London's Other D.I.Y. Skibikers In Austria

Posted: Tuesday, 29 March 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels:

Wayne Richards reports on an ill fated trip to Austria.

Had a really highs and lows time in Saalbach. Four started out and within an hour we were down to two. One with a broken wrist and the other with a pulled back muscle necessitating a two night stay in Hospital. All very sad and disappointing as the two who the trip was specifically aimed at were the two who were injured.

Both accidents were just that, accidents, the wrist a simple over the handle bars at speed and the other he was skiing across a traverse and said “oooh that hurt my back“. We stopped in a bar and by the time we had drunk a coffee and a beer, we had to get a taxi back for both. By the time evening came, his back had really seized up and by the morning it took an ambulance to get him out of bed. The wrist was swollen and looking black, mmm self diagnosis was a bone broken, attended the local clinic and sure enough a small bone had been dislocated and broken. Both are up and walking wounded at the moment but never the less it was not we wanted. Having sustained a further “superman ejection” the following day we realised just how much loading is on the wrists just as you are ejected from the cockpit and both of us bought snowboard wrist guards which seem to work well, highly advised.

As to the two survivors, a real blast, skiing an easy ( soft snow ) but quite steep black run on the last day and both amazed at how far we had got in the space of 6 days considering the poor spring snow conditions which ranged from ubber icy in the morning to soft corn snow in the afternoons.
Both have evolved different riding styles, one sitting easy rider style and the other standing on the pegs in true MX or Enduro bike style. Either seems to work but both have very different methodology in getting down. The Pegger style is straight down the fall line like a skier would, edging side to side with the rear ski and the other is more like a beginner skier linking traverse turns. Both seem to get there but the Pegger seems more able to handle the very short narrow bits better and even was able to follow a local skier for long periods in quite difficult ( more like wet concrete ) powder snow. We evolved a method for getting on and off the lifts which seemed pretty successful as well, as we could be ready at the same time as the skiers to drop the safety bar. The “lifties” were intrigued as one of the shops in Saalbach was selling the more conventional Ski bob and they hadn’t seen the Peggers before.

Saalbach, is a stunning resort and one I would put in my top 2 of the World that I have visited. The atmosphere is very friendly and the lifties perfectly used to skibikes.

Saalbach - Skibike Friendly

We flew out but the bikes went out with one of the guys car who drove. Our DIY skibikes pack down into a suitcase and we had planned to fly them out; two bikes plus a few spares, in one case including ski’s came to 24kilos ( the case is about 4 kilos on its own ) which put it into the oversized baggage category and hence the taxi was cheaper.

Get rid of the foot ski’s, at no time did we feel we needed them plus you will feel so much more comfortable on the pegs. I stand on the pegs the entire time ( that’s just what I am used to on Enduro bikes ) and developed a technique of just slightly weighting the downhill handlebar until the bike turned downhill and then transferred the weight into the inside peg, you can carve quite a nice turn. On steeper stuff it was just having the balls to almost go straight down the fall line unweighting both feet to unsettle the rear ski, weight ( slightly pull ) the down hill bar end and then steer the rear ski across the fall line with your feet, ending up with most weight on what has become the uphill peg ( angles the bike into the hill a bit AKA a skier ), as soon as the ski has scrubbed off a bit of speed, repeat the process the other direction. What I have described is exactly a “ short swing “ in skiing terms.

The other guy simply sat the whole time, he would traverse across the fall line, move the downhill foot forward and downhill, steer the front ski down hill, dab what is now the inside foot, skid the rear out to scrub a bit of speed off with his arse, foot back onto the pegs and off across the traverse. On about day 3 -4 he was no long having to dab his feet and could simply steer / weight transfer turn from traverse to traverse. He does struggle a bit more though on narrow paths and icy surfaces.

10 – 15 mph is really cool in the mash, simply blast through using long radius turns ( the total ski length is over 2 metres so you will not be able to do small radius turns ) works really well and we could stay on the slopes longer than our ski buddies.

The bikes although very different seem to have got through without breakage and both performed without fault, shame about the riders.