Over the last few years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people taking to the winter slopes of Austria, Switzerland and France. Many have tried the traditional winter sport, and spent their first couple seasons of skiing in a ski school, but by far the biggest increase in interest has been towards the snowboard. It's popularity seems to go from strength to strength.
Skibiking on the other hand, has stayed pretty much in the background. We feel the probable cause is under-exposure, and we hope, through this site to try and remedy the situation.
Skibikes have been around for many years, albeit under a different name, "ski-bobs" to be precise. The name may have changed, but the sport has continued with little change. Modern technology and materials have however allowed considerable improvements to the design and production of Skibikes in general. Their versatility and adaptability is exceptional, allowing riders a variety of speed ranges, from 2 to over 100 mph, and are quite able to cope with all types of snow conditions, from deep powder to sheet ice.
So how, and where did it all start, and why has the sport not gained the popularity of skiing or snowboarding? All very good questions, and ones that are not easy to answer. The origins of the sport are debatable, some will say America, and others will say Europe. We feel its true origins lie firmly in Austria, Salzburg to be precise, more detailed information can be found in the section (About).
Their original use is also open to debate. We heard a theory many years ago which sounded logical to us, but is as yet unsubstantiated. It is thought that after the end of a day's skiing and the lifts were turned off, the lift attendant at the top station was required to ski down under the lifts and check that no person or persons were still on the lift, and doomed to certain death in the freezing overnight air. Considering the long day's toil, and the rather uncertain terrain under lifts, then add to that the poor light conditions that usually apply at that time of day, a less energetic and safer way than skiing would be more appropriate. Over the years we have seen many skibikes parked at the back of ski lift huts, and occasionally seen lift attendants skibike down the side of the lift at the end of the day.
The name skibike is a relatively new term for what traditionally used to be called a "Ski-Bob".
If you have ever watched, the Beatles film "Help", you may well know the answer to the above question, as the film has a short sequence, where John, Paul, George and Ringo can be seen riding early examples of skibikes.
The skibike can best be described as a bicycle with the wheels removed and short skis added in their place. It's height is approximately 24" (60 cm) and its length, depending on the type of skis fitted, can be up to 7 feet (213 cm). The weight of a skibike varies considerably and is dependant on its intended purpose, a light weight touring model would weight around 15 lbs (7 kg), a racing model can weight up to 40 lbs (20 kg). Most skibikes have some form of suspension system, usually in the form of light weight shock absorbers. Brenter Snowbikes have their own unique and (patented) suspension system.
The name Snowbike is unique to the manufacturer Brenter and is patented by them, the general look and ride of a Brenter bike however is very similar to skibikes manufactured by other companies.
Small skis, called foot-skis, with an approximate length of 22" (55 cm) are clipped to the feet, using standard ski boots and bindings, (but they can be adapted for use with snowboard boots). These foot-skis provide additional stability when riding, and aid turning.
When the sport was in its infancy, there was a tendency by some to ride without foot-skis, and use their feet for turning and speed control. This method is can be hazardous, and can cause damage to the pistes. All resorts that we know of within Europe forbid this practice.
The Guinness Book of Records, state that the first record of the skibike dates back to, 1891, when a gentleman by the name of: J. C. Stevenson of Hartford, Connecticut, USA, invented what he called a "bicycle with ski runners", and patented the device on the 19th April 1892, patent number (47334). We are not aware that the invention ever went in to production though.
We feel the true roots of the skibike, lay much closer to home, Salzburg in Austria to be precise, where a gentleman by the name of: Englebert Brenter, invented what he called the "Sit-Ski" back in 1949. His descendants the Brenter brothers, Erich and Willie, continue to produce some of the finest Snowbikes to be purchased to date.
Skibikes can be ridden on all types of terrain, and in most weather conditions, they can be transported on most of the current lift systems to be found in ski resorts. We have found it possible to skibike with ease in conditions that have proved to be difficult for both skiers and snowboarders.
There are resorts where the use of skibikes is restricted or forbidden. These restrictions are usually applied by the resort management, and it is not an indication of the resorts unsuitability for skibikes.
I first became involved in skibiking in the mid 70's when it was a relatively new sport in the UK. I was fortunate really because my younger brother Brett had been an instructor in the sport for quite a few years prior to that, and had the reputation of being probably one of the best skibikers in the UK; when it came to style and technique there were few who could match him, I learned a lot from him (many thanks Brett).
My parents Don & Joan, were for many years active members of the SAGB and my father was for a period one of their chief instructors.
I went on to get my SAGB instructor's licence, and at that time, the new Swiss Gold Proficiency Medal.
I used to ride a skibike that was designed by and custom made for Tony Marsh, a well known figure on the World Cup skibike circuit (Europe) in those days, but I now ride a lighter Brenter Downhill.
My dreams for the future are: to buy an apartment in Hinterglemm and spend the season out there!
My first experience of winter sports and ski-bobbing as it was known then was back in 1983 in Saalbach/Hinterglemm Austria, I hated every minute of it and could not get out of the resort quick enough.
I reluctantly returned to the sport in 1987 after much persuasion from my new partner Mervyn. He taught me the correct procedures and all the little tricks he had picked up over the years, and gave me the confidence to carry on where others had failed in the past.
I have gone on to be a competent skibiker on all types of piste and in all weather conditions, and have had the pleasure of instructing many a beginner since then. My most recent pupil was 'Brian the Boarders' girl friend Sharon, I had her skibiking down red runs within two days of her first lesson, which by pure coincidence happened to be in the resort of Saalbach/Hinterglemm Austria (March 2002.)
I ride a Brenter Downhill Snowbike and love every minute of my annual excursion to the winter slopes of Europe, and look forward to trying the slopes of America and Canada in the not too distant future.