Can You Use Snow Skis on Water? (The Truth)

Skiing is fast, thrilling, and, be it on snow or water, it’s also great exercise. However, what if you happen to be a snow skier who’s recently drawn to the idea of skimming the waves behind a powerful jet boat? Will your snow skis suffice for the task?

You can use snow skis on the water. However, water skiing with snow skis is challenging and dangerous since snow skis are only ideal for coasting on solid snow. 

So, let’s discuss the differences between water skiing with water skis and snow skis. I’ll explain the risks of using snow skis on water and help you understand why it’s not a great idea to take your snow skis out on the boat. 

Are Snow Skis and Water Skis The Same? 

Physics tells us that any pair of skis can handle the water.

Woman water skiing.

Growing up, I can remember skipping rocks across the old turtle pond in the back of my friend’s house— six skips for good luck (remember that one?). The speed of the rock plus its angle plus its size determines how long it will skip. 

For water skiing, the same basic principle applies. When two pieces of thin, natural fiber core are pulled at high speeds across a plain of water, they will skim and skip like a flat stone. That will happen even when one of us weekend warriors is standing on top of them.

However, some skis are better equipped to glide across the water than others.

Snow skis and water skis are not the same. Snow skis usually consist of wood, and they do not float. However, water skis float, and they have a more stable design that will keep you from sinking if you lose your balance. 

So, let’s look at the most crucial differences between water skis and snow skis and discuss how these differences will impact your ski trip:

Snow Skis and Water Skis Are Shaped Differently

Snow skis have a different shape than water skis. 

Water skis are made from a variety of materials. Wood, aluminum, and fiberglass are popular choices. They also have a broader base and are thicker than snow skis. Each of these characteristics helps them float. With water skis, you’re also going to find a stabilizing fin underneath the heel, or “stern.”

Snow skis are almost always made of wood. They are far more narrow than water skis and are equipped with metal edges to help slow the skier down when they turn. 

The shape of the skis allows them to adapt to a solid surface (whereas water skis are more about making a liquid surface adapt to them). There are no stabilizing fins on snow skies. Instead, the skier uses poles to control balance.

Snow Skis Are Not Safe For Water Skiing

You need to know a few other things about snow skis before braving the radical idea of using them on the waves. 

Snow skis do not float, which puts you at significant risk if you use them on water. If you happen to fall off, guess what? They’re going to sink, and you’ll likely drop with them.

Snow skis also require heavier footwear. Most ski boots are made of tough polyurethane that you will not enjoy swimming in. Oh, and if the binding at the toe and heel will not release when you fall (as they do on snow), you’re going to have to bend underwater and remove them yourself at the same time the ski is dragging you down.

So, water skiing with snow skis poses several threats to your safety, which is why I would never recommend using them on the water. 

Skiing on Water As Opposed To Skiing on Snow

So you’ve read all of the above and have decided to try water skiing with snow skis anyway. Great. You’re one of those people who must have first-hand experience, and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

Still, before you go, consider a little brush-up on the fundamentals of each sport. It won’t take long.

Image of a girl water smiling while skiing.

Skiing on Water

You’ll need outside help for this—something to pull you along. Automatically the mind turns to a boat, which will indeed be the case almost 100% of the time. 

However, some parks have pulley systems installed for this purpose as well, and you might also choose to use something like a jet ski to power your wave-coasting run. 

Whichever the case, skiing on water requires the athlete (that’s you) to lean back and raise the hips. Keep your arms straight. To turn, shift your balance to one ski. And when it comes time to jump the shark, make sure the boat is going fast enough 🙂

Skiing on Snow

All you need is a mountain or a hill and some snow for this sport. There are no aquatic creatures to worry about—just trees and rocks. As you ski, lean forward, not back. Try to keep your ankles at 90 degrees.

The metal edges on each ski will help you turn when you shift your weight. Stay safe and have a good time.

Is It Dangerous To Use Snow Skis on Water?

When using snow skis on the water, you’re using equipment—skis and boots—not designed for the terrain. When you fall, your skis are going to sink. And because snow skis are typically heavier than ski shoes, it’s going to be harder to tread the surface (again, after a fall).

Water skiing.

It is dangerous to use snow skis on water. That’s because snow skis sink, and to use them, you’ll have to clip your boots into them. So, you may get trapped and drown if you get caught under the water. 

I cannot imagine professionals in either sport condoning the usage of snow skis on water. If you decide to try it, be aware of the caveats and risks. 

So, snow skis will indeed work for water skiing. But come on—you’re making what would otherwise be an enjoyable past-time needlessly tricky. Snow skis don’t float, making deep water starts nigh impossible. Also, without stabilizing fins, maneuverability becomes more of a chore.
Click play to check out this guy water skiing on snow skis, proving it is possible.


The question, perhaps, should not be, will snow skis work for water skiing, but why would anyone want to try? Aside from being subjected to several additional dangers, you will also become a source of amusement for observant peers. 

Seriously, though, using snow skis on the water is a challenging endeavor to green-light. There are better, more sensible things to cross off the proverbial bucket list.

Allow me to close with a quote from Benjamin Franklin: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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