Snowsports compared to Mountain Biking

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  • Snowsports compared to Mountain Biking
  • Joe

    I’m pretty confident on a Downhill bike, used to race alot in the UK and have a few alpine visits under my belt. I’m not really fazed by any of the usual runs in the alps (black, double black and all that kind of nonsense) and am happy to give them all some gas, jump the roads, doubles etc.

    On the other hand I’ve been skiing once and now am meant to be going on holiday with a partner who has skied a lot more than me and I’m **** bricking it. I remember last time despite a full week of lessons, feeling terrified at the thought of a black run and feeling out of control even on steep red stuff.

    So I suppose my question is…do any of you guys who have skied for a while find that they can get down any kind of marked pistes in the alps, without any sweat?

    Is a typical alpine black run on a DH bike the equivalent of a typical black run on ski’s or is the latter a much harder level of skill?

    Not skied other than a bit of xc and some time on a dry slope but have boarded pretty much anything that’s been thrown at us including double black and pretty committed back country routes. I’m probably the opposite to you in that I’d be happier to ride steep and fast on a board than a bike, I kind of bumble along on a bike.

    I guess it’s not so much about the terrain and more about how confident you are in your ability to control your equipment, I’m more confident of my ability on a board than a bike.

    Premier Icon sweaman2

    I think you just need some more practice.. to be honest I find a black running skiing much easier than a black run biking and I wouldn’t consider myself to be a particularly good skier.


    I’ll go a lot steeper on skis than I would on a bike, but I’ll ride much narrower stuff on a bike than I would try on skis

    Premier Icon jam bo

    would you expect to ride your bike on black runs confidently with a week of riding under your belt?

    why would you expect the same on skis?


    I’ll go a lot steeper on skis board than I would on a bike, but I’ll ride much narrower stuff on a bike than I would try on skis


    Premier Icon Nobeerinthefridge

    No brakes is the answer!

    Premier Icon aracer

    It’s all about relative experience. I doubt I’d want to ride most black runs in the Alps on a bike, and prefer to keep my wheels on the ground – certainly won’t be doing any doubles. Yet I’ve skied pretty much all of what are supposed to be the hardest black runs in Europe, and would happily go back for more (I’ve also boarded black runs, but not all that keen on moguls on a board and haven’t done the hardest ones). Also quite like getting air on skis or a board. Don’t think I have any particular issues with narrow either, assuming there’s enough space to control speed (which is where lack of brakes comes in) – path in to the the Courchevel couloirs comes to mind as something I’ll do on skis, but not sure if I’d do something similar on a bike.

    If you’re not so good on skis it’s not really surprising you find that more scary.

    Premier Icon kcal

    I usually brick it on black MTB descents these days – was out this morning for example, steep, loose, trees, dips and bumps, first time I’d been on my bouncy H/T in ages. Came off at least twice, too slow, no flow.

    I was always not that good on black (MTB) to be honest.

    Not a great skier, but plenty of practice and general thugging it has seen me get down (with little grace, but at least upright, in one piece and with all kit and limbs) blacks in Scotland and in Alps – on piste and also couloirs, off piste routes in Courcheval, Verbier etc..

    confidence, but also practice, fitness, flexibility..


    I’ll happily drop into anything on a board, not far off on skis but theres a ton of stuff I wouldn’t do on a bike – Mega avalanche is about my limit on a bike

    Relatively I’ve been on snow for 30 plus years and less than 10 on a bike

    Premier Icon ceepers

    I think its all relative to your experience and skill. There’s being able to “get down” a black run and there’s being able to pin it with style and control and airs on the way. The two things are worlds apart whether you are talking about bikes or skis.

    Just try not to stress, get lessons, private ones if you can and enjoy being in the mountains, they are beautiful. Don’t worry about running before you can walk and making it difficult / dangerous for yourself. If your partner is a good person, they will be happy to take you places at you pace.

    Hopefully they will understand that a bit of time invested in your skiing now will pay dividends in the future for both of you!

