Tomorrow is the day. You are headed to that snowy ski area and you are going to learn to ski. Or snowboard? Or ski? Nah. Snowboard. No no. Ski. AHHHH!

It feels like it shouldn’t be a tough decision, but for every single one of us who has anxiously stood at the bottom of the bunny hill all suited up in our newbie gear, we’ve been there. The anxious feeling of “I should be doing exactly the opposite of this. This was a bad idea.” And really, let’s not even talk about the 4-year-olds who are going to whizz pass you. It’s okay. You will do…something. Whether it’s snow plows or pizzas, you are going to conquer.

Unlike many of my friends who picked up snow sports as wee ones, I learned to snowboard at 21 and ski at 31, which means I’ve had double the fun of standing at the bottom of the bunny hill thinking “This is a bad idea” and double the fun of learning curves all as a full fledged adult. And I might as well put the bruises (to both body and ego) and lessons learned to good use and tell you what to expect and maybe—just maybe—help you make a definitive decision on where to start.

If anyone tries to tell you it doesn’t matter which winter activity to start with, ignore them. Snowboarding and skiing each bring unique challenges to the table.

What do you want to accomplish on your first day?

If you’re one of those people that has to complete a full summit run by the end of day one, I’d recommend skiing. Once you’ve nailed your pizzas (stopping) and begin to understand french fries (skis parallel to go faster), you’ve mastered enough of the basics to do something resembling skiing down a mellow green trail. It won’t be gorgeous, but it will technically count as skiing, and depending on the mountain, you can probably go top to bottom.

If the idea of leaving the bunny hill on day one sounds like a bit much and you’re in it for the long haul, snowboarding could be for you. You’ll likely spend most of your first day using abdominal muscles you didn’t know you had in an effort to get up from sitting on the snow. You’ll also likely spend nearly the entire day on your heel edge hoping no one tries to make you go straight or to your toe edge. Fun fact: You can make it down nearly anything on your heel edge.

What’s your take-a-break style?

Someone should have told me this before I tried skiing, but your ability to take an on-trail break is vastly different on skis and snowboards. And hands down, snowboarding wins here. Tired? Find a quiet but highly visible spot off to the side of the trail… and sit. Ta-da. That’s much harder to do comfortably without taking your skis off.

If you think breaks are for wimps, skiing is for you. The only time your rear will ever meet the slope is if you fall and the only thing less graceful than your first run is trying to get up from your first fall. Er, first dozen or so falls.

Courtesy: Killington Resort

Where are you strongest? Weakest? Injury-prone?

There’s no getting around the fact that both skiing and snowboarding require some leg strength. No matter which you choose, you’ll have some screaming quads, hamstrings, and calves by the end of the first day.

Snowboarding specifically is more of a full body activity, but I’m going to specifically call out the need for a relatively capable core. You’ll be using these muscles all day long for both getting up from the ground and controlling your stance.

Skiing on the other hand is mercilessly focused on your legs. You’re going to find muscles you didn’t even know you had in your calves, quads, and hamstrings.

On the injury side, snowboarding and skiing couldn’t be more different. Snowboarding tends to be kinder on your arms, neck, and head during falls. Meanwhile skiing has it out for your legs—specifically your knees and ankles. Make good life decisions. Wear a helmet! And bubble wrap!

Instant gratification or delayed gratification?

If years of snowboarding and skiing have taught me anything, you really should sit down and over analyze your gratification style before hitting the slopes.

Snowboarding starts out super slow those first few times and you’re going to wonder if you’ll ever visit the summit. But once you’ve got your turns figured out and you know how to control your speed, you’ll be ready to make the leap! Snowboarding is for those who can handle delayed gratification knowing that sweet sweet gnar turns await their hard work.

Meanwhile skiing starts out fast. One moment you’re cramming your foot into a hard boot and then you’re pizza-ing your way down a green trail straight from the summit. You might even pizza down a blue trail! You’re basically ready to go pro, right? Not so much. Skiing does a lovely job of giving you instant gratification those early days, but getting better later makes you feel like a newbie all over again.

So which will it be? That’s up to you. See you on the slopes!