Whether you call it ski-bobbing, ski-biking, ski-toys, or some other descriptive name, the sport of "ski-bob" has existed for a lot longer than you might think. Although the first ski-bobbing device was patented in the USA in 1892, winter sports enthusiasts have been sliding downhill on contraptions other than skis for centuries.


The sport received a major boost in the mid 1960s when it caught on with some success in Europe. First sprouting at the resort of Crans-Montana in Switzerland, it was later embraced at Davos, Arosa and St. Moritz. Slopes were set aside specifically for ski-bobs, rentals were offered, and lifts were slowed to accommodate the bicycle-like equipment. The sport spread to the British Isles, and ultimately, to the western hemisphere.

It was originally thought that ski-bobs would have a tremendous appeal among the 40+ demographic, with a few younger users who mainly weren't interested in the risks associated with skiing. (Keep in mind that in the mid-1960s skiing was still an extremely hazardous affair; straight skis and poor bindings continued to break legs at an alarming rate.) It was promoted that the ski-bob had 4 points of contact with the snow, the participant's legs weren't locked in to long skis, and that it was overall much safer. This was probably true at the time, but the problem was that virtually anyone who was frightened on skis found ski-bobbing to be equally terrifying.

In the USA, ski-bobbing had a much smaller surge in the late 1960s. Some types of ski bobs had been around for years, but these were rare oddities that made an occasional appearance on a snow day at a local sledding hill. A few Americans who saw it done in Europe sought out the ski bikes; a Californian named William Cartwright being the most notable. Cartwright took his family to Europe and was hooked on the sport in 1963. He imported a few, and in 1965 formed the Skibob Club of Santa Rosa. They promptly received a chilly reception at ski areas. In 1967 Cartwright brought the Swiss ski-bob team to give a demonstration in Montana, and the sport received some national media coverage in Time magazine. A year later the ski-bob was sufficiently popular that carrot-topped cartoon character Archie was seen doing it in the comic pages.

In 1968 the American Skibob Association (ASBA) was founded in Colorado, and put on demonstrations at Arapahoe Basin. The quirky sport immediately appealed to the independent spirit prevalent at A-Basin, and soon competitions were held. Ski-bobbing grew as the decade changed into the 1970s -- popular at some areas, virtually unseen at others. You might compare it to snowblading or telemarking; those activities simply aren't seen at every ski area, although they appear to have staying power that ski bikes have not.

By the early 1970s the bikes were outlawed at many resorts. The reasons why are not clear; perhaps liability issues, but more likely some run-ins with vocal skiers. Except for the core enthusiasts who carried the torch for ski-bobbing, the sport all but died out in the USA.

In Europe, on the other hand, ski-bobbing settled in at a small but healthy level of popularity.

Ski-Bobbing or Ski-Biking Today

In recent years ski-bobbing has seen a bit of a comeback in the USA; a number of resorts offer full access, some offer restricted access, and a few even offer rentals. Competitions are still held across the country, although participation is infintesimal compared to skiing or snowboarding races.

There are basically four types of ski-bobs (or ski-bikes):

  1. Traditional -- this is based on skis, and is ridden with foot-skis.
  2. Hybrid -- also based on skis, but ridden without foot-skis.
  3. BoardBikes -- this is based on a snowboard.
  4. Extreme or "other" -- this covers anything that doesn't fit into the first three categories; these are often home-built or modified.

According to

The Ski-Bike experience is profound. It's kind of a combination of skiing and mountain biking with a bit of motorcycle flat track thrown in for spice.


Ski-Bobbing competitions are similar to skiing competitions; control gates are used and races are timed. There are also "extreme" competitions, as well as high speed competitions. The current record is over 120 mph.

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Masthead photos used by permission:
Ralf Roletschek
Creative Commons
US Army/public domain
Erik Charlton.