What Is Ski Biking? All You Need To Know About Snow Bikes

Winter sports take many different shapes. But apart from riding fat bikes on snow, it’s usually far removed from mountain biking. Riding a regular mountain bike on snow surfaces (snow biking) is simply very difficult and exhausting on two wheels and almost impossible to ride downhill. Unless you switch tires for skis. Enter ski bikes!

Ski biking, also known as skibobbing, is a winter sport that involves riding a bike with skis instead of wheels on snow. It’s mostly done on ski slopes using regular ski resort lifts and gondolas. The bikes are purpose-built, and feature a smaller frame and sometimes even suspension components.

It’s the perfect alternative for mountain bikers when downhill bike parks turn into ski slopes during the winter months. But although they may look similar, ski bikes are actually ridden very differently and take some time to get used to.

Let’s start with what makes these bikes so special in the first place.

ski biker side
Here’s a good look at a person riding a ski bike. This version has no foot-pegs, so the rider has skis on his boots.

Ski Bike Explained

A ski bike typically has a small frame and is equipped with skis that allow the rider to slide on snow. While visually similar to a regular bike, there are drastic differences like no pedals, gears, or brakes and a unique frame geometry. Ski bikes are purpose-built, not just bikes with skis for wheels.

Ski biking can be a fun and exciting way to explore the mountain and experience the mountain resorts in a different way. Maybe even your favorite bike park under a sheet of snow! It is also a good way to stay active and have fun during the winter months.

As a low-impact sport, It’s also suitable for people of all ages and ability levels, making it an inclusive and accessible activity. Ski biking is generally easier to learn than skiing or snowboarding and can be a great way to introduce people to winter sports.

Do Ski Bikes have brakes?

Snow bikes generally do not have brakes in the traditional sense. Instead, they rely solely on the skis to slow down or stop. To control their speed and direction, riders use their body weight and movements just like skiers and snowboarders do.

How to stop on a ski bike

To slow down and stop a ski bike, you can use the same techniques you would use on skis or a snowboard, such as carving turns or using your weight to create drag. Placing the skis perpendicular to the slope and applying pressure to the edge is how to stop.

Can you take a ski bike on a lift?

Most ski bikes can be taken on a ski resort lift. Chairlifts are ridden with the top tube and saddle placed on the chair and the front ski on the footrest. For gondola rides, the bike has to be taken inside and placed upright. A tow lift is the easiest to ride with the T-bar simply placed behind the saddle.

However, check the individual ski resort if that’s allowed to do. Technically, it’s possible but it’s still important to follow the rules and regulations of the resort.

Are ski bikes easy to ride?

Ski bikes are one of the easiest winter sports to learn since both hands and feet can be used to correct mistakes. Ironically, seasoned bikers may have initial difficulties breaking habits as they ride very differently from regular bikes. It feels like two-wheel drifting constantly. Experienced ski bikers ride standing up rather than sitting on the saddle.

Skiers and snowboarders, who are used to the sensation of gliding on snow and using their equipment’s edges to turn and slow down are at a clear advantage here. This is why I say it’s completely different from riding an actual bike, even on snow.

Since you’re riding what mountain bikers consider to be off-camber, balance is key. Sitting down may help on a ski bike while riding off-camber mountain biking trails sat down is definitely not recommended.

Ski bike vs regular bike

Riding a ski bike also requires a different set of skills than traditional biking. For example, you will need to use your body weight and balance to steer the ski bike, rather than using the handlebars to initiate a turn as you would on a traditional bike. You will also need to be able to carve turns and control your speed using your skis without any brakes.

Watch as pro mountain biker Joan Barelli learns to ride a ski bike.

Is ski biking safe?

Like any outdoor sport, ski biking carries certain risks and hazards similar to skiing and snowboarding. However, with proper safety equipment, rider precautions, and situational awareness, ski biking is a safe activity. Riding within one’s skill, knowing the risks and adjusting accordingly is important.

Ski bikers can dismount at any time to avoid uncontrollable accidents, unlike skiers or snowboarders. The biggest risk factor is that they’re always tethered to the bike so they could also get hit by it in a crash.

The tether is necessary to prevent the ski bike to ride downhill on its own. That being said, it usually falls over but the chance of it staying upright is there.

Here are a few steps you can take to reduce the risks associated with ski biking:

  1. Wear appropriate safety gear: Make sure to wear a helmet, goggles, gloves and other protective equipment like a back protector to reduce the risk of injury in the event of a fall or collision.
  2. Follow ski resort rules and guidelines: Familiarize yourself with the rules and guidelines of the ski resort you are visiting and make sure to follow them. This will help to ensure the safety of yourself and others on the mountain. Expect others to follow these rules, but ride defensively if unsure.
  3. Take lessons and learn from a professional: If you are new to ski biking, consider taking lessons from a professional instructor to learn the proper techniques and safety measures. Highly recommended for anyone new to a ski resort!
  4. Use caution and be aware of your surroundings: Always be aware of your surroundings and use caution when riding. Look out for other skiers, snowboarders, and ski bikers on the mountain, and give them plenty of space to maneuver. High-visibility vests increase the likelihood of being seen by others.
  5. Ride within your capabilities: Don’t overestimate your limits. It’s easy to point it down and go fast, but difficult to stay in control. Prevent getting overwhelmed and getting out of control. This endangers not only yourself but other skiers.
ski biker on snow
Point a ski bike downhill and you’ll pick up speed quickly. That’s why you carve turns like skiers.

By following these safety guidelines, keeping situational awareness and using common sense, you can help to reduce the risks associated with ski biking and have a safe and enjoyable time on the mountain.

With time and experience, you’ll learn what to look out for and adjust accordingly.

Why Snow Bike?

Snow biking is a fun and exciting way to explore the mountain and experience the thrill of skiing and snowboarding in a different way. It is suitable for people of all ages and ability levels and can be a great way to introduce people to winter sports.

Overall, ski bikes can be challenging to ride at first, especially for those who are new to the sport. However, with practice and proper technique, they can be a fun and exciting way to enjoy the mountain. As with any new sport, it is always a good idea to start slowly and to be aware of your limits. It is also a good idea to wear appropriate safety gear, such as a helmet, and to follow the rules and regulations of the ski resort.

Trail surfing of a different kind. There’s nothing els quite like it.

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