The other side of the mountain

By ASHLEY RIGAZIO  |  December 10, 2007

Before you take your dog to more challenging backcountry, make sure he or she is well-trained on the beginner’s loop; if your dog doesn't know to turn with the trail, you could run into problems (or trees) later on. Carpenter recommends starting out on snowshoes, then progressing to skis.

Cycling in the snow
But with or without dogs, skiing is tough, and some of us tumble easier than we glide. Most adults, however, can ride a bicycle, and if you can balance on a bike, you can probably skibob. SKIBOBBING (also known as skibiking) is a little more common around New England than skijoring. In fact, you may have seen a skibob during your struggles at some ski resort. The contraption is essentially a low-to-the-ground bicycle with skis where you’d expect wheels. This allows riders to fly down slopes — no pedaling required. The handlebars are used to steer and control speed.

Though it initially gained popularity as a gentle means of transportation in the Alps, skibobbing is now a competitive racing sport. It is especially popular in Europe (particularly Switzerland, Germany, and England), where the Federation Internationale de Skibob has sponsored the annual Skibobbing World Championship since 1967. Other races, including those at the yearly International Skibike Festival in Colorado, have started up since skibobbing’s revival in the 1990s.

So why hasn’t skibobbing, a sport that’s been around in its current form since the 1950s, caught on in the US? It’s too pricey for casual skibobbers; a skibike typically costs around $500, and they’re not available through mass retailers. Also, like with most gear that isn’t skis or boards, trail access can be limited. In New England, skibikes are allowed at Shawnee Peak, Black Mountain, Loon Mountain, Waterville Valley, Yawgoo Valley, and Sugarbush. Check with your favorite mountain, as each has different (and constantly changing) regulations and requirements.

Unlike skibobbing, SNOWBIKING and ICEBIKING are both executed on bicycles with wheels, though you’ll want to buy tires with metal spikes for traction in the snow and strap on a helmet. The sport is pretty self-explanatory: you take your mountain bike out in the snow or ice. Skibobbing generally takes place on groomed trails, but snowbiking or icebiking takes place on rugged backcountry terrain. The natural obstacles and severe weather tend to take a physical toll on the bicycle, making this strictly an activity for thrill-seekers and experienced cyclists. If you go, bring a bike maintenance kit.

The old standbys
When all else fails, you can always rely on SLEDDING and SNOWSHOEING. While they’re not that weird, both snowshoes and sleds have been modernized considerably over the years, and you really can’t screw up at either one. Competitive sledding is becoming increasingly popular with nostalgic adults, and sleds are being tricked out more than ever. New models are lightweight, easy to maneuver, and a lot more expensive than that big plastic disc you sledded with when you were a kid.

The Cherrymax Hammerhead Sled ($289) at Eastern Mountain Sports balances on a sturdy aluminum frame and offers maximum control for use at ski resorts (if a resort allows sledding, it likely has restrictions, so call ahead). Another model, the Mad River Rocket Sled ($99), was also designed with performance in mind.

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