Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Skiers and snowboarders: why can't we just get along?

I’ve been thinking lately – why is it that skiers and snowboarders have such a strong rivalry, and sometimes even a mild antipathy towards each other, considering we have so much in common?

I have to start by saying, once again, this blog is likely to be highly biased since for 28 years I have been in favour of the two planks! But with an older brother who veered over to the dark side of the snowboard a decade ago, I will try and create a more balanced argument than you would expect of me!

  • We share the mountain
  • We share the breathtaking sunrises that encompass the white snow in pink hues
  • We share the lift rides (and the queues!)
  • We share the sweet first tracks on the perfectly groomed pistes
  • We share the fresh track after a night of deep snowfall
  • We share the exhilarating rush of air as we let gravity fly us downwards
Only one thing really tears us apart – I ski on 4 edges, they ski on two!

How I perceive snowboarding? Two words – cool and creative. It is an expressive form of artistic sport – from the amazing tricks in big air to how they look. I have nothing but admiration for their incredible skills.

I used to dabble with a board. Back in the day my father imported ‘clipper’ snowboard bindings so naturally I had to be a big fan! I took to it quite easily in its very basic form. Personally I think because of having just 2 edges to think about it can be easier to learn than skiing. But I found having my feet strapped to a board restrictive (still today I love surfing and yet feel slightly awkward wake-boarding for the same reason) I found I couldn’t generate as much speed as I can on skis.

Obviously this was partly due to the fact I was a very basic snowboarder and like to think I am a slightly more professional ski racer! I think there is more evidence to suggest one can be faster on skis – to quote Wikipedia “(skiing) is one of the fastest non-motorized sports on land. The current world record (2006) for skiing is 251.4 km/h (156 mph), held by Simone Origone.” Speed skiers are as the name suggests skiers, not boarders, however after much internet searching I did find this:  the highest recorded speed by a snowboarder is 201.907km/h (125.459mph) by Darren Powell (Australia) at Les Arcs, France in 1999. So actually not a huge amount of difference!

Snowboarding used to be what the cool kids who didn’t want to wear lycra and race downhill did. It let them be loose, creative and demonstrative – a way to show off your talents without using a timer. However the last decade has definitely seen a resurrection of free skiing and slope style on skis. Tricks that boarders invented have been re-born by skiers who put their own twists on them. I can’t say one of these art forms is better than the other because I don’t follow the sports closely enough but both talents are wondrous to me since they are so foreign. I could never hit a jump and do tricks – I fly through the air in an ‘egg’ shape aiming to touch down on the snow ASAP and make more speed (air time is slower than on snow time!)

If I could change one thing about snowboarders it would be to implant eyes into the back of their heads. Obviously snowboarders have a ‘blind’ side and I think it is this side that causes the most agro for us skiers. I am sure boarders don’t (always) intentionally cut skiers up but a lot of crashes are caused this way since they can only see one direction. My father had a really bad crash a few years ago – he is a formidable 6 foot 4 and even still the perpetrator had trouble seeing him!

I am sure boarders too have qualms about us skiers so if you are a boarder and want to let me know, please comment at the bottom!

Will snowboaders and skiers ever be compatible? Well as far as sharing the T bar goes, I don’t think so! But let’s make peace, let’s shake hands, respect each other and our love of the white stuff.

Image credit: Colmar

Chemmy is the ski ambassador for Monarch Airlines and this blog post is also published on blog.monarch.co.uk.

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