    On the plus side, your obvious comfort with going fast on a bike will help you progress at skiing more quickly but the learning curve for skiing is steep, probably steeper than for mtb and you need to put the time in to gain control and confidence.

    I’d also say that a lot of skiers get hung-up about what runs they can do – can they do blacks or reds or whatever. It doesn’t/ shouldn’t matter – I have snowboarded for 20 years this year and there isnt much that doesnt involve big cliffs or a helicopter that would phase me but i often have more fun hammering down off piste through trees on red sort of gradient or even just popping and buttering around on blues with my daughter.

    Premier Icon stilltortoise

    You’re a beginner skier. You’re clearly not a beginner mountain biker. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

    A lot of confidence is derived from experience. I’ve skied since being a little nipper so I’m confident enough to try anything on piste and lots off piste. I’ve crashed lots of times, I’ve had injuries and I don’t mind getting airborne. I’m hardly a beginner mountain biker, but doubles, gap jumps etc are still something alien to me.


    For me, the issue on skis is that while I’m perfectly happy on steep flowing trails (eg trails where you keep moving and don’t need to change direction too much), if I’m doing something that needs to control speed a lot (because it’s really steep or has rocks/trees/drops) then I find it pretty terrifying – basically I’m not very good at ‘braking’ when skiing so I feel really out of control in those situations.


    I’ll happily drop into anything on a board, not far off on skis but theres a ton of stuff I wouldn’t do on a bike – Mega avalanche is about my limit on a bike


    Drops are a lot less scary on a board/skis as long as you have a nice powdery landing.


    I’ll happily ski downhill at 70+mph (sans helmet 😯 ), but anything above 30mph on a bike (road or MTB) makes me feel all queasy. I loved the Courchevel couloirs on skis, but mince down anything more technical than a fireroad on my bike.

    But then, I’ve been skiing since I was 4, and took up mountain biking at the age of 28.

    It’s all about relative experience. The more you do of either, the better you’ll get.


    You know that really steep bit on the fearsome alpine DH track? That’s probably only a red run in winter…

    I wouldn’t worry too much if I was a bit shaky after a week of lessons – you still have a way to go confidence and control wise – but remeber – you’ll only crash onto snow, and even then you’ll probably slide – crashes are a whole lot less painful in winter.

    Premier Icon jambalaya

    Been skiing 35 years and biking for 8. Not surprisingly I’m much more confident and accomplished on skis. Perhaps as I learnt when a teenager but I could get down any marked piste within 2 weeks, bearing in mind not all black pistes are equal and snow conditions make a huge difference to how easy stuff is. IMO maked pistes are relatively tame in comparison to off piste where clearly you can venture off into life threatening territory quite easily.

    Generally when you fall whilst skiing you didn’t hurt yourself even if going quite fast (in fact slow falls are often worst for leg injuries), I think the scope for injuries on bikes is much higher. Agreed with what grum says about drops, on skies with a soft landing they’re easy, you and feet first and it’s hard to over rotate on take off as on a bike when landing face first is all too easy.

    OP you need to learn a few basic ski techniques, not least side slipping on steep terrain, you can get down the steepest pistes that way in a controlled and safe manner. I took a first week boarder who was a good DH biker down a reasonably tough off psite route, just a case of giving him the right advice about lines and speed and the fact he thought having a fall was part of the fun. It was all fresh snow though which makes a huge difference.

    I’ll dig out an interesting clip (from Samoens) which shows a gap jump on bike vs skis and the bike footage, to me, looks much more scary.


    I have raced both downhill and slalom / giant slalom I find that riding down rooty steep dh tracks to be more scary and technically demanding than black runs and off piste etc.

    Premier Icon phinbob

    I am equally incompetent at both.

    I MTB’d before I skied, and what I find hard is the learned reaction to lean back when it gets steep – which is about the worst thing you can do when skiing.

    You have to lean towards the danger. My advice would be to try skiing the blues really well, properly leaning forward (so you can feel the boot pressing on your shin, not your calf). Ski the easy stuff properly – even if you can get away with not doing it. Then when you hit the steeper stuff it will take longer for your form to go to pot.

