At the start of the year, I was asked to partake in a cultural exchange. My boyfriend, an avid skier bought me lessons for Christmas: sheepishly admitting his present was, at that time, more for his benefit than mine – he loved his ski holidays and wanted to take me with him on the next one. Now, at that point, I fully admit to being a little apprehensive. My only skiing experience to date at age 14 had ended in a disagreement with a fence, and on top of that, aren’t holidays for going diving anyway?? Having had no prior knowledge of exactly what a skiing holiday consisted of, I was a little unsure. However, after realising the potential for a skill swap hiding in this opportunity, I agreed to try out snowboarding…and he agreed to try, at a later date, diving.
So after a couple of lessons at a local indoor snow slope, a few crashes, a badly bruised knee and a growing appreciation of how this boarding lark might actually turn out to be a bit of fun if I could learn to stop falling over, I agreed to go on a proper holiday. We booked a weekend in Meryhoffen, Austria with a couplle of friends, and it was on: my first non-diving holiday in years.So how did it compare? I soon found out that snowboarding is a wee bit similar to my love of diving in some ways – and different in others….
Scuba Diving vs Snowboarding: Similarities
1. You need clunky kit
One thing divers will find similar is that you need a ton of kit to snowboard. Boots, trousers, big warm coat, and it’s good to have a decent hat and shades too. Not to mention the board. Padded shorts were my life saver (or actually, my arse-saver) and knee pads also helped protect my aforementioned bruised knee. So getting dressed each morning is a chore, and walking to the ski lift takes some effort. But once you’re in the lift and heading up the mountain, you forget about it – mainly because of….
2. Gorgeous Scenery
Ok, so underwater scenery isn’t always beautiful in the classic sense, but you can appreciate a lovely reef garden, or dramatic wall and caves. Snowboarding takes you to some beautiful mountains, and some of the best views I’ve seen in years. Like diving, you do feel “at one with the planet” because you can appreciate some gorgeous topology, especially if you get the viz – this depends on clouds, rather than water clarity of course.
3. The difficult part is before you get in the water/snow
With diving, the bit most divers don’t like, is getting the kit on, and getting in the boat. It’s one of the reasons liveaboards are popular, certainly for me, is short space between putting kit on and getting in the water. Above the surface you’re clumsy, heavy and weighed down. Underneath, it becomes so much easier. With snowboarding it’s exactly the same – getting off the ski lift requires some feats of coordination I’ve not yet mastered (and by the look of things, neither have many). Allegedly the easiest way to move on a snowboard on the flat, is to keep one foot in your board and shuffle the other – whoever made that rule up was obviously having a laugh. One of the funniest things you can do on a ski holiday is sit with a beer at the top of a lift and watch people fall of it. It’s very therapeutic. Seriously. The easy part of snowboarding is when you start moving down a slope. Obviously it takes some time to master – in my case, I was fairly happy after about a day and a half, but moving down a slope is considerably easier than not moving down a slope.
4. Other divers/snowboarders get in the way.
This one is more apparent when you’re on your arse in the snow, and a five year old skis past you with perfect technique and a look of disgust. While you don’t get that in diving (thankfully) you do get crowded dive sites, and divers bumping in to each other or kicking up silt. On the slopes, it can get crowded getting on a lift (elbows and learning to use them comes in handy) or slushy if there are too many people around. So, like diving, early morning or out of season is best. We found Saturday’s are the day holiday makers swap over (so either come in or go out) so it was lovely and quiet.
5. There are easy and hard dives/runs
I’ve done some fairly hairy dive sites in my time; most of these have been down to conditions, and mainly current. There are easy sites for beginners, usually shallow and calm, and harder ones for more experience, usually deep and sadly, where are the exciting creatures are. Snow runs are graded blue, red and black to show difficulty, which is great when you’re starting out, as you can feel a personal pride when you progress to the next colour. Maybe dive sites should be rated like this….?
6. It’s expensive
Diving’s not cheap. Neither is snowboarding.
7. Practice makes perfect
At one point going down a Blue run in Meryhoffen, something clicked in my head that told me ” I can do this. I’m actually doing this and I understand how to”. It was a nice revelation and gave me some great confidence. It took a day and a half but the longer I did it, the better I got. With diving, it’s less obvious I think, but it’s still true. I remember being a new diver and not being able to put my regulator on my tank. Or putting my smb up for the first time and being all over the place. Now I do it without thinking, and while I can’t remember having that same “revelation” it’s undeniable that experience makes diving, and snowboarding more fun.
So what’s different?
1. It’s cold
I know you can dive in cold places. But you can’t snowboard in hot places. Snow is cold. (Although we were incredibly lucky and got temperatures of 18 degrees Celsius in Austria)
2. You don’t need a qualification
Snowboarding’s not technical, and while you probably should have lessons, you could theoretically hire a board and proceed to throwing yourself off a mountain immediately. You’re likely to break something, but it’s permitted. Diving is inherently more technical and requires study, qualification and sign off before you can hire equipment and get in the water. Probably because of the next point:
3. It’s harder to kill yourself snowboarding.
Now snowboarding is dangerous, and most sensible people would appreciate you could probably do yourself some damage chucking yourself off a cliff with a piece of wood strapped to your feet. In fact I saw two emergency medical helicopters out when I was at the top of the mountain – enough to make you make sure your bindings are tight enough one more time, and take that turn just a tiny bit slower than last time. But every diver knows you can theoretically kill yourself in very shallow water, and you need to be much more aware of your body, and the effects and causes of decompression sickness. The worst you can do in 5 metres on a ski slope is get a nice bruise on your arse.
4. You can drink!
Far and away, the best one. While its not advisable to drink and board, the best thing about a snowboarding holiday is being able to stop at lunchtime and have a sneaky beer. In fact, I think I more was more fearless after a lunchtime tipple, and probably boarded better in the afternoon. Divers will know drinking and diving is a massive no-no. So a definite one up for the boarders.
5. It hurts. Lots.
There is absolutely no point in my 170 dives to date where I remember thinking “ouch, that hurts. Diving’s painful”. Diving is relaxed, chilled, and not hurty at all. The most painful thing I’ve experienced with diving is a badly placed weight digging in to hip bones. Snowboarding hurts. Be prepared to hurt everywhere. Thighs, abs, bum, arms (from continually pushing yourself up from falling over). Not to mention broken ribs. Yes, I broke a rib. I’ve never done that diving.
So: diving vs snowboarding?
Well, obviously as a diver I’m going to say diving rocks. Because it does. But I had a cracking weekend in Austria, loads to drink, far too much stodgy food, and managed to throw myself down a red run on the last day and feel great. and I’ll definitely go again. I loved the scenery, the adrenaline, the company and the excitement. Despite the month of a broken rib when I got home… Conclusion: I’m a diver first, but a new snowboarder in the close-season. I’m preparing to be considerably financially worse off as a result.