Listening to music while skiing or snowboarding is one of the few divisive issues you’re going to encounter while talking to people who live life on the slopes.
Some people see it as an essential part of the being on the mountainside. They love to provide their own personal soundtrack, it can make them feel like they are in an awesome YouTube video or action movie.
However, other people see it as a perversion of the purity of the sports. They can’t understand why you’d want to hear anything other than the sound of gliding over snow. Additionally, there are several very real safety concerns that need to be taken into account.
Today we are going to take a look at the arguments for and against listening to music while skiing and snowboarding to help inform the seemingly endless debate.
We’re not going to pass judgment either way (but we’ll give our opinion at the end). We’re going try and keep it impartial and simply discuss the main points on both sides of the debate.
How to choose the right headphones for snowboarding?
#1 Great Tips from Fraser Johnston
There is a lot of dynamic movements that happen when you snowboard, so you will want something that stays in your ear well. When traveling at speed there is a ton of wind noise, so a good in-ear headphone helps to cut some of that out.
You can still hear your music without having to crank the volume. Since you are out in the elements you will definitely want something that is sweat/weather resistant. Otherwise, they can easily get water damage if any snow gets to them. I find the Bose SoundSport in-ear headphones work a treat to deliver my music on the slopes.
Watch the volume! It’s really easy to lose track of how loud your music is with the background wind noise. Damage to the ears can occur at 85 decibels, which is well below the maximum volume on most music players. If you are on the chairlift and others can hear what song you’re playing, it’s way too loud. It’s crucial to keep your wits about you when riding on the slopes. Cranking music can cause you to lose focus on your surroundings.
It’s also harder to hear other mountain users around you, which can be a significant hazard, especially at busy holiday periods or weekends on the slopes. When riding in trees or on the slopes you may not hear someone calling out for help or trying to get your attention.
Make sure you keep your head on a swivel to be extra aware and stay present in your environment. Strike a compromise by trying to use just one earphone when you ride and pop the second one in while heading up the chairlift. You should still be able to hear other mountain users around you when snowboarding and keep awareness.
#2 Tip From Paul McKeen of
Many things to consider, here’s a little run down.
Price: When you are out on the mountain you don’t want to be too precious about your headphones do you? Extreme cold, wet weather (waterproof models may be going too far), impacts, not to mention frantic pocket stuffing and unstuffing… Get a solid pair with good sound that you aren’t going to cry about breaking or losing.
Style: Without talking about how they look, the style you choose is important. I personally prefer earbuds because I wear a helmet, ride fast and take heavy airs/landings. Cans seem only suitable for beanie wearers and I do not understand how they would stay on your head without sacrificing full-power riding. Round the ear models might be a good middle ground if you wear a beanie or a helmet without earpads.
Portability: Snowboarding/skiing accessories are often associated with travel and for good reason. Small earphones take up next to no space if you are trying to pack light for your holiday and more importantly, when you are on the mountain it’s useful to be able to stick your headphones in your pocket when you need to.
Controls: It tends to get pretty cold up there so you don’t want to be taking your phone/mp3 player out of your pocket every time to change volume, pause or change track. Think about getting a model that’s compatible with your player and that have easily reachable controls although it’s always hard to control with gloves on. Voice activation is going too far in my opinion and you’ll most likely get your friends shouting “PLAY JUSTIN BIEBER” at you…
Comfort: Make sure you try them out to see if you will be able to wear your preferred headgear at the same time as the headphones and that they stay in place. For example, the standard iPhone ones fall out of my ears when I walk, let alone snowboarding and my cans’ big cable swings them off my head when I ride.
Sound: Linked closely to price, the sound is a personal preference and you can easily get a stoke-inducing set for under £50 these days. Going down the audiophile route sounds expensive and seems like something to explore down in the valley anyway…Having said that, go too cheap and you might be disappointed. Read some reviews, there are plenty around online.
Halfpipe and slopestyle riders use headphones because they need to zone in and focus 100% on their performance. They aren’t thinking about other slope users, changes to conditions or what the friends are up to. Ask yourself these questions: do you need to block out your surroundings?
Is it safer to listen out carefully to your environment? e.g. people dropping in or warning that the jump is closed, your buddy getting hurt behind you or maybe the ‘whoompf!’ of snowpack instability or an avalanche. There are lots of good reasons to not to block out audio information from your environment in order to stay safe in the mountains. If there’s no one else around, you know exactly where you are going and you are happy that it’s safe and beautiful, this is the time to get stuck into the music. Often just having the volume at a reasonable level is a good enough safety measure, so that you can hear if you need to.
