What to know before ski biking or snowskating in Summit County
Uphill access in Summit
Skinning is more than the fad of the moment — it’s also the best way to make the most of local ski slopes without a season pass. All Summit County ski areas allow free uphill access (it’s part of being on U.S. Forest Service land) with a few restrictions. Here are the basics, and if you’re ever in doubt don’t be afraid to ask a ski patroller.
Travel is allowed before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. on designated routes. All guests are required to obtain and display an uphill access pass in order to skin or snowshoe inside the resort boundary. This pass is free and available for anyone of any age to pick up at Copper’s lower patrol room (located next to the American Flyer lift behind Jack’s) from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For more info, including routes, see www.coppercolorado.com.
Travel is allowed only before 8:30 a.m. or after 5 p.m. No pets. For full information, including routes and uphill pass info, see www.keystoneresort.com.
Travel is allowed on designated routes only outside of operating hours. The resort set up a hotline a few seasons ago to spread info about grooming operations. Give it a call before you head out at 970-547-5627.
Travel is allowed with a free access pass available at the main ticket window from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Uphill access is open to all routes before and after operating hours and restricted to the eastern edge of High Noon while lifts are spinning. For more, including info on A-Basin’s uphill race series, see www.arapahoebasin.com.
Skiing and snowboarding isn’t for everyone — even die-hard skiers and snowboarders.
Like plenty of year-round locals, I tend to get burnt out on snowboarding once or twice a season. It usually comes during stretches of warm or unseasonably dry weather, when there are no powder stashes left to crash and the terrain park sounds too damn painful. I’m not saying that this early January has been a wash, but I’ve been feeling antsy lately, like it’s time to try something new on a lazy (and crowded) Sunday.
We’re all in luck. Across Summit County, every resort is open to unorthodox sports that most folks never even think about. They aren’t as common as skiing and riding, but they’re just as welcome and, in some cases, easier to learn than those traditional sports. Stuff like sleds, toboggans, inner tubes and other brake-less devices isn’t allowed anywhere. (Besides, there are plenty of free hills to toboggan on around here.)
“You must have complete control on the trail, no matter your choice of equipment,” said Patrick O’Sullivan, director of risk management at A-Basin. “It is important to control your device both from falling off the lift and from having a runaway situation on the trail.”
Like everything else on public slopes, you’ve got to know the rules before hopping on a snowskate or tempting a ski bike. Here’s a crash course on a few of the most popular outsider sports, with basic regulations for all four Summit ski areas. If your sport of choice isn’t here, stop a ski patroller the next time you’re on the hill who can answer any unknowns.
Ski biking (as in riding a modified bike frame on snow) has been around since at least the 1960s, when Austrian Erich Brenter invented the sport known as “skibobbing.” He soon started setting and breaking records on his skibob, but, for whatever reason, it never took off outside of Europe.
Today, Brenter’s invention is more or less the same. The frame sits low and features two skis: one at the front and one at the back. Riders also wear mini skis on their feet that act as brakes. The machines have handlebars, but you don’t steer like a normal bike. It’s a pushing and sliding motion — anyone who’s driven a motorcycle will feel at home.
In Summit, every ski resort allows skibobs during normal operating hours. Bikes must have a leash (or other braking device, not just mini skis) and feature no more than two skis. A bike counts as a person on the lift, so know how to properly load before hopping in the lift line. Luckily, they’re allowed on every lift at all mountains under normal conditions.
In the past few years, mountain bikers have started experimenting with full-sized bike frames instead of miniature skibob frames. These bikes, known as snow bikes or peg bikes, are just like regular MTB models with two major changes: no pedals (aka no drive train) and skis instead of wheels. Colorado’s Lenz Sports is one of only a few manufacturers building snow-ready models. You can even take them in powder.
Rules for these bikes aren’t as clear-cut. At Copper, all snow bikers must wear mini skis on their feet. It’s the same at Arapahoe Basin. At Keystone and Breck, modified bikes are allowed as long as they have a seat, leash and skis with metal edges. Bikes are restricted from all terrain parks.
One thing’s for sure: The fat-biking fad isn’t welcome at resorts, so no treaded tires of any sort. Neither is homemade gear, like converted bikes with treads.
Snowskates and snowdecks
Before the 2012-13 season, snowskates (aka skateboards made for the snow) were restricted at all Vail Resorts properties, along with the majority of ski hills in Colorado. Then, for some reason, the VR higher-ups decided to allow these funky little contraptions at all Colorado resorts.
These days, you might catch one or two hardcore skaters on the slopes, but, just like ski biking, it hasn’t quite exploded. Also like ski biking, snowskating is an overarching term for several types of gear. Snowdecks (purpose-made boards with a single ski on the base) are allowed at all local resorts with a leash. The boards don’t count as a person (it can ride on your lap), but they’re also restricted on certain terrain. At A-Basin, they’re allowed on the Molly Hogan, Lenawee Mountain and Black Mountain Express lifts only. Restrictions aren’t as black-and-white at other resorts, so use your best judgment. A towrope isn’t the best place for a snowskate. Neither is Copper Bowl or Imperial Chair.
At resorts like Copper, true snowskates (just a deck with no ski attachment on the bottom) aren’t allowed on any chairlifts. It has to do with safety: Snowdecks with ski bases are made to carve, while completely flat snowskates aren’t.
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