Hoodoo is all in on ski biking
Last updated 12/13/2022 at Noon
It all began as a mode of transportation in the Alps. It grew into a new winter sport on ski slopes when Austrian ski manufacturer, Engelbert Brenter, patented the “Sit-Ski” in 1949. He created a steerable sledge with runners, and added key components needed to transform the bike into a serious recreational sport including a suspension system, and real skis instead of runners.
The sport bloomed in the 1970s, and more-or-less died of in the ’80s, as ski resorts resisted their presence. Now they are back, bigger, faster, and badder than ever —completely overhauled with impressive technology.
SkiBikes are bicycle-like devices engineered with skis instead of wheels to use the force of gravity to descend the slopes. They are catching on in popularity and are a great alternative to traditional skiing or snowboarding.
As with skiing or snowboarding riders apply pressure and edging to control the ski boards, skidding the skis across the hill or turning slightly uphill to stop.
It is a much more balanced workout than skiing or snowboarding, according to the industry’s representatives. You have the ability to sit or stand depending on the bike style, and there is much less stress on your legs, knees, and back. The fatigue factor is considerably less, giving rise to older ski bikers.
With their stable design, the learning curve is less steep than skiing or snowboarding, according to the pros at Ski Hoodoo who rent the bikes. Generally, within a few runs, riders should be able to master the basics, and be progressing and enjoying their ride in no time. Able and disabled riders alike enjoy SkiBikes. Adaptive programs for skiers with disabilities have used SkiBikes for decades.
Often called skibobs in the 1960s and ’70s, this type of SkiBike has a low center of gravity, and is designed to be ridden sitting down. It is generally used with footskis for additional balance and edging. You only see these in movies or old travel posters.
Leave it to American enthusiasts and ingenuity to move the sport to its second and still dominant phase. Freestyle SkiBikes resemble mountain bikes. They are most often ridden without footskis, with a downhill mountain bike-inspired riding technique. Like mountain bikes, freestyle bikes can be ridden either standing up or sitting down, and have footpegs or foot rests. Many models have fully adjustable front and rear suspensions.
And now there are trikes. Three-ski SkiBikes have reached new heights in popularity. One ski is forward connected to the steering handlebars, while the rider stands on the rear two skis. They are ridden standing up and usually have front suspension.
Both styles are seen regularly at Hoodoo who has embraced the sport — one of only six places in Oregon where ski mountain operators allow their use. Only one other, Timberline at Mt. Hood, has any significant acreage or lift capacity, making Hoodoo a destination in all of Central Oregon and the Valley for the fun seekers. Mt. Bachelor does not allow SkiBikes.
Some traditional skiers, mostly a minority at Hoodoo are not pleased with the proliferation of SkiBikes, particularly when boarding the lifts. Hoodoo has no detachable lifts so the chair comes at you with some speed. It’s always a source of anxiety when small children or first time skiers get onto the moving chair.
It is easier than you think, “lifties” at Hoodoo say. They are enthusiastic about assisting riders.
SkiBikes are not as heavy as a mountain bike. Depending on the style of bike, you carry the bike on the chairlift with you. Manufacturers have specific recommendations, but with most, you simply rest it either on your lap or at your side. You get in the lift line as normal and approach and exit the chair on foot or with footskis as you would skiing.
You can easily spend up to $1,500 for a state-of-the-art SkiBike. For the ultra-serious rider, you can be out-of-pocket for $2,500 up to $5,000 so that means renting for the vast majority of Hoodoo riders at $50/day for a Koski, Lenz or SkiByk100, or A Sno Go Trike — all leading brands.
“It’s the easiest $50 I ever spend,” said Clint Wilder, 19, from Eugene, who makes the trek five or six times a season. “It’s the most bang for buck you can get.”
Terry O’Donnell from Salem agrees about the thrill but would rent more often if it were closer to the cost of ski rentals, $25.
“It’s tempting to sell my skis and boots which ran about $1,200 and get a ski bike,” O’Donnell, 23, said.