MoonBikes offer a unique, accessible method of enjoying the backcountry
World's first electric snowbikes have been on the market in North America for one year
Seeing that it is May, the appropriate analogy for describing the MoonBike is a summertime one.
I’d summarize my own test drive on the world’s first electric snowbike this way: imagine all the fun of a jet ski with just hint of the skill and awareness needed to wakeboard…minus the gas of course.
All that is to say, this new invention offers a unique and downright fun way of enjoying our snow-filled surroundings.
“There’s a lot of people who are kind of beyond the point of considering buying a snowmobile, but this is something they’d look at for backcountry approaches, just enjoying the trails and just doing something they wouldn’t normally do,” said Matt Bennett, a spokesperson for the French company with North American headquarters in Boulder.
“It’s approachable, it’s fun and there’s no emissions — you can’t beat that.”
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MoonBikes founder and CEO Nicholas Muron grew up in France building often humorous inventions which reflected his creative personality, thirst for adventure and love of the outdoors. He once built a pulley system to drop things from the ceiling during his teachers lectures.
In 2015, while visiting his family’s home in the Saint-Nicolas-de-Veroce village of the French Alps, he noticed that compared to summer, where methods of travel abounded, winter solutions were limited and often environmentally unfriendly.
He returned to his Paris home and began imagining an ultralight, powerful snow machine. The aeronautical engineer drew inspiration from his confidential work for Dassault Aviation on an advanced military drone project. In October 2017, he left Dassault Aviation. After two more years of tinkering, he developed a silent, high-performance propulsion system that would set the MoonBike — the first of which was assembled in 2019 — apart.
Today, each MoonBike is crafted in the Bosch Marignier factory in the French Alps. They’ve been on the market in Europe for two years and in North America for one.
“We still find there are a lot of people, just based on this type of technology, who think it’s not for sale yet,” Bennett said during a demo session on Vail Pass. Since moving into Boulder, he said the brand has seen a big jump in sales in the Rocky Mountain region. Resorts provide another growth area. Recently, Boyne Mountain Resort in Michigan purchased a fleet of 10 bikes.
“MoonBikes are an ideal fit for Boyne Mountain Resort in bringing another standout attraction that also aligns with our dedication to sustainability,” Patrick Patoka, Boyne Mountain’s director of adventure, stated in a press release.
“MoonBikes were built for fun, approachability and sustainability – all factors that the Boyne Mountain team believes in – and we know MoonBikes are going to create many new memories for their guests,” Muron added.
The need for resorts to provide a variety of accessible sources of entertainment, according to Bennett, is where the MoonBike is hoping to continue capitalizing.
“More and more people come to resorts — some want to ski and others want to do different things,” Bennett said.
“And so it’s about what else can resorts offer to their guests that’s a different, new experience that also is a quiet, easy-to-ride thing. It’s quiet, it’s fun, it’s easy and the maintenance is really low.”‘
The 155-pound, 88.5 inch long, 28-inch wide bike runs on a 27-pound 2.5 kWH single battery (but riders can add an optional back-up battery to extend double the 35-mile range). On a groomed trail, a 175-pound rider can ride for about 90 minutes on one battery, with a max speed of 26 mph. A heated battery box allows for use as low as -13 degrees Fahrenheit. On groomed slopes, MoonBikes claim ascents of 40% slopes are possible.
“It can handle a lot,” Bennett said, adding that super deep backcountry routes could be a bit more challenging.
“But for a lot of the approaches, especially if there’s a track laid down to some degree — which is much of this area — you’re not going to have a problem at all. You’re going to easily get where you want and have plenty of battery.”
The ride itself requires a bit more intimacy between the rider and the slope’s snow compared to driving a hefty snowcat or powerful snowmobile, mainly because of the MoonBike’s ski. The gliding touchpoint sits underneath a suspension system mimicking your typical mountain bike.
“You want to turn it like a bike, and it doesn’t really work that way. You really need that edge,” Bennett said, accurately depicting the experience of this writer’s test ride in the process. Still, grasping the leaning and edging game didn’t require private lessons. The initial challenge abated after four or five minutes, at which point the intoxicating floating sensation pressured me to carve more aggressively.
For those used to recreationally riding snowmobiles or using motorized options to access backcountry ski or snowboard lines, Bennett seemed to suggest direct comparisons fail to provide the correct lens.
“You almost have to look at it as an option C instead of one versus the other,” he said. “I think there are a big group of people who aren’t going to buy a snowmobile, yet this opens up something for them.” For snowmobile owners, the ability to lift the toy into the back of a vehicle easily may be appealing. Given its overall approachability, Bennett wouldn’t be shocked if MoonBikes catch fire in the region.
“The more and more people see it, I think it’s like, ‘what is that?'” he said. “‘I want to check that out.'”