Skiing vs Snowboarding: Which is Better for Kids?

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If your kids are just getting into snowsports, one of the biggest questions you’ll have is whether they should learn to ski or learn to snowboard. While part of this depends on your child’s age, size, and coordination level, there are a few other factors you should consider. If you’re having the skiing vs snowboarding for kids debate, I’m here to help you decide which one is the better option for your child.

Is Skiing or Snowboarding Better for Kids?

Boy snowboarding

Reflecting on my experiences both as a ski mom and a former ski instructor, I’ve seen firsthand how children interact with skiing and snowboarding differently. In my perspective, skiing often serves as the more accessible entry point for younger kids. With separate foot movements and the intuitive nature of a forward stance, skiing aligns more naturally with their existing motor skills. It’s easier for young kids without TONS of coordination to figure out.

Skiing provides instant control since many of the movements are similar to walking, which makes skiing easier for most young kids. Plus, the basic plow technique in skiing, which slows down the descent, is typically easier for kids to grasp (make sure you get an edgie wedgie). Snowboarding, on the other hand, requires managing balance on a single board, which can challenge a child’s coordination and stability, especially for kids under the age of seven. Most ski schools will start kids in ski lessons around age 3.

Many ski schools recommend starting young kids on skis to build foundational snow sports skills. This initial ski experience gives kids confidence as they learn to navigate the slopes safely and more easily. As they grow older and their balance improves, transitioning to snowboarding when kids are 6-7 years old makes the learning curve easier. Most snowsports schools will start kids in snowboard lessons around age 6.

How We Chose Skiing vs Snowboarding For Our Kids

Before diving deep into skiing vs snowboarding I want to share our personal family experience. My husband and I both worked as ski instructors and absolutely love to ski. We wanted to start our kids with snowsports young, so the natural choice was to teach them to ski. Four of our kids learned to ski at around 18 months old, and we had such a fun time on the ski hill with them as toddlers. As our oldest son started getting a little older, he asked if he could try snowboarding. Since I’m only an intermediate snowboarder and my husband can’t snowboard at all, we told him to wait until he was 10 to snowboard so that he could pick up the sport quicker and wouldn’t need as much help (especially since we were skiing with his 4 younger siblings at the time).

kids snowboard coat

When he turned 10, we got him a used board and snowboard boots and signed him up for a few lessons. He picked it up very quickly, and since we were skiing easy runs with his younger siblings, it gave him plenty of time to practice the basics. For a few years, he snowboarded more than he skied. Now that he’s 16, he does a mix of both depending on who he’s going up the mountain with and the conditions. For him, it’s been great to have the option to do either sport.

His younger sister also wanted to try snowboarding when she turned 10. We put her on her brother’s old board, and put her in a few lessons, just like we did before. The only thing was that she HATED IT! She had a few hard falls and was begging to put her ski boots and skis on and ditch the snowboard boots forever.

Now we have 3 younger kids and only 1 of them has a desire to learn to snowboard, so we’ll give that a shot next year and see how it goes. In the end, we actually don’t care which sport our kids choose, but we do really love our time on the mountain as a family, so we work hard to make sure that whatever they’re doing, they’re having fun. Almost every ski resort welcomes both skiers and snowboarders, so it works well for our family (except for Alta and Deer Valley here in Utah, which only allow skiers).

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Best Age to Learn to Ski

toddler learning to ski

From my experience, both as a ski mom and a professional ski instructor, I’ve found that most kids do well starting to ski around age 4-5 (while you can easily start them at 3 or as young as 18 months like we did). At this young age, children pick up skiing pretty quickly since they have developed a little more coordination but don’t overthink the sport too much like adults are prone to do. Their center of gravity is lower, making balance easier to manage on skis and they can quickly learn the basic skills of skiing through a few simple ski games. Also, since kids this age are pretty fearless, they can pick up on skiing skills really quickly without too much fear of falling or injury.

When you start kids skiing at a young age, it gives them a good foundation for a lifetime of snowsports. They’ll get comfortable on the mountain and grow up within the ski culture, feeling a sense of belonging and community. Besides, as a parent, I think it’s just so much fun to introduce my kids to snowsports and experience it from their perspective.

Best Age to Learn to Snowboard

From my experience working closely with lots of snowboard instructors, the ideal age for kids to learn to snowboard is between the ages of 8-10. At these ages, they have a lot more coordination than they did at 4 or 5 years old and they can understand a bit more of the complexities that are needed to learn to snowboard.