All riders have their own version of sensible risk and whether it’s safe to block out sound should factor into this evaluation, especially off-piste. We once shouted stop to a guy with headphones on, he didn’t hear us and he went over a 15m cliff, luckily into lots of powder.
Fortunately, we managed to dig him out before he suffocated but it was close, his lips were all blue and he was in shock. These kinds of things are what I call ‘free lessons’ because the expensive ones cost you dearly. Another tip I can give is to try out different genres of music, you might find beauty in things you didn’t expect and might make you rider better than say, Rage Against The Machine!
#3 Tip From Lousie Hill
Bluetooth in-ear earphones are perfect for snowboarders and skiers alike. In-ear models fit nicely under your helmet, so there’s no compromise on safety or warmth. Although battery life will be lower in cold temperatures, wireless/Bluetooth is generally well advised to avoid any tangles when getting off the ski lift. Otherwise your new headphones or indeed you could be making a sharp descent after the lift.
Finally, use headphones with an inbuilt mic and set up Siri or “Okay Google” commands so that you can take calls and respond to messages without ever taking your ski gloves off.
First, the ski world will thank you for using headphones. There is nothing more annoying on the slopes than someone else’s music. But be careful. With goggles, you have limited vision already. With headphones, you now have little or no hearing either.
Avoid sudden changes of direction while using headphones because you may not have heard that someone is about to overtake you. Yes, even you might be overtaken one day, even to the soundtrack of your own highlight reel!
#4 Tips from Blake Tholen Clark
I like to use earbuds but I only put one in so my other ear hears what’s going on around me. You can have noise canceling headphones and let them just be around your neck because you need to be able to hear other snowboarders/skiers for safety.
A great way to Develop Dynamic Snowboard Movements & Rhythm ) is to listen to music while you’re riding. When listening to music you’re Flowing down the mountain.
I like to use music to move to the beat and as you get better you can turn to the beat. Go out with and try different headphones to see what you like to snowboard with. You can signup to get access to all of our snowboard lessons, study guides, textbooks, glossary, tests and direct feedback from your coach at Flowingfreeride.com
#5 Luke Rees
- Simple. Wire-free, distraction-free, and, well free. The right headphones is no headphones.
- Turn it off and listen to the mountains instead.
#6 Jamie Kiley
- They have to be comfortable and stay in the ear.
- Wear just one headphone, you can hear the music and also what’s going on around you.
#7 Kaitlyn O’Malley from
I look at the style of helmet I wear and what would fit best. I don’t like headphones in my ears because it’s important to hear what is going on around you so I make sure to find a helmet that goes over my ears that I can slide headphones into so I can have the best of both worlds.
Create a playlist and make sure it’s downloaded to your phone so you don’t run through the battery while trying to stream out in the mountains. Also because you may not have a cell signal.
#8 Christina from
- Look for comfort, ability to stay put and also not interfere with your helmet!
- Download Spotify playlists curated for listening to on the slopes
#9 Sarah Knapp from
Argument Against: “It’s dangerous for other skiers”
Let’s start with the most compelling argument against listening to music while skiing or snowboarding – it’s dangerous.
The argument here is that skiing and snowboarding are already both reasonably high-risk activities. Sliding down the slopes at breakneck speeds performing sharp twists and turns (and the occasional trick or two) isn’t exactly the same as taking a jog through the park.
People who think listening to tunes on the slopes is a dangerous claim that you need to have your wits about you when you’re going down. Horrible injuries can occur when skiers and snowboarders collide with one another. It’s often a painful mess of pointy sticks and hard boards that should be avoided at all costs.
By having headphones on and listening to your music you have essentially lost one of your senses that are often used to avoid collisions. Therefore, listening to music puts other people at risk.
People who like to listen to music while on the slopes aren’t emotionless monsters who don’t care about the safety and well-being of other skiers and snowboarders. They understand the potential safety concerns, and many of these music listeners try and mitigate them in different ways.
The most annoying way (for other people) is the use of a Bluetooth speaker. From a safety point of view, it’s an effective method. You can listen to your music while going down the slope while still retaining some level of awareness of your surroundings.
The flipside to this is that it’s extremely annoying for other people to have to listen to your music while you are sharing the slope with them. The amount people who like to listen to their own music while on the mountainside are already in the minority…
But the people who like to listen to other people’s music are nonexistent.
The second method is a little more considerate, but also a little more dangerous. People claim that you can safely listen to your surroundings by only wearing one earbud headphone and leaving the other ear open to the world.
There’s certainly some truth to this method, you are much more aware of your surroundings than when both your ears are locked into your own private disco.
