Skiing and snowboarding have become the vanilla and chocolate ice cream of winter sports—a designation that has led adrenaline-seeking snow lovers to concoct a few more exotic flavors for the rest of us to sample. Thanks to these chilly weather pioneers, those with a craving for spicy new sources of seasonal fun have plenty of cool options to satisfy their eager, powder-hungry palates.
For experienced skiers and snowboarders who want to take their boards to the next level, consider taking on snowbiking—a rip-roaring hybrid of downhill skis and a bicycle frame that can result in speeds up to 100 miles per hour. Also called “snowbob,” this sport not only involves maneuvering a retrofitted bike frame but also eliminates brakes by strapping two miniature skis onto the riders’ feet. And seeing that they’re designed to fit on a chairlift, there is no limit to where they can go within the bounds of a ski resort. Originally hailing from Europe, snowbiking is gaining popularity at ski resorts across the States, especially in Colorado and California. An up-to-date list of all permissible areas and rules can be found at ski-bike.org.
When it comes to board-free snow sports, tubing has also branched off to include an exciting new sliding sport that combines inflatable paraphernalia with skeleton. Airboards are essentially air-filled sleds with plastic runners on the bottom and handles on the top. Already banned at many tubing areas and ski resorts, these boards can fly to speeds over 80 miles per hour. The closest available airboarding-friendly resorts are Hoodoo in Oregon and Schweitzer Mountain in Idaho. Wear a helmet please, adrenaline junkies.
Since snowboarding is not nearly as edgy as it once was, snowskating has taken up the slack for those seeking to bust out and rebel against the system. And no, figure skating is not involved. Rather, this new sport is an alpine skateboard, or a small snowboard unattached to the rider’s feet so that he or she can do tricks. There are four styles of equipment from which to choose: the single deck, which is best for urban settings and skateboard-like tricks; the elevated bideck (invented by Stevens Pass local Steve Frink), which allows for more leverage at ski resort terrain parks; the four by four, which is closest to a skateboard but has four small skis instead of wheels and is best for riding slopes; and the powderskate, which, true to its name, is fat in shape and favored for cruising the fresh stuff. Snowskates are available to demo at Chair 2 Board Sports at Snoqualmie Pass for two hours (free) or all day ($25).
Once a temporary toy at Crystal Mountain, the enormous inflatable airbag now sits permanently at the base of the Gold Hills chairlift waiting for aerial snowboarders and skiers to test out crazy flips and jumps with the promise of a soft landing. While similar to airbags used by stuntmen, this particular airbag is unique thanks to its inflatable inner ring that protects jumpers from rebounding onto the snow. Prospective leapers must purchase a punch card for 2, 5 or 15 jumps from a ticket window to access the jump.
Fat Tire Biking
Slipping and sliding on an icy city road is officially passé when wide and plush tires await in the countryside, along with the much happier possibility of falling into the fluffy white abyss. The jumbo tires—at a whopping 3.7-plus inches wide—are able to stick better to snowy surfaces thanks to the requirement that they carry less than 10 pounds of air pressure. They even leave less of a trail than cross-country skis! Fat tire bikes have especially enjoyed popularity in the Methow Valley, where they are currently allowed on eight major snow trails, including many popular loops around Sun Mountain. Try renting them from Methow Cycle & Sport or Sun Mountain Lodge.
Our friends of more northerly latitudes bring us yet another fusion of dogs and snow skiing. Derived from the Norwegian term for “ski driving,” the skijoring craze is slowly making its way south of the border to our state. In this derivative of dog sledding, the human straps skis to his or her feet, winds a belt harness around his or her waist and attaches the whole package to three harnessed, medium- to large-sized dogs with a quick-release buckle (for safety!). Since the rider doesn’t have any reins or free hands to control the dogs, they must be trained to turn left and right with voice command. Equipment and advice can be found at Nordkyn Outfitters in Eatonville. (Dogs aren’t allowed at Sno-Parks, so we humans must look for a good place, which can be tricky.)