What Is a Ski Bike? When Riding Means Sliding - Appalachian Mountain Club

What Is a Ski Bike? When Riding Means Sliding

November 14, 2016
Ski bike on! Photo: Leo-setä/Flickr
Leo-setä/FlickrSki bike on!

What happens when you fuse a bicycle and pair of skis into a single contraption? You get a ski bike (sometimes called a snow bike), an unusual hybrid approach for hitting the downhill slopes.

The idea is simple. Instead of putting wheels on a bike frame, you attach a pair of skis. For additional control, riders often also strap on a specialized pair of short skis, or “blades,” to their feet. The result is a fascinating mix of technologies and design.

One of the big advantages of ski biking is that it greatly reduces the amount of pressure and stress on riders’ knees—a plus for downhillers whose joints may have already taken a lifetime’s worth of pounding. The learning curve is also generally considered less than for regular downhill skis—a potentially less intimidating way for beginners to hit the slopes.

Ski bikes—and ski bike manufacturers—have been around for a number of years, mostly in Europe, but have been slow to arrive on U.S. slopes. Cost is certainly one reason—ski bikes easily run into the thousands of dollars, far more than all but the highest end ski set-ups, and that doesn’t even include the price of the specialized short skis for riders’ feet.

In the U.S., Colorado-based Lenz Sport offers a line of made-in-the-USA ski bikes, with prices ranging from roughly $2,000 to $3,000, depending on the model. In Europe, Brenter Snowbike has been making ski bikes for decades. (For a complete run-down, check out the Skibike Shop’s list of ski bike manufacturers.)

Most ski areas allow ski bikes, though exact rules vary by location. In New England, you can try out a ski bike at Pat’s Peak in New Hampshire, where ski bike rentals and lessons are available (an all-day starter package runs $89, including rental, lesson, and lift ticket).

Slide on!

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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.