Switching from a board to skis?
April 19, 2008 5:57 PM   Subscribe

This snowboarder wants to give skiing a try. How to go about it?

Background: I'm an intermediate snowboarder--comfortable on a board, but not to the jump/flip/high, high speed stage. I started on a snowboard and have never been skiing, and I'm curious. So next time I'd like to give it a try. What can I expect? The obvious suggestion is to take a lesson, but I'm not in a English-speaking country, so for the sake of argument let's assume an English lesson is out.

My wife also boards with me, and she skied when she was younger, and said she could help me with it, but I'm curious if I need a lot of tutelage. More specifically, has anyone made the transition from snowboard-only to skis? How did you do it?
posted by zardoz to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I ski and board regularly, to be honest skiing has an easier learning curve. By the end of day 1 without any lessons you should start feeling comfortable. Just take your time, snow plow if you've got to. The traditional ski stop should come pretty easily though. Just go out and have fun and try to do it on a day with fresh snow, makes the impacts a little less severe ; ) .
posted by huxley at 6:13 PM on April 19, 2008

If you have strong legs, you might want to consider learning in the spring corn. It makes controlling your speed markedly easier, and is much more forgiving, plus, it punishes bad habits, like leaning back and turning your upper body across the fall line.

Also, if you want effective instruction in a place where English language lessons aren't possible, get your wife to film you. Sometimes, seeing yourself skiing makes you aware of things you don't realize you're doing. Also, you can share the video with any number of online communities. If you'd like, I'd be happy to take a look too. Just shoot me a MeMail

Hope this helps.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:27 PM on April 19, 2008

Best answer: As a long time skier who switched to snowboarding, I would have to agree with huxley. It should be pretty easy to pick up the basics. Also falling on skis is much less painful than doing the face/ass plants that I did while learning to snowboard.

Start slow with your feet in a wedge pointed down hill ( big toes pointed towards each other). To slow down make the wedge wider. To speed up, point your toes more to parallel to each other. To turn left put more weight on your left foot. To turn right, put more weight on your left foot. Try to keep your shoulders pointed down hill.

And unlike snowboarding you can simple lean up hill to fall down with your skies below you.

Take it slow and have fun.
posted by benk at 8:33 PM on April 19, 2008

You'll do fine... a lot of the stress of the first time skier is on minutia such as chair lifts and steep hills and riding on snow...these are all familiar to you. Don't worry, skis don't cross on their own, after you learn how to snow plow remember that the goal is to keep your skis parallel, that lifting the leg on the inside (closer to uphill) will cause you to turn in that direction, and that poles are there not so much to help you turn as to mark the point where you will turn.

Having both skied and snowboarded I can say that when skiing you never need to a) sit on your ass, b) undo one boot c) push yourself d) fall on your wrists e) fall forward at all really and so in general skiing is a much more dignified (upright?) sport, and a lot of the things snowboarders put up the average skier would never bother with. You won't have the constantly long cool edge you have when boarding, but there's something nice about always being forward facing. Have fun!
posted by furtive at 9:02 PM on April 19, 2008

Put ski's on

Point down hill


Take a lesson if you want but this was how I learned. Anyway I've done both and as everyone is/will tell you, skiing is easier to learn - harder to master, but you can be having a lot of fun by end of day one.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:41 PM on April 19, 2008

Best answer: I am a professional instructor, CSIA (ski) Level 3, CASI (board) Level 2. I have taught for over 10 years. My experience and that of my teaching colleagues is that the learning curves for skiing and snowboarding are drastically different both qualitatively and quantitatively.

In skiing, my students often learn wedge turns and stops in one day quite painlessly. Progressing to basic parallel turns will take another few days. Perfecting parallel turns on all terrain and all conditions takes several years (I'm still working on my technique after 25 years of skiing). So if you were to graph skill versus time spent skiing, it would look mostly like a straight line going up, gradually leveling out after 2, 3 or 5 years.

