None of us will ever claim to be board (sorry) of snowboarding (can you imagine?) but it’s always good to know that there are alternatives out there, without resorting to twin planks. Here are five things you can do on snow that will single you out as ‘a little bit different’ on the slopes.
Bridging the gap between skate and snowboards, this is seen by some as a novelty and by others as the natural progression of park snowboarding. It’s basically a skateboard deck with a p-tex base stuck on the bottom of it so it will slide on snow. No bindings mean it’s easier to come from a skate background than a pure snowboarding one, but obviously the skills are pretty transferable. They come in three types: single deck, bideck, and 4×4.
The single deck is the simplest, and looks just like skateboard without wheels. They have grooves cut into the base and can really be used as a ‘winter skateboard’ – going to the same skatepark you do in the summer, but it’s covered in snow. They’re not ideal for going down your local ski resort, though some snow parks have a dedicated section for them (but many resorts ban them outright).
The bideck (Also known as a Snowdeck – a type of bideck made by Burton) has a skateboard top to it, attached to a ski-like base. It comes in different lengths, and as you might expect, longer is better for cruising around, shorter is better for tricks.
The 4×4 snow skate is a rare thing – they have a small ski at each corner where the wheels would be on a skateboard. Because of this, they have the most skateboard-like feel to them.
Similar to the snowskate, the No Board is a lot more snowboard-like. It’s meant for one thing, and one thing only: Powder. Back when snowboarders were seen as a fad that would die out soon (and yet another thing for skiers to scoff at) snowboards weren’t allowed in resorts. On the upside, that meant powder. Every. Single. Run. On the downside, you had to hike for it. The first snowboards were, in fact, No Boards – they had no bindings and were designed to emulate surfing in powder. Then bindings came along (started by a guy named Jake Burton…) and everyone switched to snowboards (pretty much) as we know them today.
The No Board is an old skool throwback to that time. It comes with a leash, you pull on the leash to keep the board attached to your feet. For the ultimate powder surfing experience, take your favourite powder board, attach a No Board kit, and you too can literally surf down the mountain
Snow Bike (or ‘Ski Bob’)
Don’t let the word ‘ski’ in the name put you off – you’ve probably seen these at resorts, and either thought “Whoa, that looks cool! Can I rent those somewhere?” or “What a dick! He probably rides snowblades the rest of the time”
If it’s the latter, then this article probably isn’t for you. Ski Bobs, as they’re officially known (perhaps the worst name for any snow-related sport – at face value even ‘snow blade’ sounds better) are simply a bike frame with small skis in place of wheels. They tend to have some form of suspension, front and rear and often riders wear snowblades (I know, I know, bear with me here) on their feet for extra stability.
Once you get good though, you can ride without the ‘blades. It’s certainly fun, easy to pick up, and you find that after a day of it, you’re doing drops and jumps you would think twice about doing on a snowboard.
Admittedly not the most adrenaline-charged of snow activities in this list, but it’s what approach skis can lead to that makes them fun. An approach ski is a short, lightweight ski (usually around the 100-140cm mark for a normal male adult) that is used for hiking in the backcountry.
An alternative to the splitboard, approach skis mean you can take your favourite powder board into the backcountry without compromising by splitting it. They beat snowshoes too, each step is a ‘glide’ rather than lifting your whole foot and stomping it down again – saving you at least some energy for the way down. They can have snowboard bindings on them (again, similar to a splitboard) meaning you only need one set of bindings for up and down – saves a bit of weight.
You can even make your own – take a short pair of skis and an old pair of climbing skins, mount splitboard toe pieces and pins onto it and you have an approach ski with the ability to swap out your snowboard bindings from ski to board.
See: http://www.mtnapproach.com/ for more info
This is the most niche sport I’ve come across in a while. As the name suggests, it combines telemark skiing and snowboarding. Yeah, that’s what I though too.
So apparently, it’s kind of like an alpine board in that your feet are angled forward. But obviously your heels are free, like telemarking. And they carry poles. I’ll be honest, to me it looks more like a mono-ski, crossed with telemarking, and a pinch of alpine snowboarding added (only a pinch, mind). The guys that make them talk about ‘improved weight distribution’ and how it ‘lends itself to carving’. I’m not convinced though – the smallest board they offer is a 168 cm – for pipe and park(!)