I used to be quite into cycling, whether it was BMX as a kid or a little bit of road cycling as I got older (which in reality was mostly cycling between village pubs) but one type of cycling that has never taken my fancy was snow biking.
Not least because you hardly ever hear or see about it but just the fact it makes you look like an idiot.
During our ski season in Zell am See I spent plenty of time on the chair lifts looking down between my skis at these ‘idiots’ as I prepared to do what the mountain was really intended for.
Snow bikers to me looked out of control, people to be very wary of on the piste and a hazard to skiers and snowboarders. Despite all these feelings, if you ask me if I want to try snow biking for free as part of my job of course I am going to say yes. After all, who doesn’t want the chance to be an idiot for a day.
Before the mayhem began.
If you’ve not seen them, then snow bikes are exactly what you’d guess they are. BMX style bikes with ski’s in place of the front and rear wheels. The hardest bit of snow biking is strapping on the extra blades that go on your feet, these attach to normal ski boots but without bindings they are a little bit tricky to get right.
“Just turn the bars like you would on a normal bike to change direction”
I hope you were paying attention because that’s the end of lesson 1 of 1 on how to conquer the mountain on a snow bike. The real lesson comes however during your first few turns as you try to work out what the hell you’re doing without killing anyone on the way down.
My tips for your first time on a ski bike
- Providing you can ski – use the small blades on your feet just as you would on skis to help you turn until you get more comfortable.
- Don’t (yes, don’t) use the handle-bars to turn, swing your back end out to turn using your body weight on the seat. We all felt much more in control when doing this as opposed to turning with the bars.
- Be confident – it’s actually very hard to fall off a snow bike because you have so many points of contact to the floor to keep you balanced.
It may look tricky but after 5 minutes everyone in our group (all ski reps) felt comfortable on the bikes and we’d even started to race each other and mess around a bit, it wasn’t a work day after all. A sign of just how easy it became is that we were all going down a black run (the steepest) within 20 minutes of getting started. We took the bikes down a slalom course, a fun park and just about every run on the mountain by the time the day was done.
Safety device? Horn.
This is the main benefit of snow biking. Anybody, even on their first day on a snow bike can cover a much greater distance than on skis or a snowboard. Perfect if you have limited time or want to cover a very large ski area and still get to see everything in a short period of time.
As for my previous concerns about these idiots being out of control and a danger to other mountain users, it could well be the opposite. Even with a large group of us travelling together we had no close calls with anyone else on the pistes. We admittedly flew down the runs at quite high speeds but at no point were out of control or getting too close to anyone else.
I was wrong.
Snow biking is not something you’d want to do every day but it’s definitely worth a day of your annual ski holiday. Looking back at my season the day on the bikes is certainly up there as one of the highlights and I’ve already encouraged many of my friends to give it a go.
I know I’ll be doing it again at some point.
Have you ever tried snow biking? Would you?