Jon Horvath Talks About Skiing vs. Snowboarding: Which Sport Rules the Mountain?

Jon P Horvath

Jon Horvath weighs in Skiing and snowboarding continue to jostle for the hearts and dollars of winter sports enthusiasts, a battle that has raged for over two decades following snowboarding’s big surge in popularity in the late-1990s. Snowboarding was the hip and edgy way to slide down a snowy hill during much of that period, but skiing has seen a recent uptick in popularity thanks to new designs, particularly among young people. Ironically, many of the design changes, such as extreme width underfoot and flipped up tail, resulting in the increased popularity of skiing, came from snowboarding to figure out which sport may be the best for aspiring riders we turned to Jon Horvath, a former Wall Street analyst who’s since moved to the California coast in part to feed his love of Snowboarding and Skiing. He ranks each sport based on various criteria, including their cost and difficulty.

Jon Horvath dropping into a filled-in Little Jim’s at Kirkwood, CA

Skiing vs. Snowboarding: Cost

The equipment for both sports is relatively affordable assuming you don’t need to do any extensive traveling or staying in hotels to participate in them. As the ski industry has consolidated in recent years the price of a lift ticket has increased significantly topping $200 a day at premier destinations like Vail.

However, while the cost of passes has inched up, the “Season Pass Wars” between Vail/EPIC and Ikon, continue to rage on keeping passes affordable. And these passes include access to more resorts than ever as even European and Southern Hemisphere resorts have signed on. Ski equipment is a little more expensive to buy, or rent says, Jon Horvath. The price difference is largely due to the additional complexity of the gear (in the case of the skis and bindings) and need for extra equipment (poles).

Skiing vs. Snowboarding: Difficulty

Each sport has a number of inherent advantages and disadvantages, which make them more or less challenging in various ways. Snowboarding is generally considered the more demanding sport to learn at first due to its less natural sideways stance (which also cuts your peripheral vision in half) and the difficulty of making turns and maintaining your balance at slower speeds, which as Jon Horvath points out, just so happens to be the speed of newbies.

Skiing on the other hand (or foot) is slightly easier to get started with, as you have two skis plus poles to help you stay on your feet initially, while snowboarders tend to wind up on their butts constantly. While going down a simple slope without much turning is a breeze for even the novice skier, learning to make proper turns with those slightly unwieldy skis is far more difficult.

While skiing’s endgame is more challenging, the expert skier gains access to terrain types and the speed that snowboarders can’t match.

Skiing vs. Snowboarding: Training and Fitness

Each sport is powered primarily by different regions of the body, with snowboarding requiring a good amount of core and glute strength to maintain balance, while skiing requires more in the way of leg strength.

Before attempting either sport, Jon Horvath recommends building up your core or leg strength first with appropriate exercises, such as planks or ab workouts. The snowboarding stance is such that you are essentially squatting while you are riding, so at the gym squats or the elliptical can really help. The core strength is more important to snowboarding as there is a lot of twisting of your upper body. Jon Horvath points out that this constant twisting of your torso has real benefits for stretching your back. If you suffer from chronic lower back pain this is a real benefit and hard to find in other sports.

Skiing, on the other hand, is much more taxing on your legs and your knees. The most common ski injury is from twisting falls and tends to impact ligaments like the ACL or MCL. For skiing, Jon Horvath recommends running, cycling or if you are at the gym, leg extensions. Doing so will give you the best chance to succeed quickly at your chosen activity.

As mentioned, beginning snowboarders tend to fall a lot, which makes it less than ideal as a new sport for older people who are more susceptible to suffering damage from such falls. Also, with skiing, you have much more mobility when you are not going downhill. So if your home mountain has a lot of traverses, this may be a consideration also and tilt the decision towards skiing.

Jon Horvath enjoying some bottomless pow — Kirkwood in Jan 2017

It’s wise to wear wrist guards in the early stages of your snowboarding career as there is a natural tendency to put your arms out in front to break a fall which can result in sprained wrists or worse. Beginner skiers tend to fall backwards onto a more “naturally” padded area of the body.

At the expert level skiing tends to be better to navigate steep terrain, moguls, or icy conditions as Jon Horvath demonstrates as he drops into Little Jim’s cornice at Kirkwood Mountain, CA. Snowboarding, on the other hand, lends itself to powder, especially powder in glades or trees is easier to navigate with a snowboard as demonstrated by Jon Horvath floating through bottomless powder at Kirkwood Mountain Resort.

However, don’t be intimidated, both sports are relatively safe once learned, assuming the participant stays within their ability level.

Jon P Horvath

Written by

Former Wall Street analyst (Lehman Bros, Neuberger Berman, Sigma) living in the Bay Area with his wife and daughter. Enjoys trading crypto and writing about it.

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