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Team Snow, this one’s for you. Where do you come down on the urgent issue of the Great Divide? You know the one we mean: To Ski or Snowboard? Our correspondent Lindsey Graham shares her story. Once a skier, now a snowboarder, she’s seen both sides now. Here’s her advice on how to find the best snow sport for you.

to ski or snowboard?

We’ve written previously here at Dandelion Chandelier about our passion for snow sports. But in our previous reports, we’ve avoided one of the thornier issues that inevitably crops up when more than one family member decides to take to the slopes.

Yep, you got it: to ski or snowboard?

Our gang is now evenly divided: two skiers, and two snowboarders (and one who hates the cold and heroically holds down the fort beside the fireplace in the lodge). Who’s right? Well, dear reader, that’s a tough one.

Here’s a lightly-edited account of one young woman’s journey from skier to snowboarder. And some thoughts on what we can all learn about how to find our true destiny on the mountain. And how to co-exist with everyone else out there, too.

a journey from one side to the other

Family ski trips to Vermont over Christmas Break and President’s Day Weekend have been an integral part of my childhood and young adult years.

I started skiing at the tender age of four, and I still carry memories of “pizza wedges” and purposely toppling over because I was scared on the bunny slope and didn’t know how else to stop.

Fast forward ten years, and I was racing down black diamonds alongside my siblings. And of course making the occasional stop at the top of the mountain to enjoy a waffle or two.

The thing I liked the most about skiing was that, in my opinion, it freed me from having to focus and think so much. While skiing, I had this ability to forget my stresses for a bit as I enjoyed the scenic green mountain views that stretched for miles and miles. It was during these moments that the pressures I felt would disappear. In those moments, I could just blissfully be.

what i thought of snowboarders as a skier

As a skier, I was always bothered by snowboarders, as I am sure many people are.

For one, they push all the nice soft powder to the sides of the trail and leave large icy patches in their wake. Which they then slide over, creating a loud, unpleasant scraping sound that scares everyone in their vicinity.

My twin brother started snowboarding a few years before me. I thought he was really cool, and I was always envious that I could never catch up to him whenever we did a run together because he was so much faster on his snowboard than I was on skis.

Now, part of that is due to the laws of gravity and the fact that all of his weight was deployed against one snowboard as opposed to being dispersed across two skis. The other reason is that snowboarders tend to like to fly down the mountain at crazy speeds without turning all that much.

My brother was spending a lot of time at the terrain park, especially the half-pipe, and making a lot of new friends just hanging there. Whereas when I skied, there wasn’t really a gathering spot like that for people my age.

In my experience, with the exception of my brother, my encounters with snowboarders had been only negative ones. There were some obnoxious attitudes on display. Some near-collisions on the trails. My mom had a near-death experience getting off the lift one time because the snowboarder next to her didn’t know how to get off safely. 

We were two very different groups trying to share the same mountain. And it wasn’t always fun.

taking a new tack and learning to shred

Two years ago, I switched to the dark side, and took my first snowboarding lesson. And I don’t think I’m ever going back to skiing.

Since I was already pretty good on a skateboard, I was able to pick up the sport rather quickly. I had great teachers, and this past December, I shook off the last of my initial fears of steepness and speed, and found myself shredding down my first black diamond!

I’ve developed a real passion for snowboarding. It allows me to feel complete freedom – the type that I feel when I am outdoors hiking or zip-lining. Ironically, but probably not surprisingly, everything that I disliked about snowboarders when I was a skier, I have come to love. Yes, even the sound my board makes when I slide across the ice.

As an already avid lover of the outdoors, snowboarding has given me an even stronger love of nature, and particularly of the winter. Riding is an activity that sparks excitement inside me when the frigid season comes around each year. 

turns out, not all snowboarders are jerks

Since starting to ride instead of ski, I have discovered that the kinds of people who tend to snowboard are those who yearn for adventure, love to have fun, crave adrenaline, and enjoy being spirited and spontaneous.

There are actually some snowboarders whose sole goal is to have fun – and not to invoke fear in the other people on the slopes.

When I first told my friends that I was starting to snowboard, some of them had negative reactions simply because of the stereotypes that I myself once thought were true. Now I try to explain that in fact, a lot of us riders genuinely try to be courteous of those around us and conscientious of the impact our presence has on any mountain.

I argue that just as there are snowboarders who are jerks, there are skiers who are jerks as well.

what i think of skiers as a snowboarder

I can now see that skiers take up large portions of the trail when they turn. That makes it really difficult for snowboarders to make turns, or maneuver past them. So we often have to engage in a difficult (and sometimes dangerous) obstacle/slalom course just because skiers don’t want to move over a little bit.

Some aspects that used to really bother me, like the fact that snowboarders push all the powder to the sides of the trails, I now see as things that cannot be helped. And that therefore should not be held against us.

So what’s the moral of the story? When it comes to being on the mountain, a little bit of patience and understanding could go a long way on both sides, I think. Just about everyone – snowboarders and skiers – is there because they want to feel free and have fun. Having literally walked a mile in someone else’s shoes, I see now how important it is to try to see barriers and differences between people from both sides. And to not assume the worst about their motives.

is skiing or snowboarding best for you?

The only way to know for sure which snow sport is best for you is just to try both. You’ll know pretty fast which is one is right for you.

And it’s funny how trying both can teach you a lot of things. Like many other things in life, there are two ways of viewing this situation.

You see, in my family, what happens if and when you fall is a very important factor when debating these two sports.

My mom feels that your skis know when to leave you when you fall to prevent further damage and that your snowboard is clingy and not smart enough to separate from your feet when you take a spill.

But my twin and I see it this way: your skis just up and leave when times get hard. But your snowboard sticks with you through it all.

I am still curious to know: which side are you on?

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Julie Murphy

Julie began her career in fashion as a design intern at 3.1 Phillip Lim after graduating from Parsons School of Design. As the fashion editor at Dandelion Chandelier, she brings over a decade of experience as a designer and marketing creative to cover trends and styling.