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- Los Angeles
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- Washington, D.C.
Andrew Bisharat | Photo: Courtesy Images | November 18, 2013
Here, we bring you three hybrid winter activities and ask, “Are these sports the future?”
One could argue that all modern sports are fusions of earlier sports, which are rooted in simpler forms of athleticism. Isn’t football just catch meets keep-away tag, but with a lot more rules and concussions?
Snowboarding, clearly, is surfing on snow. In fact, snowboarding used to be called “snurfing.” Sherman Poppen of Muskegon, Mich., is credited with inventing the first snurfer in 1965, when he latched an old pair of skis to the bottom of his daughter’s sled and tied a rope to its nose so she could have some control while standing. The creation caught on, and Poppen licensed the design to a manufacturer that sold a million snurfers over the next 10 years.
Early snurfers, such as Jake Burton Carpenter (who founded Burton Snowboards in 1977), took Poppen’s design and progressed it further by mixing in elements from skateboarding, ultimately creating modern snowboarding. Today, snowboarding comprises 30 percent of all snow-sport activities, and Burton is the largest snowboarding brand in the world.
Enter: snow scooting, fat biking and mixed climbing, three hybrid winter sports that you may not have heard about (yet!), but which have the potential to be the next snowboard craze. Will they catch on? Get out there this winter and decide for yourself.
Hybrid of: Ice climbing meets rock climbing
History: Ice climbing evolved out of mountaineering, and over the last 30 years, technology has revolutionized this traditional sport. Today, it’s not just about climbing frozen curtains and waterfalls by picking and kicking your way up the ice using specialized ice axes (for your hands) and crampons (for your boots). Now, climbers are looking for a greater physical challenge by climbing overhanging rock faces using specialized ice tools and crampons.
Why it's the future: For the first time ever, mixed climbing will be showcased in a special demonstration in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia—a strong stride for becoming a full-fledged Olympic sport.
Where to find it: Ouray Ice Park, Ouray, Colo. With more than 200 climbs, the Ouray Ice Park is the premier destination to try the sport in a relatively safe environment. Check out the Ouray Ice Festival, Jan. 9-12, 2014.
Gear: Lowa Ice Comp IP GTX ($675, REI Atlanta, 1800 Northeast Expressway NE, 404.633.6508, lowaboots.com) is a specialized mixed-climbing boot with an integrated crampon. The C.A.M.P. X-Dream ($280, REI Atlanta, camp-usa.com) is a lightweight, specialized mixed-climbing tool that reduces arm fatigue on overhanging rock.
Hybrid of: Mountain biking meets the snow
History: Originating in Alaska, the fat bike boasts a set of oversize “fat” tires that are twice as wide as standard mountain-bike tire tread. Fat-bike powder skis create more flotation in deep snow, and the increased surface area of fat tires create more traction and flotation in snow—for which fat bikes were originally designed—as well as mud and sand. Bonus: Big, squishy tires absorb impact, so fat bikes need no suspension.
Why it's the future: Fat-bike manufacturers, with new designs and categories, are popping up all around the country. There are even fat-bike races, from the manageable Fatbike Frozen 40, held mid-winter in Maple Grove, Minn., to the 200-mile multisport Iditasport ultramarathon that traverses extreme frozen Alaskan tundra (Feb. 7-14, 2014).
Where to find it: Arcticcycles.com offers guided fat-bike trips on the classic Iditarod Trail in Alaska, while Teton Mountain Bike Tours
(tetonmtbike.com) offers winter fat-bike tours of wildlife and beautiful mountain scenery surrounding Jackson Hole, Wyo. Otherwise, any snow-covered area of your choice, from Minneapolis to Aspen, should have options.
Gear: Yampa XX1 by Borealis Bikes ($5,550, borealisbikes.com). With a rare carbon-fiber frame, the Borealis Yampa is one of the sweetest, lightest and fattest rides on the market.
Hybrid of: BMX meets snowboarding
History: In 1992, Franck Petoud—a BMX rider from the French Alps—built what he referred to as a “bicycle snow machine,” according to Greg Pamart of SnowScoot USA. Petoud’s vision was to stand on a board with unbound feet and hang on using BMX bike handlebars drilled into the board’s nose, like a scooter. Because your feet aren’t attached, you can do BMX-style tricks on a snow scooter, such as a tail whip.
Why it's the future: Snow scooting is popular in Japan and all across Europe, but hasn’t found a following in the United States yet due to distribution costs.
Where to find it: La Vormaine, Chamonix, France. A new freestyle area at this intermediate ski resort, located in the heart of Europe’s richest and most historic mountains, is the perfect place to find a snow scooter and start practicing your kick flips.
Gear: TRANSSX by SnowScoot USA ($2,600, snowscootusa.com) is a full-suspension snow scooter that produces a butter-soft ride when hitting those rollers.