Snow cycling at Winter Park Resort " the best of mountain biking and skiing
December 21, 2008
As a lamp strapped to my head illuminated the mountain, I leaned forward on my bike to accelerate, rotated my handlebars and carved my skis into the snow to slow down.
I haven’t been able to decide what I enjoy more, skiing or mountain biking, but on Saturday I had a chance to do both. Well sort of. It’s called snow cycling, a mix between mountain biking and skiing.
A small group of beginners, including myself, and a few Winter Park instructors took over the mountain at nighttime. We met at Winter Park Resort Rentals, at the base, and received short skis, hand warmers and a lamp to wear above our goggles.
Gondolas connected to the Zephyr Express lifted us to the top of the mountain. We placed our ski boots into the little skis, and sat on the bikes. After a few instructions and a demonstration we headed down the mountain. Instructor Forrest led us while Jack was positioned in the back; and Steve was wherever he was needed.
It was pitch black, but our lights beat back the darkness in front of us. The bikes had one large ski attached, and the small skis on our feet permitted us to turn and control our speed.
We stopped several times to regroup during the trail from March Hare to Village Way. On the second and third run, once we figured out what we were doing, we advanced to an intermediate trail and followed Cranmer to Village Way.
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It seemed like a whole new world in the dark. I’ve never been to the top of the mountain at night, and the views were incredible. At first I wasn’t sure how to slow down or stop, but it only took a few minutes for my mountain biking and skiing skills to kick in. I stood straight up while gripping my handlebars to gain more control and turn more easily. To gain more speed (or bomb it), I simply sat down, and lifted my feet off the ground.
The instructors were great. They made sure we had the right gear and helped secure our equipment. If we had trouble or reached a flat spot, they were there in seconds to assist or scoot us forward.
Once I could control my snow cycle, I was traveling at speeds faster than I would feel comfortable reaching on my skis. The open space also was a bonus. It was a great experience and a peaceful night ” and the most fun I’ve had at the mountain in a while. Once the lesson ended, I phoned friends I go to the resort with and informed them snow cycling is even better than it looks.
I’d have to say snow cycling is the best of both worlds ” skiing and mountain biking.
“I just can’t stop giggling when I do it,” said Dave Miramon, Winter Park Resort adult snowboard and ski bike supervisor. “I laugh nonstop. I even get to the point where I laugh out loud.”
Winter Park Resort started offering the night bike program two years ago, he said.
“It’s just a new way to slide,” Miramon added. “And a new, easy way to slide. Not everyone has to go through pain to learn how to ski bike … People just need to know they have exposure to it, and that they can come rent them here. People just think they’re not allowed to do it.
“It’s more of just being on a bike with no brakes, but it’s easier to skid around,” he said. “We have people who come with no experience on anything … If you’ve ridden a bike, it’s safe to say you could ride a ski bike.”
The bikes range from $600 to $3,000, he said.
“It was great,” Tim Chance, 42, of Scotland said. “It was a learning experience. (I) never felt like I was going to fall. I came with no preconceptions, but if I’d imagined it, it’d probably would have been pretty much like that.”
To be good at it he said you have to stay in control and not get freaked out, said Jack Ivey, 26, a ski and snowboard instructor.
“I’m stoked,” he said. “I’ve been on these a couple times, and I like to goof around.”
Victor Gesdal, 34, wants to keep doing it.
“It was excellent,” he said. “I have a torn ACL, and I had no problems whatsoever. It was great. It’s very easy, especially if you have skied before.”