Snow Blades vs. Skis

Skis can come in many different lengths to match many different needs. There are many different shapes and profiles as well.

Even though many people think of skis as relatively straight pieces of equipment, slight variations can make a big difference. That is why some people ride with snowblades.

While you may not know what snow blades are, this article will examine how they operate, the way they differ from skis, and why so many snow enthusiasts choose to use them.

What Are Snow Blades?

At first glance, snow blades look like really short skis. They were first created as a shorter alternative to the longer ski models that have popped up on the market as of late.

We will get into the benefits of snow blades when compared to regular skis shortly, but their main defining characteristic is that they are short.

Snow blades also have a shaped profile that’s often similar to that of a snowboard. This means they have a parabolic shape that looks much more like an hourglass than a straight ski.

They come in various lengths and widths, just as with skis, but snow blades can be anywhere from 75 to 100 cm long.

As they have a metal grip alongside a wood core surrounded by laminates, snow blades work in the same ways as skis do when on top of the snow.

In addition, if you’re using snow blades, you will also use regular ski boots. Sometimes you attach to them with regular ski bindings and sometimes you attach via special bindings made for snow blades.

Benefits of Snow Blades

The two main benefits of snow blades are that they are easy to learn on and simple to control. The shorter length means there’s less material to handle.

That gives them a feel that’s almost like roller skating or rollerblading on the snow. They are lighter than skis, which allows for easier maneuverability, and they have a smaller turning radius.

Beginner skiers who struggle with regular skis can often do better on snow blades while they learn the basics of the sport.

The increased turning radius makes it easier to traverse certain terrain features, such as moguls and trees. A smaller ski is also far easier to use in smaller spaces where quick turns are required, and snow blades are about as small as skis can get.

Snow blades can also be a lot of fun if you want to learn some tricks. With a smaller ski, it’s much easier to complete tricks like spins because there’s less weight attached to your boots.

When you wear snow blades, you’ll be able to attempt maneuvers that you might not have been able to do in longer skies.

If you’re a beginner skier, you shouldn’t attempt tricks at first. However, if you have some experience, snow blades can allow you to have more fun in the air and off jumps.

It’s a good way to learn some maneuvers because you can get a good feel for what it takes to complete the trick on smaller skis and then translate that into your attempts on full-length models.

Disadvantages of Snow Blades

While snow blades can be a lot of fun, and while they make skiing a little more accessible for beginners, they don’t perform as well as skis.

If you want to tackle big mountain conditions such as steep slopes, deep powder, or high speeds, you will be far better off on regular skis than snow blades.

With their shorter length and smaller size, snowblades don’t do well in powder conditions. You might struggle to move quickly on a moderate slope covered in over six inches of powder with snow blades on.

That’s because they have far less surface area to keep you on top of the snow. If you love skiing powder, you should stick to regular-sized skis.

Snow blades are also much slower than regular skis. That’s great for beginners because you’ll feel more in control, but if you have had a taste of what it feels like to go fast on skis, the limited speed allowed by snow blades is a definite disadvantage.

Again, this is due to snow blades having less surface area to build up speed. If you do go fast on snow blades, they will start to chatter.

Snow Blades vs Skis: Other Considerations

Many skiers enjoy that snow blades don’t require ski poles. If you’ve ever wondered what the purpose of poles is, or if you have struggled to use them, you might want to try snow blades because you don’t have to worry about using poles at all.

You still could, in theory, but with such a short ski, poles aren’t necessary.

Another thing to note is that there’s often some negative perception of people who use snow blades. This comes from regular skiers who see snow blading as a form of the sport that’s not as cool or valid.

While you obviously are free to slide down the mountain however you choose, there’s a chance you could get heckled by hardcore skiers who don’t like snow blades.

I have only seen this happen a small number of times, but it’s good to know about in case other skiers give you attention while you have snow blades on. In general, most skiers are pretty nice. There will be times, however, when you might encounter an angry skier who frowns on your short skies.

