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Why am I so dedicated to the sport of skibiking? It has changed my life, helped me regain a sense of purpose and nourished my soul. This year, the Ski Bike Rally at Purgatory was a fun-filled and inspiring event. Members of the American SkiBike Association’s board, volunteers and industry experts shared their knowledge. I am excited about the great work they are doing to promote SkiBiking and inclusivity at ski areas across the country. It was great to connect with others interested in this growing sport. This experience prompted me to think about my own story – how I came to SkiBiking, and why I love doing it.
I was diagnosed with a chronic disease about 20 years ago. At the time, I was living my dream life, working for a global non-profit organization focused on the environment. Outside of work, I was an avid outdoor recreationalist and accomplished traditional climber. I climbed, paddled, hiked and camped in the mid Atlantic region. I also loved skiing in Colorado and Washington. It was disappointing when, because of my illness, I eventually became unable to participate in the outdoor sports that I loved so much. The loss was devastating to me. When I relocated to Colorado, I found myself struggling to make connections and fit in.
Then, about six years ago, I learned about Adaptive Sports Association’s winter program at Purgatory Resort. I scheduled a lesson, hoping to find a way to ski again. When they showed me a skibike instead, a world of possibilities opened for me! I spent several years taking lessons, slowly working to rebuild muscle strength and regain confidence. Eventually, I became much better at skibiking than skiing. As I worked my way through every run at Purgatory, something I never imagined as a skier, the mountain that had been inaccessible became welcoming to me. I had forgotten what it was like to feel joy and, when I did, it was visceral. Adrenaline, excitement, balance and social connection returned to my life, and the energy began to carry over to my other experiences. I still deal with my illness on a daily basis, but when I skibike, I focus only on what is possible and not my limitations. This sport has gotten me, literally, out of bed and into the outdoors. Doing it, I am surrounded by amazing friends and positive people, and I’m focused on celebrating life.
A few years ago, I was introduced to the NASTAR program, which gives recreational racers the opportunity to compete. Now, I spend most weekends training on Purgatory’s NASTAR course on my Stalmach World Cup SX3. This season I qualified for the NASTAR National Championships in Snowmass, CO, April 4-9, 2022 and won my division! Many riders tried NASTAR at the Purgatory Festival and I hope more search out their program at your local resorts.
My most rewarding role with skibiking is as a volunteer SkiBike instructor for Adaptive Sports Association in Durango, CO. This inspiring program was one of the first adaptive programs in the United States to incorporate SkiBikers for its students. It is important to me to give back - by introducing others to SkiBiking - because it can help heal in so many ways. I am passionate about teaching folks of all abilities who, like me, want to get involved in outdoor recreation, remain active, make memories with friends and family, and enjoy the mountains. So, what do I love the most about SkiBiking? For me, the swish of the snow is like riding a pillow of powder. I crave the rush that comes from having the wind in my face and moving at speed. My heart leaps as I see the never-ending smiles and the glistening eyes of my companions, and hear their laughter-filled whoops and hollers. I love the silence of a fresh snowfall, the peace that comes from being truly in the moment, and the delight of sharing that joy with others. It is, simply, exhilarating. I’m excited to see how I can help the American Ski Bike Association and look forward to attending other rallies and introducing racing to other SkiBikers. If you visit Durango or Purgatory Resort, I would love to connect with you!
I skied able bodied and was a good skier in the Tahoe area growing up in northern CA and in the alps when I was stationed in Europe during my military career. My military service contributed to a 17 year break in skiing as well as losing my left leg in the service above the knee.
After retirement I made it to the DAV National Disabled Winter Sports Clinic Apr 2014 and was introduced to adaptive skiing in a sit ski and 3 trekking. At DSUSA Hartford Ski Spec Dec 2014 I was introduced to skibiking on a Stalmach Rockyberg and Cayman and an Iskibike.
It was natural and good method for me as an amputee. Quickly in minutes I got the hang of it and balance and in hours was from green to blue runs. Tasted a black run by the end of the week. It was easy for me to marry the skiing fundamentals I learned as an able bodied 4 trekker skier with the skibike configuration.