    It’s worth watching some videos and doing the drills, it can really make a difference.


    Interesting isn’t it.

    You know that really steep bit on the fearsome alpine DH track? That’s probably only a red run in winter…

    I think the above has it for me. Black runs skiing seem to almost be vertical. You just have to commit commit commit and if you stop you’re fooked.

    Anyway…very interested to see how many more people here feel comfortable on skis than they do on the bike going downhill. The comment about bikes and speed is also interesting; I feel fine on the road bike at 40/50mph on the road in the alps!

    But anyway cheers for the advice. The above has genuinely made me feel more hopeful; I’ve gone and booked two days of one and one tuition and hope this will give me some more POW!

    Premier Icon mikewsmith

    On snow once I get my head in I can do most reds on a board, but it takes a long while. I could say I’ve been been boarding for 5 years but in reality I’ve done about 4 weeks in total. Just remember most 10 year Skiers have only done 20 weeks skiing in their lives. In 12 years of mountain biking I’ve ridden huge amounts of the time in that 12 years so being able to ride most weekends makes progression easier.

    Also don’t knock the 2 levers on the bars which don’t exist on Ski’s/Boards they make a huge difference. You can roll down steep stuff on a bike on the brakes to an extent but trying to make a turn on a a very steep black run is another story. One suggestion from a mate who’s missus was better on snow at the start was do 1/2 day lessons so you go for a lessons in the morning and she Ski’s what she wants then go out together in the afternoon. It probably helps if your with a group.

    Unless of course you turn out to be an annoying natural like a mates brother who did his first double black (very early on) when asked how it was he said I’ll show you as he used his camcorder to film himself…


    Penalty for crashing on skis is usually less severe than on a bike due to the nature of sliding vs cheesegrating/being pummeled by rocks, but if you’ve less experience on skis that’s why. I wouldn’t worry about it, the folk you’re with surely won’t take you too far out of your comfort zone!

    Roter Stern

    The advantage of skiing down steep stuff is you still have the option of taking it easy. Not so on a mountain bike.

    Premier Icon oliverracing

    I’ve been skiing since I was 6 (14 years) and I’ll happily do any black run without flinching and will often venture off piste for some challenges. I’ve only been MTBing for about 14 months so on the bike I’m happy one reds and will attempt blacks, but will often check out larger stuff before doing it as I haven’t yet got the confidence to match my ability


    Once you learn to turn and stop on command, you’ll find it a lot less intimidating.

    Premier Icon roverpig

    I learnt to ski in my early 30s when I lived near a bunch of ski resorts in the States for 5 years. Now, in my late 40s I’m trying to learn to ride a bike off-road, because the biking is a lot better than the skiing in Scotland. I’ve been struck by the parallels and the differences.

    First (and maybe my age has something to do with this), the penalty for getting it wrong seems a whole lot higher on a bike. OK I learnt to ski on powder and basically you just threw yourself at it and when it went wrong you mostly just got up laughing. The worst I ever got in 5 years of skiing was a sore shoulder from a crash on some icy stuff. On the bike I’ve had 2 trips to A&E in a year and am currently off the bike with a broken arm after getting it wrong on a rocky descent.

    Rate of progress and my attitude to the challenge seems pretty similar. After 2-3 years of skiing (and lots of crashing) I reached the point where I could get down pretty much anything. Not with any style, but I could get down safely. Interestingly, once I could ski anything on the mountain I found that I much preferred cruising around scenic trails to pushing the boundaries all the time. After 2 years on the bike (and lots of crashes) I’m not yet at the point where I can ride any trail and I want to reach that point. But I can already see that once I reach that point I’ll probably prefer to cruise the easier stuff.

    So, basically, they are both skills that take a long while to master, but if you are happy hurling yourself down a cliff on a bike then you’ll be just as happy doing the same on skis once you’ve mastered the techniques required.

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