I've spent a lot of time skiblading. Some skiers might turn their nose up in disgust, but it's actually something that I'm proud of. I got a pair of skiblades as a gift many Christmases ago and have since put them to good use.
While I'm far from a super trickster or expert, I've tackled plenty of advanced trails in my skiblades. As skiblading isn't as popular nowadays, when I bring them out, I'm often the only one that I see wearing them.
That being said, I wanted to give our readers an unbiased look at how skiblading, skiboarding, and/or snowblading compares to traditional skiing.
Let's dive into it:
What Are Skiblades, Snowblades, or Skiboards?
Skiblades, snowblades, and skiboards all essentially mean the same thing in conversation, but can have slightly different definitions in a technical sense. Skiblades can sometimes mean a type of snowblade made by a company called Salomon. Sometimes, skiblades or snowblades refer to a skinnier version of a skiboard.
Either way, there doesn't seem to be any official definitions of any of the terms. There also aren't any technical lengths or widths that separate them.
For the sake of this article, the terms will be used interchangeably.
Here are all the attributes that makes these shorter skis unique:
The typical size range you'll see for snowblades is 30 inches - 55 inches. Snowblades will often also be wider than regular skis and possess a similar shape to a mini snowboard.
For context, a skier that is 5'8" would usually have skis that are 60 inches - 70 inches.
Snowblades aren't typically used with poles. Because they're so much smaller, the user can "skate" themselves to the next destination.
One common element you'll find in in snowblades is twin tips. Skis with twin tips have matching curves in the front and the back of the skis. This gives the rider a lot more versatility. They allow the skier to turn a bit easier without feeling as locked in as they might with a traditional ski. Twin tips also make it a breeze to land or ski backwards.
Not all snowblades have twin tips; it's just very common. Twin tips can also be found in some regular skis.
One of the interesting things about snowblades is the variety of different bindings they can come with. You'll be able to choose from any of the following:
- Ski Release Bindings: These are the click-in/click-out bindings that you'll see on regular skis as well. When fitted and installed properly, they will release when you fall and twist them the wrong way. Additionally, they come with "brakes," which prevent them from sliding too far away from you when they come on. In my opinion, these are the best bindings for beginners.
- Non-Release Bindings: These are bindings that are designed to stay on, even if you fall. You can apply all sorts of torque and pressure without them disconnecting, which is great for super advanced skiboarders. The disadvantage is that there's an increased chance of injury if your knee twists opposite your blades. Most places will require that you use a "leash" if you use these because if they come off, they'll usually slide right down the mountain.
- AT Bindings: AT stands for "Alpine Tour" bindings because they're mainly used for back country skiing. They un-clip at the heel, which allows the user to walk up hills. It's very rare to see someone with skiboards with these kinds of bindings, but it is possible. You will often see these on regular skis even if the person isn't back country skiing.
- Snowboard Boot Bindings: You can also use snowboard boots and bindings in skiboards. However, they usually require some modifications like a riser plate. These are much rarer, and probably not recommended for the beginner.
Are Snowblades Easier to Learn Than Skis?
In my opinion, the only scenario where snowblades are better for beginners is if you're good at ice skating. If you've never done any sport before that required you to be on a blade or a skate, you're basically going to be starting from scratch. Your ability to handle trails and execute techniques highly depends on what you're comfortable with.
However, there are some things that beginners might find easier than on skis, and there are other things that they may find more difficult.
Here are the major differences that I've noticed:
When skiers move from beginner to advanced, they become better at controlling their speed and direction with the skis parallel to each other. This is much easier to learn with snowblades because your tips aren't long enough to cross over unless you make an intentional effort to do so.
Stopping and Turning Without Wedging
When beginning skiers first start learning, it's commonly taught to create a "pizza" or "wedge" with your skis to facilitate slowing, turning, and stopping. These techniques are great for getting started, but aren't enough to get by when the trails become tougher. Instead, skiers need to learn to use the inside and outside edges of their skis to turn and stop. This is will be easier for most to learn on snowblades because there's much less ski to control.
Skiing in Lots of Powder
I've found that it's more of a struggle to use my snowblades when there's lots of powder. With a long and powerful set of skis, it's not that difficult to go right through mounds of snow if you have to. With snowblades, getting through lots of snow can often feel like quicksand. You really have to make a greater effort to hit it at the right angle and make sure that your tips are angled more upwards.
My snowblades are quite old, and I've read that powder can be made a lot easier with more advanced skiboards, like the RVL8s. Regardless, I don't think it's going to be as easy as regular skis unless you're more advanced.
Skiing When It’s Icy
Both snowblades and skis can be hard to handle on ice, but I've found it to be tougher with the blades. With long skis, there's a much bigger surface area to grip the ground as you go to slow or stop on ice. Hitting a long patch of ice with a pair of well-built long skis is going to allow you to brake with much more force than a pair of short snowblades.
Even though I'm pretty experienced at snowblading, if I hit an unexpected steep patch of ice and try to stop, I often just fall. I've found that I have to go as straight down as possible when it's all ice. I can do mini carving turns as I'm going down to control speed, but trying to completely hit the breaks is difficult.
Doing a 360
While it's perfectly doable to hit a 360 on skis (especially with twin-tips), it's undoubtedly going to be easier on snowblades -- especially for beginners. Spinning around is almost as easy as it is on ice skates. Since there's so much less surface area touching the ground, there's a lot less nuanced movements in turning around with snowblades.
Speed and Stability
There's no doubt that regular skis are stabler at higher speeds that snowblades are. They allow you to breeze over bumps and less than perfect terrain without having to be as careful of your balance. Because skis are more stable forwards and backwards, going through uneven ground on the mountain can often feel like nothing. On snowblades, you have to be a bit more mindful when trying to tackle "imperfect" terrain.