In the 5 years now that I have been skibiking I have connected with different programs and groups as well as mostly skiing on my own getting better all the time. I am independent and expert and have skied from one end of the country to the other at 19 different resorts in 11 states. YOUTUBE VIDEO
I have been an on-and-off skier for the past 15 years, but because of quadricep weakness I have never progressed beyond the beginner level. While skiing at Vail three years ago, I contacted the Adaptive Ski School and met with the director Ruth Demuth. Thanks to her advice I began skiing with CADS (CADS.com). CADS greatly increased my endurance and allowed my skiing ability to advance, but I still found intermediate terrain to be difficult.
I became interested in ski-bikes when the Vail Adaptive Ski School notified me that they would be allowed for use as adaptive equipment. This change in Vail’s policy is due in large part to the efforts of Jeff Cain (adaptive ski-biker).
My first stop was the ASA web site which is a great asset to the ski-bike community. After discussing ski-bikes and my physical limitations with Rod Ratzlaff, Jeff Cain, Ruth Demuth, and Luke Van Maldeghem, I ordered a K2 SMX ski-bike. Luke had successfully modified an SMX for the Vail Adaptive program to allow the rider to stay seated on the bike while the chair-lift moved under the ski-bike’s seat and picked up the bike and rider together. This method of lift-loading interested me because off-loading at the top would be easier if I did not have to stand up from the low seating position of a chair-lift.
With a few suggestions from Luke and a lot of trial and error, I fabricated a new seat bracket and shock bracket for the K2 ski-bike that moved the shock forward and raised the seat. This created enough length under the seat (16") for the chair lift to carry the bike.
To ensure a good beginning to my ski-bike endeavor in February 2004 at Vail, CO, I decided to start with a few lessons. The first day was challenging, but by the end of the second day I was ski-biking easily down hills that had previously been difficult on skis. Lift-loading worked very well (after the first try) and with practice became easy. I was fortunate to have an excellent instructor, Justin Carter APSI with the Vail/Beaver Creek Ski School. Thanks to his instruction and assistance, I really enjoyed learning to ski-bike. I also met Jeff Cain at Vail for a great day of ski-biking. The opportunity to ride with an experienced adaptive ski-biker was invaluable.
As my riding ability and speed increased, I became interested in trying a ski-bike with a front and rear suspension. I contacted Don Koski, who was kind enough to arrange a demo of the Koski Monotrac at Buttermilk (Aspen). I was very impressed with the Koski ski-bike, especially its suspension design. I have since ordered a Koski Monotrac and plan to change the seat position so the ski-bike can ride directly on the chair lift.
Buttermilk provided another excellent ski-bike experience. Hans Hohle (the director of Operations and also a ski-biker) was very helpful as was instructor Jeremy Mirefield. Buttermilk allows ski-bikes on the main lift (with or without foot skis). They also have ski-bikes for rent. I had a great time at Buttermilk and am planning to return there for a ski-biking trip.
I was unable to attend this year’s festival at Durango. I plan to be there next year with both bikes if anyone wants to check out my modifications. I want to thank everyone who helped me get started in this wonderful sport, and I encourage anyone who is interested to try it.
My name is Josh Franklin. I am a 25-year-old double-below-knee amputee from Houston, Texas and therefore haven’t partaken in any winter related sports activities in my life. However, on January 31, 2004 I tried snow skiing for the first time. It was an incredible experience and I wanted to pass along this letter, which briefly describes my experiences.
On January 31 I traveled to Colorado to go snowboarding, mono-skiing, and to ride ski bike. I found snow skiing to be a lot of physical work and had problems learning that skill. Therefore, I did not care for it that much. Snowboarding and mono-skiing were a lot of fun, however, riding the ski bike was an awesome experience that I will never forget. It required very little work to ride, which makes it perfect for any amputee-either single or double like myself.
My instructor was Jeff. He taught me several things on the ski bike such as: slowing myself down as I ride down a slope, hockey slides, cuts, and turns. Jeff was a wonderful instructor and made learning all of these skills very easy. In fact, after being under his instruction for only a few hours I felt comfortable enough to take the ski bike down some steep green runs!
The entire experience was very gratifying, and I am looking forward to hitting the slopes again very soon.
