Ski Biking at Vail

Ski Biking at VailLogo_Vail
by John Schneider

So… I am out in the mountains doing my Ski thing and living the dream. While in the snowy mountains Skiing is my thing. (Golf becomes my thing when the sun is shining on green grass, but that’s a topic for a different story.) I have tried boarding and it’s not bad, but why deviate from what you love? That, however, does not mean I’m willing to close my eyes to everything else out there. While getting ready for this year’s trip out west I scanned Vail’s website to see what that fantastic mountain and resort had to offer. That is where I stumbled upon ski biking and just had to give it a try. My partner in crime, George, and I headed up the Eagle Bahn gondola to see what it was all about. At Eagle’s Nest Adventure Ridge you can rent the ski bikes during the daylight hours or take a guided tour with the bikes in the evening. Wanting to get the full ski biking experience we choose the guided tour. Our guide Jeramiah set us up with the equipment, provided a short lesson in ski bike steering and dynamics, and we were off. The Adventure Ridge staff are pros and had us outfitted and ready to play in minutes.

Vail’s Adventure Ridge is a playground on the mountain for both kids and adults who like to act like kids. Besides ski biking you can tryout a zip line, go snow tubing, jump around on the trampoline, or allow the kids to try out kiddie-sized snowmobiles. Today’s adventure, ski biking, is open to any person 10 years older with intermediate or better ski skills.

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Ski biking, as the name suggests is a cross between skiing and biking. You sit on a “bike” that has a ski replacing each traditional wheel. Like your bike at home, the back wheel, I mean ski, is fixed and the front ski turns from side to side guided by the handlebars. To offer complete balance you attach very small skis (12” or so) to the bottom of your ski boots and allow them to slide on each side of the bike like outriggers.

Instructions on how to ride the bike lasted only a few minutes. Basically the main concept is that you need to shift your hips out to kick out the back end of the bike. That kick-out creates a slide that you “turn into” to control both speed and direction. To me it sort of felt like when I was younger and driving my rear wheeled car in the snow. The back end is sliding back and forth but you keep in relative control. By the time we made it halfway down the mountain I had the knack of it and was testing the boundaries.

Vail offers a guided ski biking tour both during the daytime following the close of regular skiing and also at night. We jumped on the opportunity to extend our mountain time and signed up for the 7pm tour. The first run was in diminishing daylight, but after that we were cruising down the mountain in the darkness with lights artfully duct-taped to our helmets. This evening we were literally the ONLY ones on the slopes with the stars and moon shining our path. It’s hard to put a price on that; it just never happens.

Since the tour is run out of Eagle’s Nest we started and ended our runs at the Eagle Bahn Gondola located in the heart of Lionshead. The runs we took were mainly groomed blue runs that allowed for wide turns at whatever speed you felt comfortable with. Additionally we took one run in-and-out of the trees which tested our reflexes, nerves, and turning abilities.

Besides offering guided ski biking tours you can also rent the ski bikes and venture out yourself. Adventure Ridge offers full day and half day rentals and within a few minutes can get you on your new adventure. These bikes can be taken on almost all of the lifts and gondolas that Vail has to offer. That means that you can run around the full mountain with the ski bike just as you would with traditional skis or a board. While I am not ready to drop my skis, I would certainly entertain taking out a ski bike again. This was an experience that was both fun and exciting. My recommendation is that you give it a try the next time you are in Vail.

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Published April 2015

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