Standing Up From a Fall
As you might imagine, getting up from a fall for a beginner is going to be a lot easier on snowblades. You'll generally be a lot less tangled up and can sometimes get up in a way that's "technically incorrect" for regular skiers. Getting up on long skis requires more technique and practice.
Moving Around on Flat Spots
This one is a real toss up. I would say that both skis and snowblades are equal at getting around on flat spots. With skis, you have the advantage of poles, which can come in handy. With snowblades, you have to face both skis outwards and use your inside edges to skate towards your destination. If you're going a long way, it can really start to burn your glutes and hamstrings.
Advanced Skiing on Snowblades
Extreme Skiing and Hard Trails
If you plan on doing any sort of extremely advanced skiing which involves planes, helicopters, or avalanches, then snowblades are probably not the way to go. Not only have I never seen it done, it's also most likely not possible and certainly less safe. This is an entirely different realm of skiing outside of what you'll find at most recreational ski resorts. You want to have a pair of skis specifically suited for your goals.
But can you do single blacks or even double black diamond runs safely with snowblades?
I've done many of the harder trails at big mountains such as Mt. Tremblant in Quebec. As someone who skis for recreation, I'm not sure what else I could ask for. It's just a matter of knowing how to use the equipment you have. Some of the difficulties I've mentioned above can make it more challenging, but it's still certainly doable.
To be honest, I wouldn't even want to do anything more difficult or treacherous than what I could already do in snowblades, and I'm sure most recreational skiers feel the same. Most aren't eager to get up in a helicopter or try to outrun an avalanche.
Long story short -- if you're skiing for fun, I believe you can tackle most of the things you'll find at a normal resort on snow blades. Just stay within your limits and work up to it.
If you really want to move past the recreational level and get involved in racing, paraskiing, or heliskiing, use regular skis.
I'm not huge into the terrain park, but I have done some jumps and boxes on both skiboards and regular skis. In my opinion, regular skis perform better for both of these. When landing from the air, I find that skiboards don't have as much front or back stability. As such, I am more likely to fall.
I also have felt more stable on the boxes using regular skis.
My experience is my own and will vary depending on the type and quality of skiboards along with an individual's skill level. Again, I'm far from super advanced.
Must Watch Advanced Skiboard Video
On that note, there are plenty of skiboarders who do really advanced stuff.
This video below from Talon Sei is a great representation of what advanced skiboarders can do. He also talks about some of the common stereotypes and other things that come along with being an advanced skiboarder.
It's pretty great, so make sure to watch the whole thing!
Are Snowblades More Dangerous?
It's really difficult to find any statistics on whether skiing or snowblading is more dangerous.
Without any hard data, it's impossible to say either way.
Many people will often claim that snowblading is more dangerous, but I don't think these claims are warranted. I believe that the safety of either can fluctuate depending on what you're doing.
Let's break down some of the safety nuances:
Most Common Ski Injuries
Ski injuries typically happen two ways:
- Crashing into something immobile (like a tree)
- Twisting your knee and injuring a ligament or other part of the leg
The first injury type can happen when a skier loses control, which can happen on both skis and skiblades if they aren't handled properly.
The second injury listed above can happen spur of the moment. Ligament and leg injuries are also far more common in skiers than snowboarders because the dual nature of skis allows for more twist and torque in the leg.
The long tips of regular skis provide a much longer lever to twist the knee with. Should the ski get caught on something, or if the tips cross, it can cause the skier's knee to twist pretty badly.
On the other hand, it's much harder to catch a snowblade in this manner. Having fallen on both skis and snowblades, I could definitely feel a difference in how it impacts my knees. I've felt much more pull on my knee ligaments in skis during a fall because they have a greater leverage pull on them.
Bindings and Safety
The odds of injuring your knee are greatly impacted by your bindings. Whether you're riding on skis or skiboards, make sure you get your bindings properly installed and impact-tested.
Additionally, some skiboards come with non-release bindings. When fitting properly, these bindings are designed to keep your feet attached to your skiboards when you fall. As you might imagine, these are potentially less safer than the releasable variety. Should you fall and have your knee and skiboard twist in opposite directions, you could seriously injure your knee.
I personally use and prefer a release binding on my skiboards. I've had mine fitted properly to my boot, and I have never had an issue with it releasing early or when I don't want it to.
Recognizing Your Limits
When it comes to preventing injury while skiing, the most important thing is to recognize your limitations. When skiing with long skis, those limitations are going to be apparent when you first get started. You'll have trouble with the more intermediate techniques right off the bat and will probably be more reserved about going on harder trails.
On snowblades, you might get a false sense of confidence on the easy trails. Because stopping and parallel skiing will be easier to pick up, you might be tempted to go onto something more difficult before you're ready, which can also increase your chances of injury.
Final Word on Safety
Your odds of saying safe are going to be highly dependent on how you handle either piece of equipment. It's also going to vary based on scenario.
If you're an ice skater and you feel way more comfortable on snowblades your first time out, then, hypothetically, you'll be safer than regular skis, which might feel a bit different.
On the other hand, if you're equally good at both and hit a large patch of ice, you'll have less leverage to brake with on the snowblades.
Since snowbladers are, and probably always will be, the minority, getting a fair assessment on the safety for the average person is going to be difficult.
Either way, it's crucial that you go with the right boots and bindings to minimize your chances of getting hurt.
Skiboards are super fun; don't let anyone tell you differently. In my opinion, many of the arguments against skiboarding are over blown, and there are plenty of really high level skiboarders to prove it. For the average person heading to a mountain, it's hard to find a practical reason to pick one or the other.
It just depends on what you enjoy more!
If it's your first time heading to a ski resort, here's some other reading that I highly recommend: