You Must Try: Ski-biking at Night
“It says you have to be an intermediate skier, are we going to be okay?”
Asked my friend Nikki who hadn’t been out of the flatlands of Chicago in 10 years and was meeting me with her husband, who’d been on skis a whopping three times in his 40 years.
“Probably,” I smiled.
As true adventure-sport lovers, the weirder and more unique the activity, the more we needed to try it, despite any silly warning.
Being an average skier myself and having not biked in about 10 years, in Snowmass, that adventure was ski-bikiing. While a few different types of ski bikes exist (some with pedals, some with fat tires), we would be riding the safest variation, on two short blades clipped into our ski boots (which they kindly lent us) on what looked like a stationary exercise bike that just happened to have a ski attached.
With guided tours only available at Ullr Nights (Snowmass’s Friday night fiesta complete with live music and bonfire atop the mountain), not only is it terrifying to be learning a new sport on three blades, but you’re also doing it in the dark via headlamp. And to up the fear factor, dodging snowshoers and other obstacles along the way.
There’s very little learning curve and once you’re flying down the bunny hill a few times practicing your seated pizza and French fries, it’s off to the slopes. The trick is to scoot your butt back in the seat to stop while simultaneously digging your heels in the snow ike a hockey stop. We made the mistake of trying to use our thighs to slow us down which works, but boy were they burning after a few hours. It’s all about trusting the bike and steering with it, but the ability to standup if necessary is comforting as a last resort.
Once you get over the initial awkwardness of maneuvering yourself and the bike like you’re ice skating, it’s tremendous fun. First on a long green run, then back up on the gondola with the bike (it folds so it’s not as heavy or awkward as it looks) and then down a blue. There are three guides with the group, all wearing blinking red headlamps to follow, one in the front, one in the middle and one in the back of the pack to ensure everyone’s safe and accounted for.
Jon, Dave and Temina rocked and as nervous as we were about not being “intermediate skiers,” we had a blast and managed to stay upright just about the entire time. In fact, for a group of 16 newbies, we saw very few wipeouts. I’d even argue that the darkness made us more fearless, with no way to worry about what was coming around the bend, armed with the same youthful exuberance as when you were learning to ski before safety becomes a factor.
You must be at least 12 years old to go on the tour, but they have special snow bikes for children ages 3-5 that have two fat tires and even tinier skis (there is nothing cuter than watching those little tikes zip around). But if you’d feel more comfortable learning in the daylight, you can rent ski bikes to try it on your own or signup for a private lesson. Ullr Nights is a truly once in a lifetime experience, though, and it really is “just like riding a bike.”
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