Snow surfing and snowboarding are both epic winter sports that involve gliding down a snow-covered slope, but they are two distinct activities with unique techniques, equipment and mind sets.

What is the difference between Snow Surfing and Snowboarding?


    • Equipment: Snow surf boards traditionally have longer and wider noses, a set back stance and a shorter tail often designed after a traditional surfboard tail: fish, round pin, squash tail, etc…
    • Stance/Foot Position: The recommended stance for snow surfers is a medium surfing stance - a positive degree like +30 and +6 at shoulder width so that you can open your shoulders to be more forward facing and achieve surf-like movements.
    • Approach: It’s about seeing the mountain as a frozen wave. Searching for cross lateral “Trimline” and moving across the mountain, at a pace that is conducive to the terrain features and sections. Looking for Rights and Lefts to focus on toeside or heelside emulates a surfers approach in ocean waves. Tom Sims and Chuck Barfoot on the US West Coast envisioned and shaped boards for surfing on snow beginning in the 70s, and this direction inspired Japanese and European shapers as well. Snow surfing is based on fluidity and requires a greater sense of balance and control to match the rider's style to the equipment, terrain and conditions in order to harmonize movement with the elements.
  • Terrain
      • Powder: Snow surfers seek out deeper, untracked snow, where they can experience a greater sense of freedom and movement, and utilize equipment designed to float and glide with greater efficiency.
      • Groomers: Snow surf boards are designed to perform surf style maneuvers on hard pack groomers. They have a wider base width and progressive sidecuts that allow to maneuver on edge without toe and heel drag and execute clean and dynamically shaped carves. Snow surfing boards that appear for powder like  — the fishtail snowboard —actually have the advantage of independent torsional flex, which can change or adapt and contribute to a dynamic side cut.
      • Frozen Wave Parks: These are ideal parks for the snow surfer. Also known as a “flow/ transition park”, they are designed primarily for ground maneuvers that are expressed through surfing style. Bottom turns, trim, cutbacks, slash/hacks and airs back into transition. This format of park is accessible and utilizable to all levels and forms of snow participants.


      • Equipment: Snowboards are commonly twin tip boards, where the nose is the same as the tail, and have a centered stance.
      • Stance/Foot Position: Usually evenly set with a +15 / -15 degree stance for equal regular and switch riding direction
      • Approach: Freestyle technique based on street/ park skateboarding involving jumps and air tricks, skidding turns, switch and regular riding direction, and general usability to get around the entire mountain in a variety of conditions. 
  • Terrain
      • Powder: While traditional snowboards can cruise through deeper snow, they are not designed to float efficiently and require much more back foot pressure.
      • Groomers: Snowboarding groomers is often more about straight lining down the fall line of the slope and utilize a skidding technique of a mix of base and edge to redirect the turn.
      • Terrain Parks: Usually involve a halfpipe, quarter pipes, jumps and rails. These parks focus on higher levels of performance and risk in airtime.


    Snow surfing is sometimes confused with pow surfing, the bindingless approach to surfing powder. This sport is often outside of resorts and in the backcountry where easily accessible powder can be found in abundance and without others’ tracks. Pow surf boards are short and wide boards allowing riders to stand without bindings and utilize the pressure between their body weight against the clean snow surface. Typically this requires at least 6” of fresh powder snow to work well. As resorts most often have variable conditions and hardback groomers, bindings and edges become a necessity.

    Snowboard and Snow Surfing Origins

    While the timeline can be debated, the pioneers of snowboarding are indisputably Dimitrije Milovich of Winterstick and then developed for general public and resort use by Tom Sims and Jake Burton. Sims snowboards were originally west coast and surf inspired, while Burton located in the East Coast saw the business opportunity in a skate style approach and was dead set on making it an official sport. 

    The competition between the two innovators and companies propelled snowboarding forward, but it wasn’t until the 80’s that the snow surfing style and equipment was better honed. 

    “In many ways, snow surfing is a way of bringing the sport back to its artistic roots,” says Aaron Lebowitz. “Surfing at its core transcends the sport of the activity and is often regarded as a spiritual practice to connect with nature. It’s interesting that snow surfing, while it originated in the US  west coast surf capital, innovation pushing it forward over the last 30 years has come from Japan developing fluid and harmonious riding in deep powder, and Europe honing in on progressing carving style.”