With boarding, the first two days are fucking painful. Falling forward. Falling backward. All day. Your shoulders, butt, wrists and everything in between will be fucking sore. Then (generally) on day 3 you'll suddenly get it, and you're in heaven. No gnarly terrain park tricks or precise carving yet, but certainly able to turn and stop on most terrain. From there on, aside from freestyle stuff, it's just refinement of the same. The learning curve for boarding is almost vertical initially, then levels off dramatically.

Skiing is a very technical sport. Translating the biomechanics of four independent limbs into powerful, efficient turns is complicated. You need to find a good instructor who can coach you to learn all that technique. And being taught by a friend/relative/wife is often unproductive because:
a) your friend is an expert skier but doesn't understand or can't clearly explain what he does very well with his legs. This is often the case for long-time skiers who don't remember what it's like to be scared and out-of-balance.
b) your friend is actually doing it all wrong but has somehow improvised his own way of doing things. This is often the case with athletic but impatient types who can't be bothered with lessons and just "taught" themselves.

You might have heard that there is no "correct" way of skiing. That is wrong. Teaching methodology varies around the world. Different instructors might prioritize different skills for you to learn depending on your talent and physical condition. But at professional meetings like Interski, we all agree internationally on the same fundamental ski technique, because our bodies are all the same and we are subject to the same laws of physics. Look at the top World Cup racers from around the world, and while they might flail their arms psychotically (Bode Miller) or have unorthodox training regimes (Herman Maier) or take an different line through the gates (Tomba la Bomba), how they accomplish that with their legs is all the same.

Oh yeah, back to your question.

Find an instructor you can communicate with. If not with broken English, then you must be able to understand their gestures and body language. And the instructors need to be qualified so that you know they can go through several cycles of teaching, correcting and refining your technique. If they're merely telling you to "snowplow" and giving a rudimentary demonstration, that is not good enough. If your fore/aft or lateral balance is off, you can't snowplow. If your leg is not pivoting, you can't stop. If you are not executing independent pressure control, you can't turn. The instructors need to be able to spot the problem from 100 ft away and fix it with the correct drill. And they need to be experienced in explaining all this in layman's terms (or hand gestures) that you can understand. Yes, you need professional tutelage to learn properly. The older you are, the more this is true.

Mind you, I'm anal and I have high standards about skiing. If you just wanna have some fun in the snow, then time spent with your wife is never wasted.
posted by randomstriker at 10:05 PM on April 19, 2008

Put ski's on

Point down hill


NO. I could not disagree more. In my experience, of the "never before" category of skiers, roughly half who follow this advice will have a shitty time (and maybe hurt themselves) and never ski again.
posted by randomstriker at 10:08 PM on April 19, 2008

I agree with randomstriker's assessment of learning curves: skiing is easy to 'pick up' but hard to get good at, and snowboarding has a harder initial learning stage, but once you figure out the basics, you can go down almost any slope.

Professional lessons are always nice, but if you can't get them, you can't get them. Just remember that you'll probably be doing some things wrong, and will need to re-learn how to do them correctly if you ever want to be a really good skier.

Do not use the poles at all while you are moving downhill; only use them on flat parts (or just don't bring them at all). When you improve, you'll be able to use them, but in the beginning, you'll try to use them for the wrong things and may get hurt. In any case, do not put the wrist straps around your wrists; just let them hang -- one of my friends dislocated his shoulder on his first day.
posted by bsdfish at 11:25 PM on April 19, 2008

(I don't know if your supposition that English language courses aren't available is because you'd rather not take one, or what, but they are indeed available at bigger resorts throughout Japan. Of the three places I went this winter, two offered English lessons - Niseko (Hokkaido) and Hakuba Hapone (Nagano).)
posted by whatzit at 12:46 AM on April 20, 2008

did this just recently as a long time snowboarder and first trip skiing. I did a day of lessons, took to it pretty quickly, and had fun with friends who had ski'd many times before the next few days. That probably puts me in the type b of randomstriker's comment; where i know basically what to do but invented what felt good and got me moving after that, but I just wanted to add that I was able to learn to ski and have fun with friends who were skiers all in the same trip. Lessons help quite a bit knowing what your legs/feet should be doing, and how your body is throwing you all off. Fun stuff.
posted by striker at 7:34 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

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