SkiBike Tour 2015-16 - La Clusaz

Posted: Sunday, 17 January 2016 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

I had planned to have one or two mellow solo rides to end the season, but instead found myself heading off to La Clusaz to re-join Thierry and Stephane, why? Because although La Clusaz has been skibike friendly for a number of years, this season the skibike restrictions on (almost) all of the chairlifts have been lifted. The arrival of plenty of fresh snow meant that we would need no excuses to see how this principal would translate into practice.

La Clusaz - the arrival of fresh snow meant we would need no excuses

As locals Thierry and Stephane were guiding me I had only a rudimentary awareness of the route we took. But I spotted some odd anomalies which you need to adjust to at La Clusaz. For example, the Telemix Etale which has both chairlifts and gondolas running along the same cable requires you to be in the gondola section, presumably because you are classed as a pedestrian.
At other chairlifts the lift operators wanted you to travel alone, or as a pair. I think one wanted the skibike on the chair, inside the safety bar, proper old skool leper style; skibiker unclean, unclean, unclean.
It all harked back to the way things were at other ski stations five years ago whilst they were adjusting to a new and strange skibike rhythm. Hopefully as this season progresses the poor lifties will loosen up a little, much as they have done elsewhere.

Hopefully as the season progresses the lifties will loosen up a little

For nostalgic reasons I was quite keen to see the Le Fernuy side of the mountain, as it was one of the first places in France I ever took my skibike to. Le Fernuy was the first area at La Clusaz to open up to skibikes as a niche activity. At the time I stuck to the pistes exclusively, but now appreciate that this quiet back mountain area has some very extensive and expert off-piste riding available, much of it way above my skill level. As if to force the point home, Thierry and I discovered some of the most amazing pockets of untrammelled powder snow just off to the side of the piste.

La Clusaz - amazing pockets of powder just off the piste

So I am very pleased to report that it's all working out just fine at La Clusaz.  It's not a place I would normally have considered to go skibiking, it's just that little bit further than the Portes du Soleil for me to get to. But I can now see that with the new chairlift options, La Clusaz is really quite a substantial resort of which I had only scratched the surface previously.

SkiBike Tour 2015-16 - Call Of The Pow

Posted: Wednesday, 13 January 2016 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

So for the last three days we had waited for a weather window in order to visit to the glacier above Kaprun. This, our last day in Austria, was to be our final opportunity for Thierry, Stephane and I to answer the "Call of the Pow" and see whether the stories we had head of vast powder fields high above the clouds were true. As the morning dawned there were patches of blue sky between the clouds and you could even see the sun, was today going to be our bluebird day?

Zellermoos dawn - was today going to be our bluebird day?

The Kitzsteinhorn base station is just up the road from Kaprun, itself no more than ten minutes from Zell am See. The base station sits in a deep gorge of monumental proportions served by either of two possible cable car systems; which is just as well, because once you are up in the glacier bowl the only other way down would be by helicopter.

Kitzsteinhorn - two cable car systems, the only other way down is by helicopter

We were warned at the base station that it was going to be windy at the top, I have survived Scotland, but there was little to prepare us for the sheer brutally once we arrived.

When we got to the first chairlift the cross winds were trying to wrench my skibike out of my grasp as it balanced precariously below me. The temperature was -9 degrees and with the wind the conditions were truly Arctic in nature. We managed a few runs struggling to see anything beyond a dozen metres. Without any vegetation for reference I was watching out for tiny bits of debris on the piste, just to be able to gauge my speed and direction.

The extreme cold forced us to seek the comfort of the Krefelder Hutte and some gluhwein before reconsidering our decision to remain in such hellish conditions. The forecast was bleak, with more gusty winds predicted, today was just not going to be our day. As if to add insult to injury the skies would clear tonight and tomorrow was going to be sunny and bright; someone else would be in for an amazing bluebird day tomorrow, how typical!

The forecast was bleak, today was just not going to be our day

We retreated down the valley to the relative calm of nearby Maiskogel covered by the same lift pass.

