As ski-biking becomes more popular, an increasing number of North American ski resorts and ski areas are opening up trails to this exciting sport. Durango Mountain Resort in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains has been featuring ski-biking as a winter activity for some time now, offering lessons, rentals and spectacular terrain for a whole lot of family fun (minimum age is 12 years-old). Because of the level of stability afforded by three contact points with the snow, ski-biking is generally easier to learn and safer than skiing (although tuition is strongly recommended), making it an ideal activity for skiers who don’t get to the slopes as often as they would like to. It is also a lot kinder to the knees, allowing skiers with knee problems the opportunity to enjoy the slopes for longer without discomfort.
The fact that ski-biking is generally safer, does not mean it is boring or doesn’t require skill. Ski-bikes have been specially developed to travel and maneuver with speed, and stop abruptly when required in much the same way as conventional skiers do, so riders need to be in control of their ski-bikes at all times. As with any other snow sport, having the correct equipment is very important. Ideally, when sitting on the ski-bike, the upper part of the rider’s body should be parallel to the position of the lower legs with knees lower than the hip joint. Feet are attached to short skis and riders should grip the saddle with their knees, keeping the short skis, or ‘gliders’ close to the ski-bike. Instructors will demonstrate turns and stopping, ensuring the new ski-biker is competent and confident before heading for the slopes.
Because ski-biking is still a relatively new and unusual sport, it may be viewed with some mistrust by others on the ski slopes. So, as ambassadors of the sport, it is essential that ski-bikers are courteous and follow slope rules to the letter. For more information on ski-biking in North America, visit the American SkiBike Association website.
Many Alpine skiers are faced with the painful reality of knee injuries at one time or another, and some may even find themselves considering giving up the sport they so enjoy. In the United States alone, there are reportedly more than 20,000 knee injuries each year which are attributed to Alpine skiing, sometimes to the point of having to resort to expensive surgery and extended periods of rehabilitation. However, skiers who have suffered knee injuries may still be able to take to the slopes with the aid of Constant-force Articulated Dynamic Struts (CADS).
Designed by Vail Valley resident, Walter Dandy, more than two decades ago, CADS makes use of a pelvic harness, rods and elasticized cords to transfer upper body weight to the ski boots – all of which are worn under ski pants. So when a skier bends his/her knees to assume a skiing position, the elastic bands are stretched, with the stretch being transmitted via the cords over the CADS pulleys to the pelvic harness, thereby reducing the skier’s effective body weight. This reduces the required quadriceps contraction strength, which in turn reduces compressive forces across the knee joint surfaces. A study carried out by the Steadman Clinic concluded that at 50 degrees of knee flexion, body weight is reduced by more than 22 percent for CADS users.
Walter Dandy explains that it’s like “sitting on a bedspring”. By pushing down on the ski and up on the skier, CADS does what muscles do, hence the skier doesn’t get tired and their knees don’t hurt. Dandy also reveals that he initially invented the CADS to alleviate thigh burn which he experienced as a vacation skier. Following a few days on the slopes one year, which left him with very tired legs, it occurred to him that skiers use muscle in a very unique way, keeping them in a state of constant tension. Realizing that a spring can mimic a muscle, the idea of the CADS was born – and the benefits to skiers with knee, foot, ankle, hip and back problems over the past 22 years have been enormous.
Located in Radstadt Tauern, a subrange of the Austrian Central Alps, the winter sports resort of Obertauern offers more the 100 kilometers of pistes with the guarantee of snow from mid-November through to early-May each year. State-of-the-art lift facilities ensure skiers are transported safely and swiftly to even the highest peak (2,313m) to enjoy maximum time on the snow. Night-time skiing extends the pleasure and all levels of experience are catered for, from beginners through to dare-devil experts. Ski-in/ski-out accommodation offers luxury and convenience of the highest standard.
The history of the village of Obertauern goes back to the Celtic era (4th-1st century BC) and Romans used the pass in the first century, as attested to by relic milestones and tracks of Roman wagons. However the first mention of the pass was in 1207 with records in 1224 noting that a small church had been built at the top of the pass. By 1517, two inns had been built there, and these remain part of the village today. In 1764 a post office was opened with deliveries twice a week.
