Pre-Season SkiBike Lessons

Posted: Sunday, 24 March 2013 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , ,

Today brought an unexpected meeting with Mark Bayston, we've been swapping e-mail for the last few weeks but it wasn't my intention to meet face to face. Mark has been a keen skier in the past, but following complications caused by a car accident some years ago, he was recently told by his doctors not ski again.
Anyone who has fallen for the lure of snowsports would dread hearing such news and to make things worse a family ski trip for Easter was on the cards.

Mark began searching for an alternative snow sport and was surprised to see how much skibiking has evolved in just the last few years. Even better he was thrilled to see that his favourite resort of Les Carroz is now a popular "skibike friendly" destination. But with only a few weeks to go and faced with a dearth of local rental options, I offered to rent out one of my own skibikes. Simple and basic they might be, but they are a good tool to get around on and hone your technique.

I had planned to send the skibike to his work address by courier, so spent a good few hours sorting out a decent box, spares kit and packing method. I arranged a courier company only to find out the next day, when they were due to collect, that they won't transport bikes, how stupid is that? This was quite a curved ball, checking the calendar I realised that by the time and alternative service had been arranged and the collection made, he would be lucky to get the skibike on the day of his planned departure.

Call me cynical but I know that Murphy's Law would apply, there would be further unexpected problems and he would end up leaving for France empty handed. I hate disappointing people, so I suggested that we meet up at a mutually convenient location. Simultaneously, there was an extended spell of unseasonably cold weather, with substantial snow fall in a band from The Midlands heading North and extending right up into Scotland.

I made the bold suggestion that rather than meet at a motorway service station, why not find a suitable sledging hill and have a skibike session together? To my surprise Mark seemed quite keen on this idea, an enquiry on the RetroBike forum brought forth the immediate suggestion to try Darley Park in Derby.

Mark Bayston - on the pegs

I set off painfully early at 7:30 on Sunday morning and made the chilly trip North on deserted roads, there was little snow to be seen at first, just a dusting over The Chilterns. But on the outskirts of Coventry, things began to look interesting, I took a wrong turn and found myself on a snowy road, and by the time I pulled up at Darley Park in Derby it was about 4" deep, not much by Haute Savoie standards, but pretty good for anywhere in the UK.

I made a quick recce on foot, the hill looked perfect, exactly the sort of Green Run you would choose to take a novice skibiker on. I headed back to the car, assembled the first skibike and when Mark arrived a few minutes later, he got to build the one he would be taking to France with him.

I then demonstrated how they can be easily carried over the shoulder and we set off for the hill. Straight away we practiced some "Throw a leg out" skidded turns, before moving on to the more tricky turns on the pegs. Amazingly Mark picked up on the technique quickly and there were none of the typical beginner crashes.

Pushing the skibike back up the slope repeatedly can test your lung capacity, so for a break we used a park bench to play "ride the chairlift". We then had another half a dozen or so runs before retiring to a stunning pub lunch.

None of the typical beginner crashes

After Mark's departure, I was tempted to go hunt out some nearby "steeps" so I made a gentle drive up the A6 North to Ashbourne in search of a bigger hill, with a plan to find a bed and breakfast overnight. Sadly there was not that much snow on the ground, a good deal had been scoured by high winds and deposited onto the road, some sections of which were reduced to single track. With a heavy heart I abandoned my quest, turned the car around and headed for home.

I really enjoy these backyard ski trips, they feel really sneaky, as if you are cheating in some way.