Snowbiking: Sport offers easier way to ride the mountain
February 16, 2017
Check it out
Where: Keystone Resort
When: Open for winter season
Cost: $60 for a lesson, rental and lift ticket (ticket valid for duration of the lesson), $49 for lessons and a rental and $40 for rentals.
What you need: Ski or snowboard boots, weather appropriate clothing
Reservations: Call for reservations at (970) 496-4386.
I've always been fascinated with snow sports.
Ever since I was 4 years old, I'd go skiing with my dad and my sister every weekend in the winter. When I was 13, I tried snowboarding for the first time. When I took my first snowboarding lessons, I saw a snow bike for the first time.
It has handlebars, like a normal bike, but it has blades instead of wheels. It didn't have brakes. I thought it looked terrifying, but for years I was curious.
This month, I finally decided to give it a shot. (With that, I completed the adventure bucket list I made when I was 13, so I'm open to suggestions).
“My instructor told me snow biking was easy to pick up even if you’d never been to the mountains before. We would see. .
At Keystone, you have to take a lesson and get certified before they let you rent the bikes and fly down the mountain.
Since I had no clue how to ride the bike or get it up the lift, that was fine by me. I called to reserve a lesson.
Everyone else in the lesson group bailed, so I scored a private lesson. I strapped the mini ski blades over my snowboarding boots before we got started. They were a bit awkward. Moving in them felt a lot more like ice-skating than skiing.
Keystone keeps the rental bikes near the Outpost Gondola at the top of the mountain, so my lesson began on top. I didn't yet have to worry about taking the bike up the lift.
We started on a bunny hill at the top of the mountain. I sat on the squishy, banana-shaped bike seat and waited for instructions.
My instructor told me snow biking was easy to pick up even if you'd never been to the mountains before.
We would see.
I sat on the bike. He used the mini ski blades to push himself forward while still sitting on the bike, so I did too.
Like skiing, your shoulders play a big role in which way the bike goes. To go faster, you point your shoulders down the mountain. To slow down or turn, you point your shoulders off to the side.
At first, I tried to direct the bike by twisting the handlebars, like on a normal bike. That didn't work very well. With snowbiking, it's all in the hips.
My instructor told me to pretend I was Shakira. I must admit that did help.
Using my hips to twist the bike and using the mini ski blades on my feet to balance, I was able to point the bike in the direction I wanted. This allowed me to make controlled turns and stop whenever I wanted — no brakes needed.
Making frequent turns helped control my speed, much like with skiing or snowboarding. I managed to get down the bunny hill without falling once.
Then came the lift. I was nervous about that part.
I tried downhill mountain biking for the first time last summer and struggled with the weight of the bike. I had a hard time loading it onto the lift by myself.
I worried the snow bike would pose some of the same issues, but the frame was light and easy to maneuver. I could lift the whole thing with ease.
I have about 18 years of snow sport experience between skiing and snowboarding. I've learned about edges and balance and it didn't take me long to figure out how it worked on a snow bike.
I didn't need to go into the lesson with that background experience. Generally, it's easy for people to pick up even if they've never done other snow sports.
It's great for folks on vacation who don't want to spend three days on the mountain getting banged up trying to learn how to ski or snowboard, a sport they probably won't try again for a year or two.
By the end of the lesson, I was able to go down some steeper blue runs. I was cautious the whole time and never went very fast, but I had a blast.
I grew up on Keystone's slopes, but this was different. I was sitting down, not standing up. I was nervous and excited to go down runs I could rip across on skis.
I learned then that sometimes all you need for a new adventure is a new perspective.
— Kelly Ragan writes for the adventure section at the Greeley Tribune. Want to share your story or suggest an adventure? Call (970) 392-4424 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.