Move over skiers and snowboarders … there’s a new way to get down the slopes.
Type II ski-bikes—not to be confused with the Type I snow bikes most resorts rent, where riders wear mini-skis on each foot—are fast gaining traction in ski towns, thanks to manufacturer Lenz Sport of Ft. Lupton, Colorado.
Lenz Sport, a maker of downhill mountain bikes, began dabbling in ski-bikes a few years ago, and has now perfected the design for downhill skiing, er, riding. The bikes weigh about 30 pounds, with models including the Alpine Brawler for all-around use, the Launch for freestyle and park riding, and the Blip for kids. Last year it made 40 ski-bikes, and this year it’s ramping up to make more, complete with its own line of early-rise half-size powder skis for the purpose.
Riders place their feet on pegs, balancing on two short skis fore and aft in place of wheels. The bikes employ up to eight inches of full-suspension travel, “turning a four-inch powder day into a 12-inch powder day,” says convert Josh Westfall. “You just put your feet on the pegs and take off. They go anywhere.”
Westfall should know. Last year he brought in six Type II ski-bikes to use as rentals at his home resort of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and he plans to increase his inventory for 2014. “It’s still in its infancy,” he says. “They have a tiger by the tail.”
Westfall and his followers, including local freeskier Aryeh Copa, have taken them down nearly every run at Steamboat, including the black diamond Chutes and backcountry of Fish Creek. Last year he got 50 days in on them.
Still, he admits adoption has been slow. “It’s still too new for mainstream acceptance,” he says. “Resorts aren’t quite sure what to do with them yet.”
Last year was the first year Steamboat and Vail allowed Lenz’s Type II ski-bikes on their mountains. The Pedal the Peaks bike shop in Durango has a fleet for use at nearby Purgatory, and Winter Park offers a rental fleet and even hosts informal biker cross and park events.
In Steamboat, they’re held to the same rules as skis or snowboards, only they’re not allowed in any park, says resort spokesman Mike Lane.
The sport is growing fast enough that it has a web site (www.ski-bike.org), complete with a list of resorts allowing them and a call out to events held last year, including New Mexico’s Sipapu Ski-bike Rally, the Purgatory Ski-bike Festival, and the Hoodoo Mountain Spring Fling in Oregon.
Their cult-like following stems from how fun and easy to ride they are. “It’s great for us old guys,” says Westfall’s dad, Don, 65. “I’ve had knee surgery and it’s way easier on your body than skiing or snowboarding.”
And their learning curve, adds Westfall, is quicker and less painful than that of snowboarding. “It’s super easy to learn,” he says.
Copa, a lifelong skier and mountain biker, is one of several local converts. “It’s like mountain biking, but you can go anywhere it’s white,” he says. “It’s mountain biking with choices you never had before.”
As for how they relate to more conventional Type I snow bikes, the ones with the tiny foot-skis, Westfall says there’s no comparison. “It’s a completely different sport,” he says. “Foot-skis have their place, but these are way more fun and capable. It’s part mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, dirt biking, and snowmobiling—a total Colorado sport. In the next five years it’s going to explode. It belongs in the X Games.”
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