The real question is how much “loss of awareness” is considered acceptable?
Some people think that you should not do anything that puts other people on the slopes at any greater risk, regardless of how small. Others think that the risk of wearing one headphone is overblown and they are not causing anyone to be in any more danger than normal.
We’ll leave it up to you to decide who’s right on this one, but we suggest you test it out now.
Put one earbud headphone in and play some music.
How much is your awareness impaired? Could you hear another skier on a collision course?
Argument For: “I’m a safe skier/snowboarder and I like listening to music”
This is a tricky point to rebuttal properly. It’s true that there are many skiers and snowboarders who are perfectly capable of being on the slopes while listening to music without increasing risk.
If you’re competent on your skis or snowboard, then, in theory, there’s no reason why not being able to hear makes you any more dangerous than you would normally be.
Plus, there is the personal choice aspect. We’re not recommending you try this (because we are staying neutral). But you have to admit, basking in the winter sun while gently gliding down the slopes with a little bit of classical music in the background does sound pretty darn appealing.
If the person doing that is not causing any kind of real harm, then who are you to say they shouldn’t be able to do it?
It’s true that there are many skiers and snowboarders that are competent enough to not cause an accident because they are listening to music – but there are many that aren’t.
If a less competent person makes an error and ends up on a collision course with someone wearing headphones, then they are unable to alert them. This means evasive action can’t be taken and a potentially avoidable accident takes place.
Does this cross a line that means a competent skier/snowboarder is having their freedom reduced due to other inexperienced slope users?
Again, we’ll leave that up to you to decide.
Other Points To Consider
There are a couple of other points for and against listening to music on the slopes that are almost “secondary” (but are worth mentioning).
One of the most nightmarish scenarios for anyone on the slopes is being caught in an avalanche. Thousands of tons of snow barrelling towards you down the side of a mountain is something that needs to be taken very, very seriously.
One of the first warning signs of an avalanche is the tremendous sound it makes. If you’ve got headphones on you’re not going to be able to hear it as early as possible.
Don’t get us wrong, you’ll hear it eventually…
But there’s a good chance by that point it’s too late.
Not many slopes actively ban the wearing of headphones while skiing and snowboarding (some do), yet many of them ask their guests to be as safe as possible. But even if the wearing of headphones was banned, how on earth would it be policed?
Helmets, scarfs, ear warmers, and hats are all commonplace on the slopes – and they all conceal headphones very well indeed. Short of stopping every person about to go down the and inspecting them – there’s no real way of knowing who’s listening to music and who isn’t.
One of the things that many people who don’t listen to music on the way down the slope don’t understand is how you can enjoy losing the serenity of the slopes with music. One of the things that attract many people to skiing or snowboarding in the first place is being surrounded by a mountainous world.
It’s addictive when you first get on the mountain and you take in the beautiful sights, the fresh smells, and the euphoric sounds. By listening to music you are depriving yourself of some of the “purity and serenity” of the activity.
Skiing is a highly social activity for many people. It’s often not the same if you’re on the slopes on your own. You want your friends and family around you to share the experience with, to admire their efforts, and to have them admire your own. It’s great to chat about that awesome run you just did (and it’s even better to get each other hyped up for your next run down).
If you’ve got your headphones in, you’re limiting the amount of social interaction you’re having on the slopes. Sure you might like it, but what about your friends? Surely they want to share the experience with you (instead of watching you listen to music in a world of your own).
How To Listen To Music While Skiing/Snowboarding
So now you’ve heard the main arguments for and against (and a couple of other considerations). If you still think that there’s no big deal about listening to music while skiing and snowboarding, that’s fair enough. But what’s the safest way to do it?
As we mentioned earlier the Bluetooth speaker option is the absolute safest. But honestly, you’re going to get a lot of angry looks and ruin the experience for countless other people.
We really don’t recommend it.
Headphones are the only option that preserves the experience for others. We highly recommend you use earbud headphones and only have one in (leaving the other ear free).
We also strongly recommend that you keep the volume as low as possible. This will ensure that you are still reasonably aware of your surroundings (while enjoying a little background music on your ride down).
So there you have it, an unbiased assessment of the arguments for and against listening to music on the slopes.
For what it’s worth, our opinion on the matter is reasonably middle of the road.
We don’t think that it’s anywhere near as dangerous as some people make it out to be (as long as you’re a competent skier/snowboarder). But, that being said, it does increase the risk of an accident – there is no denying that either.
Our suggestion would be that maybe it’s a good idea to think about if you could do without music during your actual run down.
Why not listen to your songs on the ski lift up to the top and enjoy the sound of gliding on snow on the way down instead?