Snow at First Sight contest winners try out ski bikes at ski area | SteamboatToday.com

Snow at First Sight contest winners try out ski bikes at ski area





Deena Bright rides a ski bike at Steamboat Ski Area. Bright, from Hawaii, said learning to ride the ski bike didn't take long at all, and after about an hour riding the short lifts at the base area, she was ready to ride the gondola.
Joel Reichenberger

Ruchu Adhikary, from left, Trevor Allison, Eric Rolls and Deena Bright sit near the top of the Thunderhead chairlift with ski bikes on Friday. Adhikary, Allison and Bright were on a three-month tour of Colorado, a trip they won after creating videos about how they'd never seen snow.Joel Reichenberger

Online

Ruchu Adhikary, Trevor Allison and Deena Bright are on a three-month tour of the state as a part of the Colorado Tourism Office's Snow at First Sight campaign. Blogs that the three are keeping and videos of their adventures are at http://www.coloradosnowatfirstsight.com. They also can be found on Facebook; search "Snow at First Sight," or follow them on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Snowat1stSight.

— In many ways, it was the perfect match, ski bikes and the three novices who rode them Friday morning at Steamboat Ski Area.

Ruchu Adhikary, Trevor Allison and Deena Bright had never been to Steamboat Springs before cruising into town for the first time earlier this week. The three had never even seen snow before they arrived in Colorado early last month and, as winners of a Colorado Tourism Office's Snow at First Sight contest, began a three-month tour of the Rocky Mountain state.

They're only a month into their trek and already have hit up some of Colorado's most well-known sites. They learned to ski in Keystone, stopped in Breckenridge and took in the X Games in Aspen. And all along the way, they've been bombarded by the same questions.

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"You've really never seen snow?"

Ski bikes also don't seem to go anywhere without a line of people showing up with a few questions.

"Pretty much every time we stop, it's the same," said Ski and Snowboard School instructor Eric Rolls, who guided the lesson Friday. "They ask, 'What in the world are those things?'"

Adding on

The answer: ski bikes are the newest ski-area-endorsed way to ride Mount Werner.

They feature a specially designed frame that resembles a hard-tail mountain bicycle, except with short skis to replace the tires. Another set of even shorter skis clip onto riders' ski boots.

Really, they're far from new. They've been popping up in various corners of the ski industry for most of the past decade. They've been allowed at Telluride for nearly 10 years, and they've filtered their way into many of the other Intrawest resorts, including Winter Park.

They were even allowed on the Steamboat slopes during the past several winter seasons, but only for adaptive skiers.

"We hadn't seen a whole lot of demand," said Jim Schneider, vice president of skier services. "We have been getting visits from snow bike vendors for maybe a half a dozen years, but it wasn't really on our radar. Occasionally, someone would come and want to do something, and we did allow them if they had a disability, but that was on a very limited basis."

That changed last year when the ski area received a flurry of inquiries about riding the bikes in Steamboat. When potential visitors began indicating that members of their party exclusively rode the bikes, research to allow them on the slopes took a more serious tone.

"We did a lot of investigating," Schneider said. "We talked to our Intrawest brethren, and almost all of them allowed them and had no issue, so that's how we got here."

The devices now are allowed on all the Steamboat lifts and anywhere on the mountain outside the terrain parks. Six of the bikes are available for rent from the Ski and Snowboard School, though first-timers are required to take a one-hour class to rent them.

"Ski biking is still small, but is growing in popularity," ski area spokeswoman Loryn Kasten said. "We recognize that our guests are interested in doing it, and we went through the stages that are necessary."

A new world

For Adhikary, Allison and Bright, the ski bikes were like everything else they've encountered: an entirely new experience.

For all three, the trip across the state promises to be a life-changing experience.

Allison is 21, from Atlanta (yes, he knows it just snowed there this winter, but he missed it) and newly committed to finding a job in a Rocky Mountain ski town.

Both Adhikary, a 25-year-old accountant from Melbourne, Australia, and Bright, a 30-year-old Hawaii native who designed spa packages for luxury hotels, are figuring on a career change after the tour is over.

For now, the group is enjoying the best Colorado has to offer. They went snowshoeing in Snowmass, paragliding in Aspen and soaking in Glenwood Springs.

They bundled up in Steam­boat along with the rest of the town to bid farewell to the town's Canada-bound Winter Olympi­ans, and they got the run of the place Friday morning on the ski bikes.

"It's been everything we thought and more," Allison said about the winter's experience.

Adaptive options

The general consensus is that ski bikes are fun.

The initial concern always is that they're dangerous — the bikes look fast, hard to stop and like a perfectly terrible kind of missile screaming down the right slope. That isn't borne out on the mountain, however.

They're easy to control and don't go all that fast. And if a rider falls off and the bike gets away, it won't rocket downhill alone. It will tip over and when off its skis is unlikely to slide anywhere.

They've proven popular with adaptive skiers, and their inclusion at the Ski and Snowboard School was a welcome move in the eyes of the Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports program, known as STARS.

"It's great for the adaptive program to be able to use them," said Sheila Farny, a STARS board member and ski instructor with the program. "We can use them for people that have trouble standing while skiing or people that have a weak side of the body or someone with MS. Some adaptive skiers can stand up in the morning but need to sit down in the afternoon, and these can be a great option."

In demand

It will be a busy rest of the winter for the ski rookies. They're scheduled to hit nearly every hot spot in the state — from Vail to Crested Butte to Telluride.

Friday was a full day, too. They followed a morning on the bikes with lunch at Hazie's, and they had an afternoon appointment with Steamboat's most famous ambassador, Billy Kidd.

All three started their trek with snow skiing lessons, but Adhikary and Allison tend to snowboard these days, and Bright has focused on improving her skiing.

They said their progress was faster on the ski bikes than it had been on anything else they'd done.

They said it was fun, and as they chomped down the best lunch the mountain has to offer, they backed up their words.

"Hey," Adhikary asked, "can we get those bikes back for the afternoon?"

If you go

Ski bikes can be rented from the Ski and Snowboard School. A half-day costs $30, and a full day is $50. A $15 one-hour lesson is required for anyone new to the sport. For more information, call the school at 800-299-5017.

Online

Ruchu Adhikary, Trevor Allison and Deena Bright are on a three-month tour of the state as a part of the Colorado Tourism Office’s Snow at First Sight campaign. Blogs that the three are keeping and videos of their adventures are at http://www.coloradosnowatfirstsight.com. They also can be found on Facebook; search “Snow at First Sight,” or follow them on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Snowat1stSight.