It is thought that the first skiers discovered the area in 1902, but the first record of skiers visiting Obertauern was in 1920. They arrived on foot with their baggage on horse-drawn sleighs. The official founding of the village is recorded as 8 December 1929, when the Tauern Pass started carrying regular traffic. The first lift was installed in 1948 and the tourism industry in the village of Obertauern started to grow, with more lifts and cable cars installed between 1952 and 1961. Interestingly, between 1948 and 1960, skiers prepared the slopes in exchange for runs, before the first motorized trail groomer was introduced. Piste construction with bulldozers in 1967 created part of the present day Tauern Circuit, allowing access for grooming equipment and more tourists. The first snow cannon was installed in 1985 and major upgrading projects were carried out in the latter years of the 20th century.
Obertauern continues to upgrade equipment and facilities, reinforcing its status as one of the top ski resorts in the world, often mentioned on “Best Resort” lists in magazines and on websites dedicated to the snow sport industry.
The snow sport industry has been identified by the United Nations Environment Program as being one of the most vulnerable industries when it comes to being affected by climate change. With average winter temperatures rising, and the first snowfalls happening later and later, it is becoming increasingly difficult for resorts to run for the number of days they would have in the past. Even resorts with comprehensive snowmaking equipment are finding temperatures too warm to maintain ski-worthy slopes at the beginning and end of the season. Snow skiing areas at lower elevations appear to be most at risk for losing income, as many lack the resources to deal with the drop in natural snowfall and shortening of snow sport seasons.
Founded in 2007 by Jeremy Jones, a pro snowboarder who took note of resorts closing due to lack of snow, Protect Our Winters (POW) aims to “unite and actively engage the global snow sports community to lead the fight against climate change.” POW launched the “POW Riders Alliance” consisting of fifty-two professional snow sport athletes who are dedicated to fighting climate change. These alliance members are committed to making others – sponsors, fans, students, media, etc. – aware of the problems facing the snow sport industry. POW representatives have been to Capitol Hill to discuss with members of Congress the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon standards, and have hand delivered a letter signed by seventy-five professional athletes to the White House urging President Obama to act on clean energy and climate change.
In addition to numerous other climate change awareness projects, under the banner of the POW7, the organization has compiled a list of seven things individuals can do to fight climate change. Visit the POW website to find out how you can get involved.
Located in the Alpine National Park in the north-eastern region of Victoria, Australia, Falls Creek offers world-class snow skiing facilities during the country’s winter months. Lying at an altitude of between 1,210 and 1,830 meters the ski-in, ski-out resort has lift facilities to take snow sport enthusiasts to a level of 1,780 meters, with snowcat access to the nearby peak of Mount McKay at 1,842 meters high. While the majority of skiers and snowboarders visiting Falls Creek are from within Australia, the resort draws large numbers of international cross-country skiers for the annual Kangaroo Hoppet, and international snowboarders for the Australian Slopestyle Championships, dubbed Stylewars, as well as for the Australian leg of the TTR World Tour in early September.
Held annually on the last Saturday of August, The Kangaroo Hoppet is a long distance cross-country skiing race regulated by the Worldloppet Ski Federation. The day’s activities include three main events – The Kangaroo Hoppet, the Australian Birkebeiner and the Joe Hoppet. The Kangaroo Hoppet covers a distance of 42 km and is an official Worldloppet main race, while the Australian Birkebeiner covers half the distance and is counted as a Worldloppet short race. The 7 km Joey Hoppet offers skiers the opportunity to experience a taste of the larger events, but is not counted as a Worldloppet race. This popular event has been taking place annually since it debuted in 1991.
A new ski resort has opened its doors at Falls Creek for the 2013 snow sport season, offering 63 one, two and three-bedroom apartments with panoramic views of the spectacular scenery the area is known for. Most of the apartments have hot-tubs on their balconies, screened off from neighbors for privacy while making the most of the view. QT Falls Creek will have the chain’s signature StingRay lounge for esprit-ski activities, as well as the SpaQ wellness center for some serious pampering.
As Australia heads into snow sport season, a leading Australian climatologist has noted that each year the snow season is shrinking, and predicts that this winter will be no exception. As the Australian Bureau of Meteorology monitors the situation, it has been observed that particularly high temperatures have been recorded over the past nine months, with every indication that above-average temperatures will continue during winter. However, thanks to modern snowmaking technologies, snow sport fans are assured that they will be able to enjoy their Australian skiing vacations as usual.