Why is snowboarding more difficult for kids to learn? The first reason is that when kids snowboard they have both feet clipped into one board. Unless your kids are used to skateboarding or surfing, this will likely feel unnatural to them.

kids snowboarding at Nordic Valley

The other thing that makes snowboarding a bit more complex is that when you turn, you’ll switch from heel side to toe side, so you’ll need a lot more coordination to be able to link your turns together. I know plenty of kids who learned to snowboard at age 5 and under and it just took them significantly more time to learn than had they waited longer because learning to link turns was so difficult for them. We have one friend, and since their child was younger when he learned to snowboard, he only learned to feather back and forth on his heel-side, and now 5 years later (even after snowboarding extensively), he still is too scared to try and turn on his toe side. While that’s not the case for everyone, putting your child on a snowboard before they’re ready to learn the skills can hold them back in the long run.

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Is It Easier to Learn to Ski or Snowboard?

townhall kids ski coat

If you want to pick the easiest snowsport for kids to learn, skiing is the clear winner. Even little toddlers can learn to stop and turn without too much difficulty. The mechanics of skiing aren’t too difficult for kids to learn and with the help of tools like an edgie wedgie, kids can learn the basics of skiing much faster than the basics of snowboarding.

Additionally, falls on skis typically hurt less than falling on a snowboard. Since your feet are separate, it’s easier to catch yourself a bit as you fall. On a snowboard, you’re likely to have several hard faceplants or land hard on your backside since the only thing you can catch yourself with is your wrist (use wrist guards to prevent injuries). While falling on a snowboard can be manageable, the hard hits can be a little bit more discouraging for younger kids.

However, while it’s easier to learn the basics of skiing, it is more difficult to move from being a beginner skier to an advanced skier. This is because beginner skiers ski down the mountain in a wedge, and advanced skiers ski down the mountain with parallel straight skis. Sure, the ski gear is the same, but if you want to move beyond being an intermediate skier, you’ll need to learn a new set of skills (which takes a lot of time and effort).

affordable snowboard lessons at Nordic Valley

In contrast, the skills that a snowboarder learns on day 1 will stay with them all through the sport. The way a beginner snowboarder stops and links turns is the exact same way that an advanced snowboarder stops and turns. So while it takes a little longer to learn to snowboard, once you learn, you can often get to an advanced level faster than skiers normally would.

Can Snowboarders Teach Skiers How to Ski?

From my personal experience as both a ski instructor and a skiing enthusiast, I clearly know that the skills required for snowboarding and skiing are very different. That being said, the mechanics of learning how to ski (stop, turn, and navigate around the mountain in a wedge shape), are not incredibly difficult. Most kids can figure out how to stop and control their speed with just a little bit of instruction (and an edgie wedgie). It doesn’t work for everyone, but it can work for a majority of kids.

Once kids are learning how to turn and move around the mountain, they really just need someone to follow. This can be a skier or a snowboarder as long as they can make smooth, consistent turns on beginning terrain.

While kids who are beginner skiers won’t have the example of another skier, a snowboarder can teach a skier the basics of how to ski in most cases. However, we really do recommend ski lessons as the best option if you don’t have another skier.

Can Skiers Teach Snowboarders How to Ride?

While I think that a snowboarder can teach a skier to ski, the opposite is not true. It’s incredibly hard to learn to snowboard from a skier.

learning to snowboard at Nordic Valley

This is because the skills for beginner snowboarders are much more complex than learning to ski, so nearly everyone needs some sort of instruction. While it’s possible for a skier to teach a snowboarder how to go down the mountain just on their heel-side, it’s much harder to learn to link turns well on a snowboard, so snowboarders need to learn from another snowboarder. This is because beginner snowboarders need someone to demonstrate how to balance properly, where to engage and release their edges and how to smoothly engage and execute their turns.

Because of this, we highly recommend snowboard lessons if you’re just learning to ride!

Focus on Where Your Child Will Get the Most Support

toddler learning to ski

While a good deal of what snowsport your child chooses to learn depends on their age and coordination, you also need to consider where they can get the most support. If everyone in the family is a snowboarder, it will be easier for your child to get tips and help when they’re snowboarding instead of skiing. If They only know skiers and only ski with skiers, it might be more difficult for them to pick up the sport of snowboarding. If you have access to a good winter community and access to good snowboard or ski lessons, either option can be fantastic.

Choose the Sport That Your Child Is the Most Passionate About

As a ski mom and former instructor, I’ve witnessed firsthand the impact steadfast enthusiasm has on the learning experience for children. Observing the spark of joy in a kid’s eyes when they click into skis or strap on a snowboard is a great indicator of how long they’ll stick with the sport. If your child is drawn to the gracefulness of skiers elegantly sweeping down slopes or is captivated by snowboarders carving and freestyling their way through the snow, let that passion guide their choice. If your child has a strong preference, let them go for it (knowing you can always change in the future if it doesn’t work out).

Written by Jessica Averett

Hi, I'm Jessica! After meeting my husband on a chairlift, we now live in the mountains of Utah with our 5 kids. As a former ski instructor and mom, I'm here to help you make your family ski trips as easy, and FUN, as possible!