Monday, January 23, 2012

Differences Between Skiing and Snowboarding

So with winter now seemingly in full swing, we're definitely thinking more about getting out into the snow and cold. We went snow tubing and hope to hit the slopes to ski and snowboard before our Colorado trip in March.

I definitely want to try snowboarding, because at my age you don't just hop into a new sport (I haven't been skiing in so long it would be a new sport at this point), and snowboarding seems safer than skiing. But is it?

Here's what I found:

Skiing and snowboarding are alike in that they are both downhill and are both the source of countless hours of fun and exhilaration Some of the differences, however, that you'll find between them include:
  • Snowboard riders constantly have to sit or exert energy to remain on edge while they are stationary. Unlike skiing, you will not have poles to help you remain upright and standing when you are not moving.
  • Snowboarding is a lot easier on the knees compared to skiing. Knee injuries are not as common in snowboarding as they are in skiing. Snowboarding can, however, be a lot more brutal on your wrists so make sure you wear some wrist guards.
  • You'll start to develop a deep hatred for flats when you're starting out with the snowboard. Again, you won't have your ski poles to bail you out.
  • You will, however, begin to fall in love with deeper and softer snow. Snowboards work nicely in powder and crud while skis are better in bumps and ice.
  • Getting up after a fall on a snowboard is a skill in itself but once mastered should prove to be easier and faster than having to put your stuff together again after falling on skis.

Statistics On Skiing/Snowboarding

Fatalities - According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA): During the past 10 years, about 40.6 people have died skiing/snowboarding per year on average. During the 2009/10 season, 38 fatalities occurred out of the 59.8 million skier/snowboarder days reported for the season. Twenty-five of the fatalities were skiers (18 male, 7 female) and 13 of the fatalities were snowboarders, (12 male, 1 female). Among the fatalities, 19 of those involved were reported as wearing a helmet at the time of the incident. The rate of fatality converts to .64 per million skier/snowboarder visits.

Serious Injuries - Serious injuries (paralysis, serious head, and other serious injuries) occur at the rate of about 43 per year, according to the NSAA. In the 2009/10 season, there were 39 serious injuries. Sixteen of these serious injuries were skiers (11 male, 5 female) and 23 were snowboarders, (16 male, 7 female). Among the serious injuries, 18 of those involved were reported as wearing a helmet at the time of the incident. The rate of serious injury in 2009/10 was .65 per million skier/snowboarder visits.

Since I classify myself primarily as a runner, I'd opt for a wrist injury over a knee injury, as I can run with a cast on my hand, but can't with a bum knee. The statistic that most stood out to me, however, is that 50% of the fatalities and a similar number of those seriously injured were wearing helmets. 50/50 odds don't seem to show much benefit to wearing a helmet. 

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  1. Maybe there's another way to look at the helmet data. If it's only looking at "serious injuries", then possibly there were quite a few injuries that weren't serious because of the helmet? Like seatbelts don't always prevent serious injury but your chances are better wearing one? Just a thought.

    I've only been skiing once, on man-made snow, which everyone assures me is so not the same. I'm balance-impaired, so snowboarding is out. I'm think XC ski might be the best option for me if I ever delve into that realm. For now I'll stick with my mountain bike in the snow :)

  2. Not sure I like this data...

    The helmet data should include the number of head injuries prior to their widespread use and now.

  3. Forget the statistics, wear a helmet.

  4. Funny, I thought the most interesting statistics were the overwhelming percentage of men that die/get seriously injured compared to women. Are men just bigger risk takers or do they represent a larger percentage of participants in the sport? Or is like my dad used to always tell me, Girls are just smarter. :)

  5. I'm with Patrick, wear a helmet, I do. It keeps your head warm and I think more people wear them than don't these days, so you aren't going to stick out.

    I tried snowboarding a couple years ago. My butt and abs were never so sore in my life. YMMV, I'm not very coordinated :-).

  6. Interesting statistics.

    For me snowboarding and skiing boils down to that: Snowboarders seem to be strewn all over the runs so skiers can practice their turns. And since some of us learned to ski just 3 years ago...


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