For many winter sports enthusiasts, speed is everything. We all love to go fast on the slopes. But there are many variables when it comes to speed. One question that is always debated is whether skiing or snowboarding is faster.
Skiing is about 20% faster than snowboarding with the same conditions. This is also reflected in the world records in speed skiing. The highest speed ever measured on skis is 254.985 km/h. The highest measured speed on a snowboard is only 203.275 km/h. This is mainly due to the lower friction of the skis on the snow and the skiing position, which allows for less wind resistance.
Speed in skiing and snowboarding depends on several factors. Nevertheless, skiing is faster than snowboarding under the same conditions.
However, there are several easy-to-understand reasons for this, which we would like to discuss in this article.
Of course, a snowboarder can still be faster than a skier. But this has more to do with the individual abilities of the two riders, and less with the basic conditions.
Is skiing faster than snowboarding?
Skiing is faster than snowboarding when the conditions are the same. On the same slope with the same snow conditions and the same skiing ability, a skier will be faster than a snowboarder.
In terms of technique and acceleration, there is little difference between skiing and snowboarding. Both use gravity on the slope to gain speed.
The flat surface of the base glides over the snow, and some of the energy is lost to friction. The biggest loss of speed comes from the air resistance that the skier’s body experiences through the air.
The speed differences apply to all riders, whether recreational or professional. It has nothing to do with the skiing ability, but only with the different material and the skiing position.
So even though both sports rely on gravity to get them down the hill, there are simple, uncontrollable reasons why skiers can go faster. But why exactly is that??
Why skiing is faster than snowboarding?
The reasons for the speed advantage of skiers over snowboarders are mainly due to the type of sports equipment and the riding position. Both have an influence on how fast one can become in skiing and snowboarding.
Of course, psychological reasons also play a role, especially for beginners. Beginners find it easier to keep the body’s center of gravity between the skis and thus maintain their balance.
Snowboarders, on the other hand, have to cope with a constantly shifting center of gravity.
This does not have a big influence on the speed at first. However, it can affect the athletes’ sense of safety. Especially for anxious snowboarders or beginners this can lead to lower speeds.
The sports equipment in skiing and snowboarding
Skiing and snowboarding differ mainly in the sport equipment. While skiers are on two relatively long but narrow boards, snowboarders have a shorter and wider board under their feet.
This means that the surface that rests on the snow is much larger in snowboarding. A larger contact surface also means more friction. And this friction slows down the snowboarder more compared to the skier.
Of course, slowing down sounds funny when we talk about accelerating down a hill. However, friction limits how fast the skier can accelerate. There are two physical forces working against each other.
One is gravity, which pulls the skier down the slope. on the other hand the friction that works against it and reduces acceleration.
With the snowboarder the friction is simply greater, thus both the acceleration and the maximum speed are lower.
The body posture when skiing and snowboarding
Another factor that plays a big role in speed is body position when skiing and snowboarding.
Skiers have a speed advantage because they naturally look forward. Because they have two separate boards underfoot, they can ski down a slope with minimal edge.
In contrast, snowboarders have a lateral position. You need to shift your center of gravity between your toe and heel edges to avoid slipping, which leads to more friction.
The position in snowboarding also means that snowboarders have a much greater air resistance. Skiers can lean forward more deeply and thus reduce their air resistance.
Because of this sideways stance, it is more difficult for snowboarders to achieve consistently high speeds. They offer a larger attack surface to the wind.
Speeds of recreational skiers
The differences in skiing and snowboarding speeds are already visible among recreational riders.
It may not be noticed as often because there are many skiers of varying skill levels on the slopes. And not all skiers and snowboarders try to ski at maximum speed all the time.
However, measurements on various slopes have shown that recreational skiers reach speeds of up to 90 km/h. For snowboarders it is only up to 70 km/h.
These are still very fast speeds, of course. However, there are also occasional recreational skiers who are even faster. Speeds over 100 km/h are also possible for amateurs in both disciplines.
Mostly, however, skiers and snowboarders are traveling slower. The slopes are usually too crowded for such speeds.
Speeds of professional skiers
Even with the pros, differences in speed are measurable in skiing and snowboarding. Here there is the advantage that in professional races the speed is always measured as well.
Of course, the individual disciplines cannot be compared so directly. There are also differences within skiing. A downhill skier will reach higher speeds than a slalom skier.
Nevertheless, you can use the highest speeds measured so far to get a picture.
In snowboard parallel giant slalom, riders reach speeds of up to 120 km/h. However, the speeds of downhill skiing are up to 160 km/h.
The difference is also due to the type of race, of course. It does, however, provide a good comparison as far as the speeds of the two sports are concerned.
The highest speed in skiing and snowboarding
But to have the ultimate comparison, we need to look at the world records in speed skiing. Here we get into the really extreme ranges, where there probably isn’t much potential to go up either.
The speed record for skiing is an insane 254.985 km/h. It was set up by the Italian Ivan Origone in March 2016.
The speed record in snowboarding is 203.275 km/h. This record was set by Frenchman Edmond Plawczyk in 2017.
250 km/h for skiing and 200 km/h for snowboarding are also considered as rough limits of maximum possible speeds. There may be small increases, but not significant jumps.
Unless, perhaps, technology evolves and gives us skis and snowboards that have less friction on the snow.
How to measure your speed yourself
If you now have a taste for it, you can also measure your own speed.
Some ski resorts offer speed measurements. Usually the devices for measuring are located on a somewhat steeper section of the slope, so that you can actually pick up some speed before you are flashed.
There are also a number of mobile apps that allow you to monitor your speed and progress on the slopes.
These apps take into account weather reports and snow conditions and can record your speeds, routes, calories burned and distances skied.
Ski Tracks was one of the first apps for GPS tracking, and it’s still one of the best on the market. It analyzes your runs and tracks using maps, charts and tables to show you your progress and activities.
You can also buy a GPS speedometer and carry it with you when you drive. These special devices are more accurate than the apps and are mainly used in cycling, boats or vintage cars as a speedometer substitute.
Two good devices for measuring speed are SEARON GPS Speedometer* and CYCPLUS GPS bike computer*. The former is a little more expensive, but also a little more stable, which can be an advantage during a fast ride down the slope.
Conclusion: Is skiing faster than snowboarding??
Skiing is faster than snowboarding, all things being equal. Of course, snowboarders can be faster than skiers, but with the same conditions skiers always have an advantage.
On the one hand, this is due to the fact that the snowboard has more contact surface and thus more friction. On the other hand, it is due to the driving position, where skiers have less air resistance. So skiers just have some natural advantages.
Together this leads to the fact that skiers have a maximum speed about 20% higher. But as a recreational skier you will probably never reach this level.
But it’s not about maximum speed anyway, it’s about having fun on the slopes. And you can have it as a skier as well as a snowboarder.
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