Final Thoughts

Snow blades can be a lot of fun. Even if you don’t plan on using them all of the time, I would recommend using them at least once just so you know what it’s like to ski on them.

For a beginner, they can be a good learning tool that will enable you to increase your abilities in an easy and approachable manner.

Snow blades are unique and not as popular as regular skiing, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t as fun or rewarding as their longer relatives.

In my opinion, any day on the snow is a good day and it really doesn’t matter what you choose to put on your feet. Just get out there and enjoy it!

Have you ever used snow blades? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Hugo

    Christie, thanks for the nice article. There are a few pros and cons you have forgotten though:
    Thanks to the “power steering” aspect of snowblades, one can ski longer days without being exhausted. I usually ski with a cousin who is 10 years younger. In the morning he goes faster, in the afternoon I am the fast one!
    Some people believe that snowblades are not as fast when performing a schuss. I beg to differ: since they are easier to control, you can start your schuss earlier and therefore go faster and further!
    Since they are less forgiving, snowblades oblige you to have a better load balance. That helps you to improve your style.
    Some people say that snowblades are better for beginners. I disagree: since you have no poles, you cannot “fall back” on them when you make an error.
    When skiing in melting snow, you sometimes get stuck in it. I once came down very fast and suddenly arrived in the “soup”. I made an uncontrolled salto because of this.
    They also have less sideways grip on steep icy slopes.

    • Christine

      Thanks Hugo! These are solid considerations, so thanks for sharing with me and the readers here. I still think the smaller size can be better for some beginners, but everyone learns at a different pace, so it’s good to have options.

  • Alan

    Hi Christine, super article, well done. I’ve been a fan of blades since I first tried them about 20 years ago. I find that, although I may be a little slower than friends using regular skis, the blades’ enhanced manoeuvrability makes up for this, ensuring I’m never the last person to arrive at the hutte for a drink. Incidentally, I’ve noticed that, as they provide virtually zero support to the rear, the blades have improved my stance whilst on blades and regular skis. I plan to go again in February and will definitely be packing my blades.

    • Christine

      Hey Alan,

      Thanks for the kind words, and glad you liked the article. That’s interesting you saw improvement in your ski stance using them. You definitely need to sit back in the saddle when you go through deeper snow. Cheers to another good winter coming up!

  • Rebecca

    I started snowblades back when the original came out the bigfoot. Talk about stares. They were brand spanking new to market. I had been a skier for years but do to some knee and back issues I was looking for something quick and easy to make turns and cut thru moguls. These did the trick!!
    Being from Florida we don’t catch a ton of powder dumps and yes they can be cumbersome then so would swap out. But spring skiing they are great. I have aso tried the boots that you literally just ski on.kill your thighs and if you catch ice you’ll go running!!! So pass on those little trixsters! It’s fun to try some of the demos. The blades are great. Highly recommend for starting beginners to get acclimated.

    • Christine

      Hi Rebecca,

      I remember those Bigfoots too! I was pretty little when they came out, but I got to try them a few times and had some friends who loved them too. Pretty fun and wider than some other snowblades, so they could hang a bit in the powder. I’ve never tried the just-boots style, though, I like a little more surface area.

  • Purpose

    No need to check the blades at the airport they fit in the overhead 🙂

  • Aldo

    Hi Christine. Its a good article. I use the blades equipped with snowblades binding and despite less comfy putting on it’s a better choice than standard ski binding as it makes the blade sotfer/less sturdy under the boot in ithe middle. Knowing I will never catch my kids( 8 and 10y) on the slope I’m not trying to beat the speed record, just drifting down making some curves. in my 50s can’t imagine put on some regular 150-160 skis. In terms of perceptions there are some smart asses who think nothing than newest ro……l with a tag of min €2000 is good, but it is their problem, not mine. Especially when I see how anxious those heroes are when somebody touches their treasure.

    • Christine

      Hi Aldo,

      Happy to hear you liked to article and that you’re having a good experience with snowblades so far. Do you know exactly what type of bindings you are using? I’m curious if they are specific to the brand of blades you’re using or general bindings. It’s all about how much fun you have, not how fast you go, right?