Admittedly we did find some good accumulated powder at the top of the mountain, but unfortunately horrendous ice further down. In short, it was the worst slope I have ever ridden, it didn't matter what technique I tried, none of them worked. For the very first time since the start of the Blog in 2009 I called it quits at 3.30 whilst the lifts were still running. Leaving Thierry as the last surviving member of our clique to answer "The Call of the Pow".

Stephane LeMaitre - Call of the Pow

SkiBike Tour 2015-16 - Leogang

Posted: Tuesday, 12 January 2016 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

This morning Wayne headed back home and poor Stephane claimed his right to a duvet day leaving myself and Thierry to explore Leogang another resort in spitting distance of Zell am SeeLeogang is as well known for its bike park as for its ski resort, so it should come as no surprise to find that it is a skibike friendly destination too.
Our starting point was the Steinbergbahn cable car station at just up the road from Leogang village and about 20 minutes from Zell am See. The Steinbergbahn was to all appearances totally brand new this season, there has clearly been massive investment in this area, if only we had the drive and confidence to do the same in Scotland how different it would be.
We found ourselves at the summit of the Kniestichkogel with the option of following the 88 blue run for an easy warm up. Disappointingly this turned out to be yet another icy mess, so we hastily sought some uplift via our first chairlift. I tentatively asked the operator if this would be OK and his quick witted reply was "Just so long as you have paid for a lift pass". Clearly there were going to be no issues with skibikes on chairlifts at Leogang.

We found a much better run down through the trees on pistes 87 & 92; then the heavens opened  and there was plentiful fresh snow everywhere. After so many days of wrestling my skibike for control, skittering and grinding across boiler plate hard ice, it was pure joy to get back that floating sensation, gliding silently across grippy snow. Unfortunately there was insufficient cover to go the whole way down to the valley floor. Assuming winter arrives at some point in 2016, later in the season this run is going to be something special.

Die Alte Schmeide - The Old Blacksmiths at Kniestichkogel

We stopped for lunch at Die Alte Schmeide a quirky museum restaurant full of ancient artefacts. Thierry was no doubt precisely aware of the; name, purpose and function of each and every one of the blacksmiths tool on display. Unfortunately he was a bit too distracted for discourse thanks to the view of all the waitresses wandering around in Lederhosen. French may be the language of love, but Austrian German is most definitely the language of sexy.


After lunch there was a tiny break in the weather with the odd glimpse of blue sky that allowed us to head further across the ridge. On the chairlift we held on to our skibikes grimly, as the wind tried its hardest to wrench them from our grasp and allow the mountain to claim them as its own. I normally find the skibike leash a bit of a faff, but now regretted not having it on me.
Our perseverance gave us the opportunity to head into a glorious powder bowl between the Grosse Asitz and Kleiner Asitz. With the temperature at -9 degrees and with massive wind chill, I managed to grab this hasty snap of his Lordship waist deep powder; but then couldn't get the camera back in my pocket or blue fingers back in their gloves. This 30 second moment was going to cost me three days of frost bitten fingers.

Powder at last - this hasty snap would cost me three days of frost bite

With the light failing rapidly, the wind rising and the weather generally closing in we headed back to the sanctuary of the Steinbergerbahn lift station.

Leogang proved to be as skibike friendly as its reputation, there were no issues at any of the chairlifts including one of the old ones which the operator dutifully slowed for us to allow easier loading. It is on the edge of the circuit that connects with Saalbach & Hinterglemm giving the option of huge touring potential, all be it in more clement conditions.

SkiBike Tour 2015-16 - Saalbach & Hinterglemm

Posted: Monday, 11 January 2016 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

I have heard a lot about Saalbach and Hinterglemm over the years for being the place in Austria to skibike. Blog commentator Sharon Shinwell highly rates it and Blog writer Wayne Richards has been taking his buddies round the area on skibikes for quite a few seasons now.

Saalbach and Hinterglemm occupy an area conveniently spanning the length of a wide valley, this topography allows for many easy skibike touring possibilities in a day. There are even links across to Leogang and Fieberbrunn which elevate the area on to 3 Vallees scale riding. The predominance of blue runs make the area a cruiser's paradise, whilst there are often red alternatives for the thrill seekers.
As it was only twenty minutes from Zell am See and we had a few extra days to spend in the area, it would have been churlish to miss such an opportunity. Wayne graciously offered to put his guiding skills to use on this, his last day in Austria.

