Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why wear a skibike leash?

For the most part, skibikers are the only people who know about skibike leashes.  Most don't like wearing them but some resorts require them.

Wrong information

So why would a ski resort require their use?  Believe it or not a few resorts require them because of incorrect information they've heard from other resorts.  Things sometimes get garbled in transmission and they require them for all the wrong reasons.

Why would a skibiker balk at wearing a leash?  Hey, nothing ever happens that warrants using a leash, right?  Not necessarily.

Opinions on where and why should ski resorts require them?  And how should they be attached?

Bike design

From direct personal conversations I've had with my fellow ski industry members - some in management, others in marketing - most seem to think that it is bike designs that warrant the need for leashes.  Most have heard rumors that there are designs that allow them to take off down the slopes by themselves.  Who wants a piece of metal hurtling down the slopes?

On a guesstimate, I'll say 95% of bikes out there will immediately fall over and stop upon rider ejection.  If they have on fat powder skis they can take off by themselves.  Ultimate Snow Toys 3Skis and North Legion SMX's designs are models that can take off riderless.  Snowboard based bikes are also prone to takeoffs but they aren't 'skibikes'.

Requiring a leash on the ski slopes is really only needed if the bike design allows it to take off down the hill by itself.  I've seen more snowboards without leashes take off down the hill riderless.  I've never seen a skibike take off down the hill.  I only know of one direct incident of fat powder skis causing a riderless bike.

So where should ski resorts be concerned with skibike leashes? 

Ask experienced safety-conscious riders and they'll tell you the ski chairlift.  Skibikes dropping from chair lifts have happened due to a variety of reasons.  A heavy skibike falling from a chairlift onto a skier below could result in serious injury to the skier and the rider.

It's not any one style of skibike dropping either.  Skibobs and peggers have dropped from lifts.  What seems to be a common denominator is lack of experience, bike weight, and lack of proper lift loading knowledge.

Colorado Tramway Board regulations

The Colorado Tramway Board governs ski lift safety in the state of Colorado.  It has the strictest safety policies in the USA.  Many rules and regulations have been developed due to past incidents.

There is no official skibike leash use policy that I know of issued by the Colorado Tramway Board.  I have been told that it has been recommended that the leash attach to rider while riding on the chairlift.

Roy Meiworn, who was the head of lift operations at Durango Mountain Resort for many years, countered this recommendation with an official OSHA policy that forbids this practice.  If the bike falls, it may pull the rider off the lift with it.  From what I have heard, this is exactly what happened in the spring of 2011 at Powder Mountain in Utah with a Skki Trikke.  While not a skibike, people often confuse a Trikke as one.

Safety-conscious skibikers are not opposed to using a leash on the chairlift.  Where they attach while on the lift is another matter.  Most agree the best place for a leash to be attached is to some point of the actual chairlift.  That way if the bike falls, it does not drag the rider off too.

Require certification

Requiring skibike certification (license) before one can use a chairlift is one policy that many ski resorts have instituted to insure chairlift safety.  Resorts that offer certification offer standardized lessons that teach lift loading and unloading procedures as well as safe operation.  Skibikers must pass requirements to obtain the certification.  The certificate must be shown before loading the chairlift every time.

Durango Mountain Resort has allowed skibikes for many years and institutes a mandatory certificate to load their chairlifts and does not allow homemade skibikes.  Manufactured conversion kit skibikes are allowed.  Leashes are not mandatory.  I have been told by DMR staff that skibikes have never dropped from their chairlifts.

Where to attach them on the chairlift

After four seasons of skibiking at a major Colorado ski resort and teaching lessons for the past four seasons, I have some experience with the plus and minuses of leash use.  I have ridden extensively at another smaller resort that requires them and that they be attached to the rider.

From experience, I'd say the best practice policy would be to require leashes on the chairlift but that they be attached in some manner to the chairlift.  I know what most lift managers would say to that - heck no!  OSHA regulations seem to prohibit attachment to the rider and I think they supersede Colorado Tramway Board regulations.

At-risk riders

Small women and kids do not always have the strength to hold onto a skibike while on the chairlift.  Age limits could be used for children but what about women riders?  The bike drop at Powder Mountain happened to a woman.

The popularity of skibiking in Colorado is growing exponentially.  People are now used to seeing them at many ski resorts and they no longer turn heads.  An official policy for skibikes needs to be developed and communicated to ski resorts by the Colorado Tramway Board.

Visit the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board at 

© 2012 G. Kunkel and A Colorado Skibiker Goes Skibiking. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to G. Kunkel and A Colorado Skibiker Goes Skibiking with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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