Skiing vs Snowboarding: Which is a Better Workout?

Time to hit the slopes! The feeling of the cold air on your face, the look of the first snowfall in the air and the smell of delicious hot chocolate brings on the sweet temptation of heading to a ski lodge with your winter gear in hand. While you’ve been hitting the gym for the past few months, could your Pilates and spin classes really compare to hitting the slopes? And if you’re a complete newbie to anything involving strapping clunky boots into fiberglass, should you choose to rent a pair of skis or go for that rad snowboard?

Should you ski or snowboard?

The type of downhill sport you decide to try this winter season could either depend on the types of exercise you’ve been practicing everyday or how much of a pro you want to work to become. There’s no doubt each will leave you with an intense workout—and maybe some unintentional bumps and bruises. Whether you’re a rookie or complete novice, should you head for the moguls or glide toward the half pipe?

The initial learning curve of skiing is pretty fast, so if you’ve never been on a mountain or haven’t strapped into skis for years, you probably won’t have to spend too much time on the bunny hill before hitching a ride on the chair lift to get to bigger runs.

Your legs remain separated on skis and you have complete peripheral vision, similar to the first mode of transportation you ever learned: walking. When skiing, you’re able to see what’s in front of you and can turn or stop easily by moving your skis into a snow plow position. The hardest part about skiing is mastering it—like going through moguls or down a steep black diamond.

While it takes longer for snowboarders to get the hang of using a board, having two separate skis on two separate legs can become an issue as you’re trying to move swifter and make sharper turns down a hill. If you’re only planning to be on the slopes for a day or two but are new to the entire process, choose to take on skiing. You’ll likely be able to take it up quicker than snowboarding and get to go farther than the bunny hill on your first day.

Skiing can prove a bit more demanding on your legs and thighs. Your boots are angled at the ankle, which will cause you to walk and ski down hills in a constant squatted position. If you’re looking to build up your ski legs, take spin classes. The cycling movement will build leg muscle while providing a lower impact on your knees and joints, an area of the body that skiing can tend to be harder on. If spinning isn’t for you, any leg strengthening exercise, like squats, will help bulk up the muscles needed to get you down more than a few slopes before heading back into the lodge.

If you’ve ever tried to snowboard but couldn’t get past the bunny hill, don’t feel defeated. Many novices will tell you that learning to snowboard is the hardest part, but once you master a few maneuvers you won’t have any issues moving to the bigger hills. The only problem? Mastering those few skills could take multiple trips and countless hours of hanging out on a hill—not to mention all of the falls and bruises you’ll get along the way. Snowboarding requires both feet to remain planted on a board with your body angles sideways, leaving you with an awkward, restricted feeling and less than 50 percent of peripheral vision while zipping down the slope. Once you’ve grasped the skills of turning your shoulders (which turns your hips, which turns your feet, which then turns the snowboard), you’ll be on your way to higher hills.

Unlike skiing, increasing your speed on a snowboard can make turning easier due to having less friction between the board and snow. However, all of this work of balancing and turning and not falling flat on your face comes with the help of a strong core, since the upper body controls the direction in which your board goes. Keep in mind that snowboarding exerts a bit more energy than skiing, because it involves the whole body and you don’t have the help of poles to keep you upright. If you’re a snowboarder, or wish to become one this winter, focus on exercises that will increase your abs and lower back muscles. Working in crunches or practicing pilates are great examples of core strengthening exercises to do when you’re not crushing the powder.

Ski vs Snowboarding: The best option

Skiing might be easier to learn, but it’s harder to master. On the other hand, snowboarding might be harder to learn, but it’s easier to master. If you’re new to the sport and heading to the mountain for a weekend with friends, grab a pair of skis to hit the trails. You might be especially adept to this downhill activity if your exercise of choice includes spin class, because skiing takes an exceptional amount of leg strength. If you’re ready to commit to a new sport and work on it all winter long, grab a snowboard. It might prove harder to get the hang of, but once you conquer the act of turning and balancing, you’ll be able to take on the bigger hills in no time. Plus, if you’re prone to take on Pilates classes or have no problem rocking a plank in class, snowboarding could be just the right fit. The sport takes some serious upper body strength to keep upright. No matter which way you choose to slice through the powder, you’ll likely discover some muscles you didn’t exactly realize you had. Both sports are hard work but will leave you feeling accomplished and totally ready for that end-of-day cocktail in the chalet.

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