Saalbach - sparse snow cover, just thin ribbons from the snow cannon

We started our day at Vorderglemm, little more than a gondola station and parking lot just down the road from the town of Saalbach. No doubt this is a handy access point into the network of lifts for day trippers and those denied the luxury of accommodation in the town centre. The sole uplift was via the Schonleitenbahn gondola. As can be seen from the image about there wasn't much snow on the hill when we arrived, just thin ribbons provided by snow cannon. But at least there was no shortage of parking spaces.

With sparse snow cover and a somewhat icy start to the day, some of the blue runs were much more tricky than you might have expected; both Thierry and Stephane conceded that some of these blues would have been graded red in France.
We worked our way over to the Kohlmaisgipfelbahn to head above Saalbach town itself then descended into the bustle of this attractive ancient conurbation.

Hinterglemm - some of the blue runs would have been graded red in France

After a short walk we took the Bernkogelbahn  heading up towards Hochalmspitze at the top of the valley. We had to change our route after encountering problems using the Spieleck and Hochalm chairlifts without foot skis. This seemed to be the only area with such chairlift issues and Wayne confirmed that this had been the case on his previous visits too.

We stopped for lunch, after which we very briefly met up with Andy Upsylon and Carl Day who, like us, had also decided to stay on after the EUSA Skibike Weekend and explore the area.

Unable to progress any further up this side of the valley, we dropped down to Hinterglemm and took the Zwolfer-Nordbahn to the summit of the Zwolferkogel. The weather was progressively closing in as the afternoon wore on, so we hurried home via the Schattberg and enjoyed the long 2b run back down to Vorderglemm in total whiteout conditions. Arriving back at our base covered from head to toe in snow and soaked through to the skin; tired, wet, but happy with our exploration of the area.

Final descent in whiteout conditions

Saalbach and Hinterglemm offer many kilometres of cruising potential. There is no shortage of gondolas and lots of modern, easy loading and large chairlifts; this is pretty much ideal for the modern freestyle skibiker. There are very few drag lifts and mostly for nursery slopes with the odd bit of expert terrain served by them. With a little bit of map reading you can get around the area unrestricted.

On a sunny day, sauntering down through the woods redolent with the smell of pine trees would be a delight at Saalbach and Hinterglemm.

EUSA SkiBike Meeting - Part 2, The Bad Bits

Posted: by Waynemarlow in Labels: , ,

At the start of part 1 I asked a few questions:

  • Is the sport producing mass produced bikes suitable and reliable enough to go into the future?
  • Will the bikes themselves be sassy enough to make the younger BMX rider or ageing rocker desire to give them a go?
  • Will we, as a sport, fit into the lift company’s slot of taking our money in exchange for a day’s lift pass and create no more cost to the lift company than that of a skier?

Will we, as a sport, fit into the lift company's slot? - source Thierry Avrillon

Sorry guys and girls, without pointing fingers at anyone manufacturer or group, sadly I feel we are failing in almost all of the above questions. It was very evident from the assembled skibikes on view and I include the majority of home builds in this as well, that we are really in first generation design mode, having not yet worked out the solution of design to fit harmoniously in with the skiers and lift systems as well as the basic needs of getting around the mountain.
As soon as you see skibike front skis being taken off to ensure the bike fits into a 6 man gondola you know there’s a problem. When you see 10 skibikers in a group taking up 10 gondolas in a row, then you know skiers will get fed up waiting and the lift company’s eyebrows being lifted. When you see standard bike frames labelled as a commercial skibike, then after all these years, why have we moved forward so little in our design thinking?

Why have we moved forward so little with our design thinking?

So why is this the case? Yes there are economics, the standard bike frame is made in huge numbers and skibikes are not, but unless we as a group come up with a solution that lets the ski lift company benefit from our presence ( by taking our hard earned cash for no more effort than a skier or boarder  ) then the sport is probably doomed to failure.
The current designs we have simply do not benefit the lift companies, but in most ways have a cost attached by increasing the man power required to get us to the top of the mountain. We will need to sharpen our design aims fairly quickly, or once numbers start building of bikes on the mountain, then be prepared to lose our right to be there, lift companies do not want extra hassle in increasing numbers. Certainly in my view, that scenario is rapidly approaching.

