This is it. This is my Marlon Brando in The Wild One moment. I’m heading up a biker gang. Admittedly, not a gang of motorbike riders in small town USA but it’ll have to do.
I’m on the slopes of Le Grand Bornand, astride a bright orange ski bike. Looking somewhat like a mad Frankenstein-esque creation, ski bikes, also known as ‘VeloBikes’, exist on the venn diagram where skiing, mountain biking, and BMX overlaps. In a nutshell, it’s a shrunk down mountain bike with skis where the wheels should be. Somewhat surprisingly, considering my initial scepticism, I’m having way more fun on it than I thought I would.
“… ski bikes, also known as ‘VeloBikes’, exist on the venn diagram where skiing, mountain biking, and BMX overlaps.”
“I am the only person who works with the ski bikes,” says our instructor Jean Francois (who prefers to be called Jeff) when we stop for lunch, “When I first started many other ski instructors complained and said ‘No, no, they’re too dangerous to be on the slopes. People will get hurt.’ But ski bikes aren’t dangerous, it’s just about how you ride them. Skiing can be dangerous, snowboarding can be dangerous, mountain biking can be dangerous… if you don’t do it in the right way.”
Earlier in the decade, Jeff was teaching just a few hours of ski bike lessons a season. Last winter though, he did 96 hours. By no means is he over run with bookings, but the increase highlights how more and more people are looking for alternative experiences on their ski trips.
As a further case in point, on top of ski-biking my four day adventure in this corner of France features a go on a pair of Sled Dogs Snowskates (rollerblading x skiing), the SkiColor event in Les Gets, and some night time skiing and paragliding in La Clusaz. It’s undoubtedly a very different kind of ski trip to the usual, but it reminds me of just how much fun can be had by embracing the silliness and not taking things too seriously.