Hybrid Skibiking Day 1

Posted: Wednesday, 6 April 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

To be in some of the best and most challenging terrain that Europe has to offer on a machine you have only ridden before for an hour or so left me with a feeling of dread that I haven't experienced since the first time I came to these mountains as a novice skier. I was genuinely apprehensive as to what my first day on the Firem VS would bring and I confess I was tempted to leave it in the car and bung on some SnowBlades.
I have envied those who can ride in the "pegger" American style, but have never got it to work on steeper slopes.
I wasn't sure whether riding in soft boots without footskis would even be allowed and after the run in with the lift operators yesterday, I really didn't want to push my luck any further.

I though it through at great length and decided to aim for "Hybrid Skibiking" i.e. use foot skis and hard boots but keep them on the pegs whenever feasible. This will probably make me an unwanted half-caste hated equally by both skibiker clans.
Serge from Firem will hate me for not riding his veloski as he expects it to be ridden and the SkiBobbers will hate me for choosing the very antithesis of their style of riding with over half a century of tradition behind it.

Luckily to access the main ski area required me to follow the piste down from the hotel to the main gondola station. At least this way I could get a sneaky private run in before performing in public. I carried the Firem VS down to the start of the piste, nervously mounted and set off. Because you sit so high you can't run both feet over the snow and Serge's words "This is not a Brenter you can't ride it like one" echoed in my head.

I sort of muddled my way down to the gondola station, took the lift operators by surprise by arriving on yet another skibike. But this one had the magic certification number on it and they let me pass. Trying to be as incognito as possible on the only skibike in Tignes I headed for the nearest and easiest blue run to try and work out how to ride it my way!

Firem VS - I hope we're going to be friends

The solution I found seemed so counter intuitive but works really well if you are converting over from more traditional types of skibob skibikes.
You try to ride with the footskis on the pegs at all times, but when the gradient seems too much and you need to turn to control speed, keep your DOWNHILL FOOT ON THE PEGS and GLIDE YOUR UPHILL FOOT over the snow with as little weight on it as is possible.
This worked a treat on a number of blue runs and as the day wore on I started to move on to the red runs.

When you get pegging right it is an absolute delight, it is so smooth, almost like floating on air.

It helps to keep your knees clamped together (brings back memories of dating Catholics) and your thighs gripping the frame, which oddly feels quite comfortable and natural.
Sometimes the ride is almost telepathic and at others weird shit happens. Quite small body movements can have a huge impact and the first time you feel the rear ski wanting to overtake the front it can be a little disconcerting. I think these dynamics are at work when you ride your traditional skibob, but the foot skis on the snow negate the effects.

The beauty of my method is that when things get odd I find myself slapping a foot ski on the snow for stability and recovering rather than crashing.

I had two bad dismounts from the chairlift where the Firem's longer front forks caused me to accidentally drag the front ski on the snow, tipping me off the chair and over the skibike. I am glad I have been wearing my helmet, I had a similar experience earlier in the year and being hit by a chairlift really smarts.

With aching forearms and in very slushy conditions I chose to call it quits at 3pm, I don't like skibiking on brown snow, that's just wrong.

I haven't got it badly wrong so far and am hoping that tomorrow I could actually start to enjoy it.

Tignes Espace Killy  - some of the best and most challenging terrain that Europe has to offer