So why aren't the current designs morphing towards something better suited. From speaking to most of the designers and builders it would seem that two quite disparate historical design routes were taken. One from Skibob history, where contrary to North America, ski-bobbing in the 60’s was incredibly popular in Europe, these are highly tuned and engineered pieces of equipment that do a dedicated job, that of going about as fast as bullet being fired down the mountain doing the occasional turn. When the local champion ski bobber, talks of beating professional GS racers such as Hermann Maier by 1.5 seconds, down a GS course, then these things are exceptionally fast. So we see bikes such as the SledgeHammer with its leading edge forks and dedicated fine carving attributes.

SledgeHammer - fine carving attributes - source SledgeHammer

The other route is that of the Bull Skate and to a lesser extent, Lenz skibikes, where Snow Parks and jumping and tricks and all things exciting like flips are the design brief. Long travel to soak up the landings and quite heavy construction to take the impacts.

Yes these bikes do the things they are designed for, but how many people frequent only the Snow Parks and on an average can you carve down all the slopes, the answer is very few and no the majority time is spent sliding sideways on narrow paths and avoiding other skiers. I feel the manufacturers are missing the true large potential market, that of the average skier / skibiker who simply want to ride around the resort, this is the real market, not the niche Park skier or dedicated carver/racer.

So let’s look at a classic skibike that is changing and looking to the future. The Lenz Launch was the star of the manufacturer’s line ups for me,  if the high foot peg heights came down, put it on a diet, lose the long travel forks and suspension and lose the high price, then we might be just seeing a glimpse of the future. Lenz has been probably around as long as most and probably altered his designs year by year, the most,  you can see this is probably a bike that is slowly morphing by incremental design, to a point where it is starting to fit into its skiing and ski lift surroundings. I can remember the first Lenz designs that were big, bulky and had that real MotoX bike look, with its long seat. Look at the Lenz Launch now, much slimmer, much much smaller, tiny bike seat and starting to lose the long unnecessary suspension travel.

If the number of skibikers grow, we are going to have to change our designs

So here it is, the blunt truth guys and girls, if the number of skibikers continue to grow, we are going to have to change our designs to be able to participate in the lift system of the future. If we don’t then I think it’s probably not unreasonable of the lift companies to simply say no. We have to be able to load the bikes forward facing on chairlifts, either beside or as some do, between their legs. Already that is possible as with the three companions one skibike with, we load four riders onto a four man lift. We have to get a minimum of three riders and skibikes in a six man bubble gondola, get the design right and it is possible, again we load four bikes or two bikes and three skiers into one six man gondola. This is just simple good engineering design, it’s not difficult, but unless we get these key points right, then don’t expect to be welcomed by the ski companies, many of who are trying to cut manpower and costs back.

EUSA SkiBike Meeting - Part 1, The Good Bits

Posted: by Waynemarlow in Labels: , ,

Well what can we say other than the first EUSA Skibike meeting was a great success, putting all those names to faces and discussing the merits of the sport we love to participate in. For the first time we had participation in numbers at a single resort. It really showed with the general enquiries from people who had never seen, nor been offered to have a ride before; all taking up the offer of having a quick play on the bikes at base station. Kudos and thanks to the participating manufacturers SledgeHammer and BullSkate for offering up their skibikes in numbers for people to play on, often for days without charge and going the extra mile to ensure everyone had a great time.

Thanks to BullSkate & SledgeHammer for their sponsorship

So for me it wasn't just the faces and characters, but what about the hardware such as the frames and skis, is the sport producing mass produced bikes suitable and reliable enough to go into the future? Will the bikes themselves be sassy enough to make the younger BMX rider or ageing rocker desire to give them a go?  Will we as a sport fit into the lift company’s slot of taking our money in exchange for a day’s lift pass and create no more cost to the lift company than that of a skier? Have we now narrowed down a method of teaching newbies just like the ski federations?