My name is Patty Bartlett. I am a bilateral below the knee amputee, 44 years old. For the last two years, I have experienced the thrill of winter sports as an amputee at The Winter Park Ski Facility in Colorado. In 2003, I was able to try the sit ski, which was a real thrill. This past year, Feb. 2004, I was able to experience the ski bike with the help and guidance of Mr. Jeff Cain.
Jeff spent the day with me instructing me on the use of the ski bike. He was very informative and supportive. His excitement and knowledge fed my enthusiasm about wanting to try this experience. Within a few runs, I felt the thrill, comfort and ease of operating the ski bike. The ease of use and ability to spend longer periods of time on the mountain were invaluable to me, since there was relatively no pressure or stress on my limbs. Doing the short, radius turns, stopping effectively, and the ease of getting on and off the lift chairs was especially attractive for me. I was able to catch on to the whole experience within a short period of time. The bike was easy to maneuver and control. I felt very comfortable handling it. I would even entertain buying one, if more resorts were to allow this mode of skiing.
When comparing the ski bike with the mono ski, I felt that more independence can be achieved on the ski bike with being able to get on and off the lift with ease and ultimately, not requiring constant help from an instructor. I also was able to try four-tracking. After about a ½ day on the mtn, I began to feel tired and was disappointed that I needed to come down from the mtn. Being able to stay all day would’ve been my choice.
I have been fairly active in sports throughout my life and to be able to experience the ease of the ski bike was a tremendous boost to me.
I had the most exciting day getting to try the ski bike and hope that in the future, it will be an integral part of other disabled ski participant’s experience.
After a friend and my sister in law called our attention to the article about snow bikes in the Sunday Inquirer, my wife and I read it on line here in Montana at Big Sky Ski Resort. We want to mention that it's added years of skiing for skiers who've had to give up skiing because of back problems or other conditions that affect one's ability to stand for a period of time. My wife suffers from degenerative disk disease, including scoliosis resulting from two compressed vertebrae. For mobility, she uses a walker and canes for support. We've been skiing for 18 years, and the last couple of years after her retirement from teaching, skiing has been increasingly difficult, to the point that it looked like she might have to give up skiing soon.
Last winter at Telluride and Durango the adaptive staff at both places introduced her to the ski-bike as a possible solution. It was so great that she bought her own through the help of the Director of the Adaptive Program at Vail. The handle bars of the snow bike provides support like her walker, with the foot skis used for turning and braking. For both of us, this ski bike is a miracle, and is going to add years to our skiing life, as she biked this winter at Copper Mountain, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Beaver Creek, and Breckenridge, in Colorado, and Heavenly Valley at Tahoe in Calif. With special permission from the lift managements and/or adaptive ski offices, she snow-biked at the following ski resorts: Steamboat Springs, Colo., Snowbird in Utah, and Mammoth Lakes and Squaw Valley, Calif. After spending the week at Big Sky, we will be at Jackson Hole, Wyo., where she again obtained permission to use the ski-bike as an adaptive device in accordance with the Americans for Disabilities Act.
At those ski resorts that do not normally allow ski-bikes, a member of the staff from the ski patrol accompanies both of us for a few runs to ensure that she can ski-bike safely and handle the lifts. Because of her back, she is unable to lift or carry the bike. So I as her buddy carry the bike to the lift and hold it while she uses my ski poles for support and the foot skis to get on and off the lift like other skiers. Upon dismounting the lift, I set up the bike and she skies over to it and takes off.
So far all the resorts that do not permit ski-bikes have been pretty accommodating in giving her the opportunity to ski-bike at their resorts, sometimes after a little pressure. For adaptive skiers who wish to ski-bike at a resort that does not allow ski-bikes, it is recommended that they contact the lift management operators or head of the adaptive ski office to request permission to use the ski bike as an adaptive equipment. Explain that the ADA requires such reasonable accommodations. We even had our lawyer draft a letter explaining this for those who were more reluctant.
In closing, we want to recognize the wonderful staff of those ski resorts that don't normally allow ski-bikes for giving Carolyn the opportunity to enjoy their mountains. We also appreciate the time and patience the Adaptive Program staffs of Telluride and Durango took in introducing us to this wonderful piece of equipment that will enhance our retirement for years to come.