Ski-bike bliss on Vail Mountain
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” Maybe you’re getting a mid-winter urge to ride your mountain bike in Vail, Colorado, or maybe skiing till the lifts close just isn’t enough. Don’t worry ” there’s ski biking.
On a recent evening at Vail’s Adventure Ridge, as the last beams of the setting sun lit up Vail Mountain, a group of about 14 fellow ski bikers and I dragged our yellow bikes to the edge of Practice Parkway.
It wasn’t an easy feat to handle the bikes ” low-sitting frames mounted with two mini-skis in place of wheels ” because we were wearing ski boots strapped to foot-long skis.
Our guide, Robert Pretchl, looked like he might fit in better as a surfing instructor with his long, blonde locks, but he’s a pro with the bike. He gave us a quick tutorial on how to handle the bikes, but basically told us that we’d just have to figure it out for ourselves on our first run.
“I’m scared!” one girl protested.
“Wheeee!” responded someone else as they took a running start off the edge of the slope.
Halfway down the catwalk, most of the group already agreed that ski biking might be one of the most amazing things they’ve ever done on the mountain.
The movement takes a bit of getting used to ” you control the bike by making turns, and fishtailing the back ski much like you would on a BMX or dirt bike.
After one run, Alejandro Victoria, who was vacationing from Panama, was hooked. He wiped out once, he said excitedly, but he was ready to catch some air.
“It’s the best thing!” he said. “It’s better than skiing or snowboarding. I can’t even describe it ” you just have to do it.”
Rob, our guide, then pronounced us ready for tree runs and moguls. By then, it was almost completely dark and the group zipped between trunks. The woods were a frenzy of speeding bikers, invisible except for the beam of our headlamps and the screams of the girls, myself included, as we sailed over bumps.
Anthony Salerno, also of Panama, let out exultant whoops as he went careening up the steep sides of the catwalk, popping jumps and biking backwards. His best moment of the night, he said grinning, was nailing a jump that sent him flying through the air on one of Born Free run’s steeper faces.
Salerno was first convinced by a friend to try the sport last season. He loved it, and has been back three more times.
“(Ski biking) is completely underrated,” he said. “I think it’s the most fun thing to do on the mountain.”
To ski bike, riders need to be intermediate to advanced skier or riders, said Adventure Ridge General Manager Alex Gentry.
“It’s good for aggressive skiers. We get a lot of families who send all their teenagers up,” he said. “People just think it’s the coolest thing, and it’s one of the only ways you can be on the mountain at night.”
And it’s not just a tourist activity. Many of the groups who come up are locals, Gentry said.
Vail residents Karlijn Kersjes and Renee Blaauw were trying out ski biking for the first time. Working at a hotel reservation desk, Blaauw said she often talked about ski biking with guests, but had never gone herself.
Both agreed afterward, that the experience was well worth it.
As our group came skidding in at the base of the Eagle Bahn gondola, everyone was chattering about their adventures ” how great the tree runs were, who wiped out most spectacularly, and where on the run you could pick up the most speed.
Some of us were barely listening.
We were too busy running down the gondola ramp (as much as our ski-clad feet allow), for another run.
Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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