Scenic views, snow flurrying through the air and the thrill of your skis or snowboard zooming through a winter wonderland, what more could you ask for?
There is something hypnotic about watching the insane feats high-level athletes like Chloe Kim and Alex Ferreira perform in competition, but what can be even more captivating is getting on the mountain yourself. Skiing and snowboarding both help people get in touch with nature but are two completely different ways to challenge yourself in a healthy way.
Some people even choose to switch between skiing and snowboarding. While this can be challenging, (you may fall more times than you would care to admit), it can also be extremely rewarding. It is truly a learning process and a great first step to learning is signing up for lessons!
Caroline Harley, a snowboard instructor in Steamboat, Colorado, started out as a skier but added snowboarding to her skillset at age ten after moving to Switzerland.
“I quit after my first day of riding because I found it so difficult compared to skiing,” Harley said. “A couple of weeks later, I tried to pick it up again and loved it and the freestyle aspect of it.”
Learning how to ski versus snowboard has its pros and cons. Harley said that snowboarding is harder to learn but easier to master than skiing. Harley said it is a little harder in snowboarding to get the technique down for turning safely down the mountain.
I personally began skiing around age 9. At first I was scared to try anything except “pizza” turns: a learning strategy of turning with the tips of the skis together in the shape of a triangle. The most difficult aspect of learning skiing for me was turning which I got the hang if after a few years of lessons and practice.
While this was the learning process for me, the learning process can be different for everyone. Karl Renner, who learned to ski as an adult, explained a part of his learning process.
“Leaning into what appears to be dangerous is critical to success and difficult to do,” Karl Renner said. “It’s unnatural and defies every instinct, but it’s essential.”
Liza Renner, Karl Renner’s wife said that to ski, you need to be completely in the moment.
“You can’t be worried about some silent issue or some paper at school because it’s one of those sports that, to get the most out of it, you need to completely lose yourself in the activity that you’re doing,” Liza Renner said.
While skiing and snowboarding are clearly beneficial to physical health, they can also be excellent for the mind. Harley said that she thinks both skiing and snowboarding are good for your mental health.
“I just love the feeling of going down the mountain. The rest of the world drops away, and I think it’s a great way to practice being present,” Harley said.
A study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry in September of 2021 matched individuals who participated in a cross-country ski racing over a long period of time with similar people in the general Swedish population. The purpose of the study was to compare levels of anxiety. From this, the researchers found that, in the long run, the skiers who participated in the race and lived an active lifestyle through skiing had a significantly lower risk for developing an anxiety disorder— 60% lower to be exact!
Liza Renner discussed the impact of skiing on her mental health.
“You feel free, and I don’t feel stressed—all my stress goes away… It’s a very freeing experience, and as you’re cruising down the mountain, you feel invincible,” Liza Renner said.
I decided to try practicing presence while skiing after my time learning snowboarding from Harley. As I glided down the slope while snow made it impossible to see more than a few feet in front of me, I found that every issue that had been weighing down on me became obsolete. I belonged solely to the mountain.