  • Amy

    This is a great article and the pro/cons of snow blades are true of my experience of using them for about 20 years. In my late 40’s I switched back to skis so I could ski more types of terrain. While the blades felt more stable overall, because I feel less vibration with the skis at higher speeds, I’m more confident on skis. But some of my family members still prefer blades over skis. I’d enjoy skiing just as much if I switched back to snow blades.

    Pro’s: Fun. Increased maneuverability esp helpful if you are skiing with children or beginner skiers who go more slowly or need help. Easier to transport on planes/cars and to store. Great for a once a year or occasional adult skier who wants to feel confident and stable during the limited time they’re on the slopes. Ideal for groomed terrain. Really easy to maneuver over flat areas by using a skating motion – you’ll zoom past your friends trying to pole it or skate on skis.

    Cons: I couldn’t use in powder over 6″ but my regular skis sink in 6″ powder as well so I switch to a powder ski.. Compared to skis, not ideal for blacks and moguls but you can do them. Like someone else mentioned, I felt more of a thigh burner workout and overall physical exertion compared to skis.

    • Christine

      Hi Amy,

      Great to hear you’ve had good luck using snowblades and regular skis. They both have a place, I think. And getting a set of powder skis is always a great move if you want to take advantage of fresh snow.

  • Paul Bourbeau

    I learned to ski when I was 35 years old. I was tired of going to the mountain with my young boys and watching them have so much fun while I stayed behind in the lodge. I played hockey my entire life up until then and I was familiar with the weight shifting that is required while skating. This experience made learning to ski so much easier. I tried regular skis at first, but somehow was introduced to ski blades and have never used anything else since then. the fact that all of my experience skiing has been in the Northeast has helped as well, since deep powder is rarely the norm. My ski experiences have been limited to the most part to hard Icey snow which is ideal for ski blades. When the warmer spring weather arrives on the slopes, ski blades are a big disadvantage since the limited surface area makes it hard to stay on top of the snow. I am now 62 and have not skied in a few years. I will be looking for a new pair of ski blades when I do., but I will be looking for a longer pair since I think that will be the best of both worlds on the slopes.

    • Christine

      Hey Paul,

      With limited fresh powder in the Northeast, I think you’re spot on choosing snowblades most of the time. I’m glad to hear you’ve had such a good experience with them over the years. Cheers to a good winter, and keep me posted if you end up buying new blades!

  • Brock E.

    Iv been skiing a few times and it’s been a rough experience, once resulting in a torn up knee because of lack of control. I’m looking into snow blades for that one time a year I go with the guys. As mentioned, I have some problems with my knees and the longer skiis don’t help. I’m 32 years old, athletic build, 6 foot tall 210 lbs. Don’t care to go fast, just want to enjoy the day on the slope. Which snow blades do you recommend for me? What length should I be looking at purchasing? Thanks!

    • Christine

      Hi Brock,

      Bummer about your knee injuries, but I’m happy to hear you are still trying to get back on the snow. I’d suggest going with a longer and wider option at your size, so somewhere in the 100cm range for snowblades. That will provide some increased stability and support. But you can always try to rent a few different models to see which you like the best before purchasing. Hope that helps!

  • Gordon

    Hi, just like to relate my experiences with blades. When I was just turned 60, I went skiing for several years in France with a much younger crowd so ended up trying them as a change from normal skis. I’ve tried most things on snow over the years, but within their limits, the blades are the most fun. Sure they chatter at speed, but so do shorter skis like my 136’s but I still clocked high 30’s with blades on my handheld GPS on a groomed link trail. That’s only a bit less than the 45 mph I could pull on my 136’s on the wide pistes of Tignes at the age of 75. But now I’m thinking of going back to Blades permanently in spite of their prices, anything that weighs less is a bonus. By the way, I always ski with poles, both blades and short skis, have tried without but it felt more convenient and under control. Please don’t think that all these years have made me an expert skier, I’m just a middle-of-the-road 6’ 2“ erratic skier who likes life on the slopes.