Will the skibikes be sassy enough to make the BMXer give them a go? - source Maria Boyerl

It’s at this stage I have to confess coming away both elated by the sheer numbers of skibikes being sold and also being converted from existing frames, but also abjectly disappointed in the way we as a sport are not learning about the designs of the skibike. In particular having to conform to the lift system and the requirements of the one thing which our sport is so dependent on, that of the lift companies.

So let’s split this report into halves. The Good and the Bad. First the good...

On the home built Ski Bike front, I saw some really nice and well thought out bikes around the slopes, typically downhill or Enduro bike frames that had very low and simple rear end designs, with Alpine Skibikes style or similar ski adaptors, there were others that were total one off designs purely designed to fit the lifts and to mimic skiers in the way they were skied around the mountain. These dedicated skibikes certainly seem quite some way ahead of the manufactured designs and even the best of the mountain bike based designs seemed equal to the job of getting around the mountain, compared to their commercial brothers. Choose your frame carefully and choose your ski adaptor, choose your pegs, get the type of ski right for your needs and you will have as good as most commercially manufactured skibikes out there, at least at this stage of our evolution.

Self built skibikes - as good as most commercially made skibikes - source Maria Boyerl

It was really interesting for me to look closely at so many different bikes and how they influenced the riding styles. It’s clear to me now, that although going a circuitous route of learning, the end result is the same style. Stood up, balls of their feet on the pegs with slightly bent knees, leaning forward slightly and simply using weighting on individual feet on the pedals, to short swing down the slopes. Equally for the sitters there seems a developing style which ends with the rider sitting low down, downhill foot swinging forward to initiate the turn and then once going through the fall line, pressuring the uphill peg to carve the bike through the turn. It’s all a bit slow motion compared to the “stand up” guys but it gets down the mountain safely, but limited by the steepness of the slopes.  

All of the best riders on anything that was a little more technical such as poor conditions or steeper slopes, all rode the same way. Without talking or discussing the technique, simply the ergonomics of riding skibikes and the bio mechanics of the human body, have meant we have all ended up riding the same way. It was interesting for me personally to be told by a following ski biker, that from behind, I look the same as a skier would, taking the same lines and with same feet together relaxed looking style of a very good skier. That one comment I felt, meant that I personally am heading in the right direction.

The ergonomics / bio-mechanics result in the same style of riding - source Maria Boyerl

We had pretty difficult conditions whilst at Zell am See with lots of artificial snow and quite hard icy pistes in places at the end of the day; with large clumps of swept snow on a very hard artificial snow base and quite technically difficult conditions on the steeper home runs where the amount of traffic had destroyed the pristine surface of early morning. These are the conditions that show every fault in the rider and show every fault in the frame design. Would the design of any one particular style of bike be preferred on this technically demanding snow. By the end of the three days of watching and listening, yes almost exclusively these runs were being made on the smaller bikes with lower peg heights, least suspension travel and with typically wider skis. Now that surprised me in some ways.

The other question I asked myself was there a particular style of skibike which the rider spent more time on with a grin on their face. Again the smaller, the lighter and lower the bike, seemed to be ridden the most. Again that surprised me in some ways where I would have thought the longer travel bike based units which have had so much time honing their ergonomics to suit the human body, would have won through. Equally the sit on high rider style that carve everywhere, were just no equal to these type of conditions due to the high COG and limitations of the skis getting a good edge.

Was there a skibike which the rider spent more time with a grin on their face?

So not wishing to raise such a contentious topic, but this topic certainly was the winner of everyone's  thoughts and had probably the most discussion of all. Skibike brakes, oops it's in the press now. SledgeHammer has come up with a very light weight quite small ski brake for its line of skibikes. My first initial impression was that the “teeth” were so small as to be pretty ineffective. But on the second day I was asked to teach two absolute novices and one guy who had done one day of ski biking. On one of the bikes was such a brake.
Now bear in mind that the conditions were quite hard and slick, it was immediately obvious that the skibike with the brake was preferred and watching carefully it seemed that the brake wasn't actually “braking” the bike, but instead simply pulling the rear ski tighter into the snow allowing the ski edge to work better and truly carve. Also with the small tooth in the snow it gave total stability to the novice allowing them to balance and feel more secure, where as without, the rear ski could be seen to be sliding outwards off its edge, at every opportunity. 

