I’ve been skiing long enough to become privy to an ongoing feud between winter sports. Skiers and snowboarders have been cohabitating resorts for decades, but there is always an unspoken tension (okay, sometimes it’s spoken) between the groups. When I’m out on the slope, all I really care about is speed–I don’t pay attention to the differences between ski and board culture, and I sure as heck don’t try to pick fights with boarders. However, I think this one variable might be enough for me to form an opinion. If one of these sports is faster than the other, it’s the better option.
As far as method and momentum go, there is little difference between skiing and snowboarding. Both rely on using gravity to gain speed. The flat surface of the base slides over snow, and some energy is lost to friction. In fact, the most speed is lost because of drag generated by the rider’s body cutting through the air. While this is essentially the same for both skiing and boarding, the biomechanics are said to differ considerably.
It’s easier for a beginner skier to keep the center of mass between the skis, thus gaining balance. Snowboarders, however, must consistently worry about an ever-shifting center of mass. While this doesn’t make much of a difference in speed, it could change athlete confidence levels, resulting in slower speeds for scared snowboarders.
Here’s where speed really starts to differentiate: snowboarders must put all weight on a single surface or edge, whereas skiers divide the load. This results in fast ski speeds. The added balance and even distribution make skiers faster. They also jump higher and farther. Snowboarders might have an edge when it comes to falling safety, skiers are faster. While the fastest ski speed is around 157 mph, the fastest snowboarding speed is just 126.3 mph.
Well, there you have it. The numbers speak for themselves!