    • Christine

      Hi Gordon,

      That’s awesome you’ve been able to rip around on snow blades and are still getting after it in your older years. It goes to show that skiing is a lifelong pursuit, no matter what length of sticks you have on! Thanks for reaching out, and I hope you have a great winter!

      • Chuck

        Nice article, I never heard of snow blades before so this was a nice introduction. I am a life long snowboarder who now has a three year old that wants to try skiing. I feel my snow plow control on the board is not good enough to hold her back with the harness. I have decided I need to buy a pair of skis. I am wondering if snow blades is the way to go since the shorter length would give a person more maneuverability while teaching a toddler?

  • Clay

    Help! I can’t find any places to rent blades from anymore and I’m addicted. My wife also has only ever been on blades too, is there a particular type of ski that I should ask for instead that would have something close to that same feel? Particularly thinking about the the back of the skis that lift up and don’t dig in to the snow when I go for a “hockey stop”.

    • Christine

      Hi Clay,

      If you get a shorter pair of twin-tipped skis with a heavy tail rocker, that might work for what you are looking for. Snowblades aren’t as readily available as they used to be, so they can definitely be challenging to find as rentals. Twin-tipped skis have tips and tails that rise up off the ground to give you a little less drag while also providing easy turning. Rocker basically gives skis a banana shape if you look at them from the side. Ask the rental shop for the shortest pair of skis with heavy tail rocker, which should get you started in the right direction.

      I hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more questions.


  • Don

    I learned on snowblades, then moved onto skis…and then back to snowblades. I have duck feet and on normal skis I tend to cross the skis behind me. I am 50+ and have much better control than half the people on the slope that seem to have huge problems with control. I have not encountered any snobbery due to my choice or I am just too busy having fun to care.
    I think snowblades have come of age where they are not super short anymore and maneuverable in all conditions.

  • John

    I found my shorties required constant turning which is more of a thigh workout. Skiing with skis flat to hill would independently drift in different directions. Also “carving” required moving down hill ski ahead of uphill ski, the angle difference between the skis defined tangents to the curve. Great for spins and ice skate like “3” point turns to go backwards and forwards.

    • Christine

      Hi John,

      You’re spot on with the performance assessment of snowblades vs. skis here. You definitely do sacrifice some carving ability, stability, and overall control. But the advantage is you get lighter sticks on your feet that are easier to do tricks on.

  • James

    Thank you so much for this useful information about blades.
    I find the blades great fun for me as a beginner on the snow, even tho I’m in my late 40’s and a late starter to the game.
    The thrill coming down the slopes on my blades was a fantastic experience.

  • Chantal

    I have blades.. just a a quiet social skier ..but the blades are a lot if fun and I vets only enjoy the lighter weight under my boots .. that’s the nice thing about skint .. all abilities catered fit .. I’m in the uk find ski enough!!

  • Ken Kearney

    I have an autistic son 30 years old. He is a little heavy , 5’7″ tall 160 lbs. Like the idea of no poles, less parts. What brands do you suggest? What would be the best type of ski boots. I don’t want too heavy ski boots that overwhelm the skis. I want the best combination. What do you recommend?
    I used to be an expert skier growing up in Stowe. I had hip replaced and haven’t skied in 12 years. I am buying new skis for myself and snowblades for Regan ( my son). Thanks

    • Christine

      Hi Ken,

      I think that Rossginol and K2 both have some blades currently available that might work for your son. And these are quality brands that you can rely on. I haven’t tried snowblades recently, but I have heard good things. Boots are a little more difficult to give you a recommendation on because everyone is different. I suggested going to a good ski shop and working with the techs or boot fitters there to find the best option that meets your needs. Hope that helps!

  • Shadow

    I started learning to ski on blades. I feel in love with it. I work at a ski mountain and due to working a lot I don’t always get out on the slopes much in my free time. I also use my edges a lot. I picked up the stopping by turning like more advanced skiers do faster then snowplowing. The trouble I ran into is my mountain gets a lot of varying conditions regularly; regular beginner skis didn’t allow me to adapt well to that. Almost a year ago I was looking for my own equipment and found a pair of blades very cheap. I knew a little about blades but not much. I bought the blades I saw and tried them out last season. I handled those varying conditions a lot easier then I ever have in the past. I do want to be able to to do all the trails on the mountain I normally ski, but unlike most skiers I don’t want to go super fast. So personal I think I’m going to stay with blades mostly.

  • Rich

    I am in my mid seventies and find controlling my regular skis a lot more difficult for me. I ski with a closed stance usually. Can I ski that way with blades? Is your weight forward against the top of the ski boot? If you fall is it easier to get up?

    • Anna Barrett

      Rich, I’m just now reading this article about snow blades. I’ve have a set of blades but have never used them because skiers have warned me that the blades will kill me because you can’t control them. This article contradicts those statements. May I ask what your replies were on your question? Thank you Anna

      • Rebecca

        You can actually have more control. You can ivot and cut a ton faster. Slowing down quickly even on steep slopes. Ive skied both for years no problem. Once you try them you’ll wonder if the longer ski is worth dragging around. You will have a thigh workout because balancing more then leaning back with that long edge, but you won’t get as tired doung all the cuts. Try them really you don’t know what your missing!

    • Jen

      I started using blades in my 20s and never looked back. I twisted my knee while skiing and injured it repetitively. Blades definitely make it easier to get up when you fall. It’s very disappointing that blades seem to get such a bad press and derision from skiers. It does put me off a little as no-one likes to be sneered at. When I started blades were knew and just fun. I haven’t skied on snow for about 16 years, since having my kids, but now hoping to take them skiing (they’ve both learned on dry slopes) and hope i can still use my blades freely without prejudice. Now in my 40s, I have back problems so struggle even more with the longer length of skis now. Blades would enable me to still enjoy the mountain.

    • Christine

      Hi Rich,

      The overall feel between skis and snowblades is pretty similar, and you can ski with a parallel or closed stance when using blades. One thing to know is that you’ll really need to sit back on the skis if you go into deep snow with them, or else the tips can dig in and slow you down. But your weight distribution is pretty comparable to skiing. And it is easier to get up with blades on because they are much smaller!

  • Mark A. Griffin

    This is a great article! Blades are a great way for older skiers to stay active! Most people give up skiing when they get older, I feel like blades are helping me stay in the game longer. The other commenter makes a great point, it also helps when you are teaching other people how to ski or snow board. Using blades this winter will help me maneuver around my 5 year old grand son with ease! It will help me help him become confident in his abilities.

    • Richard Viders

      Nice comment.
      I am in my mid seventies and after a long history of skiing now find myself having difficulty controlling my skis. I want to try blades. Any suggestions? I live in the East and rarely encounter powder

      • Walker Trelease

        I just got a pair of Snowlerblades from this place called Full Send Ski Co. They are a couple guys in a small shop hand making beautiful skis, and they just released this new blade model. It’s a really well built, sturdy ski that should be everything you would want out of a ski at only 110 cm. If you check em out let them I sent you.

  • Jeremy

    I use snow blades while teaching my littles how to ski. It is so much easier
    to maneuver around them, pick them up and guide them along. I’ve yet to use them as my boards for a whole day on the mountain and I think hitting the glades with them would probably be a blast!

  • Shannon True Bailey

    I have used skiis and blades and by far the blades were more fun for me. They are much easier to handle and go as fast as i need them to go. I am not a hard core competive skier. Yes, I got heckled by some more advanced skiiers but felt just fine about my short skiis and had a blast. I wore those out and will go skiing again after several years away. Looking for another pair.

  • Jon

    I am a casual skier (1-2 times a year). I own standard skis and snow blades. I enjoy them both equally.
    The snow blades, however, were very nice to use when I went with my friend and his 3 beginner kids. The snow blades made it an enjoyable time to stay at pace and maneuver with the kids.

    • Brock

      Snow blades are fun to rip around in