Skibike brakes - oops it's in the press now - source SledgeHammer Skibikes

One has to temper my enthusiasm a little as the SledgeHammer design has probably the highest of COG of all the bikes, has evolved from Skibob design and really needs to be carved everywhere meaning long radius turns. Together with the snow conditions, meant that the frame design was really not in a good place with novices on board.  However those small brakes by day 3 had given so much confidence that on a red run that was 25mm fresh snow over almost ice like base, I had one of these novices following me about as though it was perfectly normal to be skiing over such horrible conditions.
Proof is in the action and I have to say for all my doubts on braking systems, these small bladed units seem to help the novice immensely over difficult conditions. But I do need to repeat, that they suit the particular skibike, would they suit all, I guess we need to make a few on other bikes to test the theory. From watching also other riders on other types such as the Firem system, progress from beginner to expert, the brakes get ditched quite early on as simply becoming redundant and not needed as one gets the hockey stop and sideways flick of the rear ski, to slow down.

So that’s the good bits, we are healthy, numbers are building fast, we seem to be adopting a method of riding, both stood up and sitting, knowledge is becoming more universal and the lift companies are more aware of our needs.

SkiBike Tour 2015-16 - EUSA Skibike Meeting Conclusion

Posted: by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

So this first ever meeting of the European Skibike Association was most definitely a bitter sweet experience.

The sweet side was meeting so many skibikers in the flesh who had only been identities on the internet before. I had been forewarned that there would be some real freaks, weirdos and deviants present and all I can say is "Hallelujah" I have finally found my tribe.

I have finally found my tribe - source Martin Schwaigert

There was also the added joy of riding with so many people who have been part of this Blog since its very outset, all at the same time and in the same place. In some ways it was overwhelming, I prefer such pleasures to be savoured rather than consumed in a glutinous feast.

The bitter part would be seeing one of my closest friends bent and broken in hospital. Inwardly wishing that I had never shown him the skibike I had built, sat on my patio on a sunny day oh so many years ago.

Furthermore I still haven't fully recovered from the crash encountered during the 4 Glaciers Express tour. I have been forced to ride defensively as each fall is like a mini explosion, I hate riding like a geriatric. I want my mojo back.

The joy of riding with people who have been part of this Blog from its outset

SkiBike Tour 2015-16 - EUSA SkiBike Meeting Day 3

Posted: Sunday, 10 January 2016 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

Today was supposed to have been a joyous final day, but sadly misfortune and disaster befell our group when my friend Caspar, who had been doing so well for the last two days, took a fall and broke his leg.

There was a lot to do and arrange in a very short space of time; skibikers are a fraternity and we look out for each other.

Above Zell am See - photo Carl Day

SkiBike Tour 2015-16 - EUSA SkiBike Meeting Day 2

Posted: Saturday, 9 January 2016 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

This morning all of the beginners were given free time to practice their freshly honed skills which gave myself and Thierry our first chance to ride with Wayne Richards. The skiing area at Zell am See isn't huge and yesterday we had be hemmed into a small area deemed the most suitable for the beginner skibikers. This morning was our opportunity to break free and explore. So we headed down through the woods above Zell am See along a charming path shown on the piste map simply as 5 and 5b towards the Sonnenalbahn cable car.

From this point we could use the Sonnkogelbahn chairlift to reach the summit. The area was reminiscent of the ski stations of Scotland rather than Austria, with a rounded and undulating character with plenty of rough grass and scrub nestled between the pistes.
The snow was much softer than elsewhere at Zell am See and in places a delight to ride, we managed a few circuits but had to head back towards the main group for lunch.

The restaurant was quite a sight to see, with skibikes outnumbering the mainstream winter sports apparatus stacked nearby. At lunch Peter joined me and I took him on a repeat of the morning's route to the "secret" mountain area which had become even softer and slushier by this time.

Skibikes outnumbering the regular winter sports apparatus

In the evening we met for the official EUSA dinner, held at a Kohlschnait Lodge which has its very own illuminated sledge track. In the UK this would have meant a 50m grassy bank, but here in Austria it goes half way up a mountain and is 3 Km long.

