Ski Toys: Going Downhill Fast and Easy
by Candyce H. Stapen
Looking for more excitement on your ski vacation? Then, take a break from traditional downhill runs on snowboards and skis to try the new toys: snowbikes and snowscoots. These require low skills, but deliver thrills, adding options to your mountain vacation.
Before the advent of ski toys, a break from snowboarding or Alpine trails meant ice-skating, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. In other words, slowing down and staying level.Fun, but not fast enough. The new sliding equipment moves you downhill at a good clip, but often adds stability, making the gear good teaching tools for the whole gang.
A snowbike-- a bicycle frame with two skis instead of tires-- allows you to feel really planted when going downhill. Even as a never-ever, you can generally navigate a run as soon as you straddle the frame by dragging your feet for balance. To add some speed, you can wear small skis on your feet. When you do this and steer the handlebars as you would a regular bicycle, you almost effortlessly get the feel of edging, a skill crucial to turning and to controlling speed. In Colorado, Winter Park Resort, Keystone, Durango Mountain Resort and Copper Mountain Resort rent snow bikes.
Snowscoots, a marriage between a ski and a scooter with a tall handlebar-like shaft, are popular in Europe. Riders rave about this hybrid’s great carving abilities. In the U.S., among the places to try, is New Hampshire’s Waterville Valley Ski Resort.
For even more heart-thumping excitement, head to the Utah Olympic Park, Park City. You don’t need skis—or even snow-- to fly along the Xtreme Zip, touted as the “world’s steepest zipline.” On the 1454-foot cable with a 435-foot vertical drop, you reach speeds of 55 mph. Not ready? Then warm up by hanging from the Ultra Zip, a 754-foot cable, on which you zoom down at a slower, 42 miles per hour. This season is the first time the park’s ziplines will operate in winter.
You can up the thrills even more by jumping onto a bobsled ride to tackle the same 15-curve track that challenged Olympic athletes. A professional driver rockets you down the 1,335-meter, 15-curve course at speeds nearing 80 mph. From a lower starting point on the same track, you can go solo on a luge ride or try a head-first, skeleton run. And if you really want to fly through the air, take off on one of the park’s beginning to advanced ski jumps.
Going downhill fast has never been more fun.