cigler.

On large kickers, which are jumps specially built for aerial tricks, as well as other, smaller jumps, skiers look better in the air. The tricks look better, and there are more that you can do. There are more styles and looks you can have with crossing your skis. Jesper Tjäder‘s insane loop rail is a highlight among skiing tricks; it is a rail that travels upside-down; you can watch it here.

James Woods on a rail in the X-Games. Photo credit: Flip McCririck.

Personal Warmth

On a snowboard, you have to sit down on every run and put your boot in a binding, because you have to take it off to go up the lift. Also, the way to stop and rest on a snowboard is to sit down in the middle of the slope and take a “pow-wow,” and your backside immediately gets cold.

Ski-Only Resorts

Alta Ski Resort in Utah is recognized as one of the best ski areas in the world, not only because snowboarding is not allowed, but because the snow, the layout, and the views are some of the best in the world. Snowboards are not invited to the prestigious paradise. 

A graphic from Alta’s website. Image credit: Alta Ski Area.

Downsides

There are challenges to skiing: skiing is harder to learn, and the ski boots are terrible. The boots are the worst thing about skiing; they are stiff and tight to walk in. Snowboard boots, however, are wonderful; you can walk in them as with regular shoes, and they feel like proper snow boots. The T-Bar is also hard for beginner skiers, but it was made for skiers, and it is the fear factor of something new that makes beginners fall. Snowboarding is easier to learn. Moreover, many like the idea of being attached to the same board. When asked why he prefers snowboarding over skiing, Collegiate’s Connor McCluskey (’19) said, “The Boots” as well as “It is easier to learn.” Below are some highlights from both skiing and snowboarding. Enjoy!

Featured image via ilovetoskiandboard.com.

About the author

William is a Junior at Collegiate.