A tractor and cattle wagon are the sole uplift, with sledges hung off the front forks and the the guests in cattle class behind. The meal was a meat grill affair composing a selection of finely sliced cuts for you to grill at your table. For weirdos like me who are vegetarian (I'm pescetarian if you have to split hairs) the options were baked potatoes, or baked potatoes and salad. The Kohlschnait Lodge also has it's own craft brewery and the product slipped down very smoothly.

Kohlschnait Lodge - ok who doesn't want beer? source Tim Brooking

With the meal completed, we were assigned sledges and headed down the sledging track to our taxis. Seeing some of the drop-offs to either side I was fairly nervous about the arrangement, but for the younger at heart it was a hoot.

SkiBike Tour 2015-16 - EUSA SkiBike Meeting Day 1

Posted: Friday, 8 January 2016 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

The moment had finally arrived, today was day 1 of the EUSA SkiBike Meeting. The meeting place was the Areitbahn I lift station where a number of SledgeHammer Skibikes were stored all ready for the demo rides.
Peter, now fully warmed up from our ride on Wednesday went off to join our very own blog writer Wayne Richards, who had agreed to shepherd all the novice and beginner riders.

Meanwhile I had time to spend with my friend and work colleague Caspar, who having said that he "must give this skibiking lark a go" for far too long, had finally made it and was raring to go.

We started with some basic drills on the nursery slope, which he quickly got the hang of and was soon eager to get up the hill to try some more testing terrain. We went to the top station at Areitbahn III, well above the gloomy morning mists and enjoyed the blue cruising runs down to the middle station at Arietbahn II. Caspar even managed a couple of red runs, quite an achievement for his first day on a skibike.

Caspar - "must give this skibiking lark a go"

All the skibikers gathered for lunch to swap stories of their morning's adventures; after which local skibiker Maria Boyerl set up an action photo shoot. This was followed by some group riding till the close of play.

Action photo shot time - source Maria Boyerl

In the evening we headed off to the Bistro di Mare, a local fish restaurant, not a dish you would expect to find in such a landlocked country as Austria, but delicious all the same.

SkiBike Tour 2015-16 - EUSA SkiBike Meeting, Day 0

Posted: Thursday, 7 January 2016 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

Today; Thierry, Stephane, Peter and I made the long drive from Geneva to Zell am See in Austria in order to attend the first ever EUSA SkiBike Meeting. This will be the first time that both enthusiasts and manufacturers of freestyle skibikes from all across Europe will meet in the same place and at the same time.

The first ever freestyle skibike event for the whole of Europe

Allowing for refuelling and rest stops it was a good 9 hours from Geneva and 11 hours from Thierry's home at St. Jean de Sixt, just down the road from the resort of La Clusaz.
It never looks that far on a map, I mean Mongolia is kind of close, right? But in effect the distance was almost the same as driving to London, to put things into perspective. Fortunately for us, our transport was to be Thierry's monster Dodge Ram pick-up and not my Ford Fiesta.

We left Geneva in mild conditions and drove through the rain all the way to Austria where things started to get decidedly chillier. We entered one of Austria's many long motorway tunnels only to emerge into "Narnia" on the other side.

Emerging into "Narnia"

The only downside of making a long distance trip in a monster Dodge Ram pick-up, with a 5.7 litre V8 petrol engine, is the fuel cost. Thierry has amortised this somewhat by having his converted to run on liquefied petroleum gas or L.P.G. for short, which sells for €0.5/litre in France.
Austria has no shortage of petrol stations, but those that sell L.P.G. and of precisely the correct flavour are not so common. Perhaps I should have got more involved in the efforts of the re-fuelling committee, but I sensed trouble when Thierry asked me, "Innsbruck, is it a big town?"
We found our fuel stop eventually thanks to; three navigators, two satellite navigation systems, and one very long suffering chauffeur.

Refuelled, the Kilometres rolled by and before I knew it we were in Zell am See and with just enough time for a pint and a pizza before bed.

SkiBike Tour 2015-16 - Morillon Warm Up

Posted: Wednesday, 6 January 2016 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

Peter has been a long time contributor to discussions on The SkiBike Blog Facebook Group. His skibike experience had been limited to a few days riding a Firem VS skibike at Grand Bornand some years back. I had warned him that some might question his skibiking acumen on discussions, when only based on such limited data.

