Biking on the Snow?
So for this week’s report I figured I’d focus on a new resort experience I recently had. Like many of our guests, I too had an interest in the new-fangled sport of snowbiking. Knowing nothing about what to expect, I hooked up with a terrific instructor (Justin Dillie) and headed out for an adventure.
To try and first explain the snowbike, picture a small bike frame with a large padded seat, modified to accommodate small skis where you’d normally find wheels. Riders on a ‘Type I’ style snowbike (which is what I was riding) wear small skis in their feet about 18-inches in length. The feet skis are merely to add balance in carving turns but not the primary focus of the sport. What I quickly discovered is that the art of a proper turn when riding a snowbike stems mainly from the hips and one’s ability to lean into the hill while trusting the ski edges below.
I was happy to prove that the learning curve in getting the hang of a snowbike is very rapid. Within the first 30 minutes of my lesson we were boarding the Christie Peak chairlift on our way up to explore some of the mid-mountain beginner and intermediate terrain. The groomed terrain of runs like Vagabond, Bashor, and Rudi’s Run was the perfect playground to explore the nuisances of the sport. I have to admit that there’s something thrilling about making my way down the mountain on a contraption that beckons the attention of just about everyone else on the slopes. You can’t help but feel free and relaxed as you slide and ride your way around to the pleasure of all that you pass along the way.
Similar to a giant slalom skier carving around gates, what I found interesting about the snowbike is that you initiate your turns with the front steering ski. But properly weighting the rear ski below your seat is what allows one to grip the hill and bend your bike around an arc in the snow. I’ll admit there were plenty of times that I found myself skidding the bike and scraping the edges. But the more I honed my body awareness and focused my energy on a balanced turn, the more comfortable I felt picking my way through some of the more challenging areas of our resort.
The Type I bike I rented comes equipped with small pegs in the lower middle of the frame. What I learned towards the end of my lesson is that by placing my feet on the pegs and off the snow I was still able to make beautiful turns and maintain full control. Not to say that I didn’t plant my feet back down from time to time, but it was interesting to experiment with the different riding variations the equipment offered.
On the whole, my takeaway from the sport is that it’s less aerobic than alpine skiing or snowboarding and therefore much more enjoyable for those looking to have a relaxing day on the slopes. It’s also a means down the mountain that can be enjoyed by people of practically any age or experience level. Justin explained that some of his best clients have been those in their 60’s looking for ways to keep up with their grandkids and enjoy being together during a day on the mountain.
If you’re interested in seeing for yourself just how much fun snowbiking can be, I’d recommend looking into SNOWBIKE LESSONS offered daily on the mountain. Three hour lessons run $80 and well worth the investment. Snowbikes can be rented from STEAMBOAT SKI & SPORT.
So give it a try the next time you’re in Steamboat. If you can go 3 hours without smiling a huge toothy grin by the end, I’ll personally refund your money.
Dave Wittlinger, Alpine skier
Dave Wittlinger is a 20+ year local who moved to Steamboat Springs “for one season” and never left. Married with kids, David enjoys exploring everything this community has to offer and playing in the mountains four seasons of the year.