Yesterday Peter did the honourable thing and jumped on a jet from Bristol to Geneva; tomorrow he will be joining myself, Thierry and Stephane as we head off to the European SkiBike Weekend in Austria.
Today we enjoyed a gentle warm up session, cruising around some the gentler family runs that the Morillon end of the Grand Massif has to offer.

Peter adjusted to my skibike very quickly

We chose the sweeping Sairon run for our first descent, once past the steep top section it was strictly easy riding back down to the base station at Morillon 1100. Peter adjusted to my number two skibike very quickly, especially considering his lack of experience, so after refreshments we headed over to Les Carroz.

We eventually worked our way right over to Les Molliets, skirting the border with Flaine where skibikes have been banned from the chairlifts for the last couple of years. I am pleased to report that although Peter had his odd tricky moment, he survived unscathed and eager to see what adventures our trip to Austria will bring tomorrow.

Sairon piste - Morillon

SkiBike Tour 2015-16 - Back On The Road

Posted: Monday, 4 January 2016 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

So the 2015-16 SkiBike Tour is back on the road. I couldn't resist the opportunity to stop at the Col de la Faucille on the way in to Geneva and check out all the fresh snow that has fallen in the last couple of days.

I was expecting a wet slushy mess, but the micro-climate in this tiny corner of the Jura mountains has already provided a tidy covering of squeaky snow.

La Faucille - needs just two more days of snow and it will be ready for skibiking

A couple more days of this and the resort could be open once again for skibiking.

Sold - Winter X Bike SkiBike Conversion Kits - £136

Posted: Saturday, 2 January 2016 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,


It is said that every cloud has a silver lining. Some recent health issues gave me cause to take advantage of the services of Dr. Robert, Croydon's very own skibiking chiropractor. To say that he is a skibike enthusiast would be an understatement, his passion borders on obsession.

My visits gave him a good reason to dig out some new old stock original Winter X Bike skibike conversion kits which he had bought as a batch but never got round to installing all of them. If you are new to the skibike scene you may not be aware that Winter X Bike was the first iteration of Matt Hanson's designs, these have since been re-branded as Alpine Skibikes.

On offer is one complete kit, including the skis and foot pegs; furthermore there is a second set of adapter triangles only.
These adapters are the first generation model, so you they have 9mm axles, although you can still buy adaptors from Alpine Skibikes to run 15mm and 20mm through axle style forks too. The rear axle length is 170 mm with spacing of 135 mm for the rear triangle.

For Sale - Winter X Bike skibike conversion kit

The labelling on the packaging dated these units to 2005, none have been used, but they have been stored for a decade in a loft.
As a result there is light corrosion on the plated parts and ski edges. You could clean this off with metal polish if their appearance was that offensive to you. I would have done this myself but the demands of the blog tour made it impossible before departure day.

Light corrosion on the plated parts from a decade of storage

The aluminium parts are all in mint condition and very sparkly!

Dr. Robert doesn't want these parts sold off at yard sale prices, he would like the equivalent of the price these parts would cost if bought in the USA at today's prices. For US based readers of this blog it would make no sense to buy these parts; but for European Union based members these prices will be a substantial saving over the regular price. Anything imported from outside of the European Economic Area is subject to courier fees, handling fees, import duties @ 2.5% of the net value and VAT @ 20%. Do the mathematics, this is a good deal.

Adapters only - £136 or €186

The cost for the complete kit of adapters, skis and foot-pegs will be £340 or €465 - SORRY NOW SOLD OUT - FOR NEW 2017 STOCK CLICK HERE.

The cost for adapters only will be £136 or €186 - ONLY ONE PAIR LEFT! This price includes delivery to a UK address. I can send to some European locations too, but please ask for a quote first as this could be quite a high sum. - SORRY NOW SOLD OUT - FOR NEW 2017 STOCK CLICK HERE

If you have any further questions, please leave a comment or send a message.


18/02/16 - The kit complete with skis is now sold.
06/11/16 - The kit is now sold.