history of SKIBIKING
1892 - American, Mr. J. C. Stevens patented the idea of a bicycle where the front wheel was replaced by a ski, the 'Ice Velocopide'.
1911 - the "Velogemel" was patented in Grindelwald, Switzerland. This is probably the first actual production skibike.
1946/7 - German Engineer, M. G. Gfäller obtained a patent for a "single track steerable sledge", and thus the 'Gfäller Ei' was invented.
1949 - Austrian Engineer, Engelbert Brenter invented the 'Sit Ski'.
1954 - the first international skibob race held in Obertaun, Austria.
1961 - The Fédération Internationale de Skibob (FISB) formed
1967 - The first World Skibob Championships held.
1967 - The Skibob Association of Great Britain (SAGB) formed to support the British skibob team.
Skibobs were originally designed as means of transport in the Alps, until 1949, when Engelbert Brenter, an Austrian ski manufacturer, obtained a patent for his "Sit-Ski". This device incorporated several innovative features. Prior to this time, skibikes were essentially transportation vehicles, a steer-able sledge with runners. Utilizing the principles of skiing, Mr. Brenter replaced the runners with real skis, added a suspension system and began utilizing short foot-skis. The end result of these changes was a slope useable device capable of skidded turns and speed control. These user- friendly attributes were a major contributing factor in the transformation of skibiking into the recreational sport that we know today.
In 1950, the German engineer Ernst Reiss-Schmidt patented a design later to become the "Gfaellerei" with a hoop-frame bike. In 1952, he patented a rocket powered winged hybrid, with the front ski replaced by two in parallel. His son, Georg Jr, would later serve as President of the FISB, and it is said that he coined the expression "Skibob".
It wasn't until 1954 that the first international race was held, followed by the forming of the Fédération Internationale de Skibob (FISB) in 1961. The first World Championships were held in 1967 in Obertaun, Austria, the same year that the Skibob Association of Great Britain was formed.
The sport continued to grow during the1960s in Europe, first at the resort of Crans-Montana in Switzerland, and then quicly embraced at Davos, Arosa and St. Moritz. Slopes were set aside specifically for skibobs, rentals were offered, and lifts were slowed to accommodate the bicycle-like equipment. The sport, marketed as a safer alternative to skiing with its 4 points of contact with the snow (and less broken legs due to poor ski bindings!), spread to the British Isles, and ultimately, on to North America. JAFCA and Proche skibos were the popular models of the day.
In the USA, a few Americans who saw it done in Europe sought out the skibobs, 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 but they received a chilly reception at ski areas. In 1967 Cartwright brought the Swiss skibob team to give a demonstration in Montana, and the sport received some national media coverage in Time magazine. A year later the skibob 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 sport immediately appealed to the independent spirit prevalent at A-Basin, and soon competitions were held. Across the border, Kevan Leycraft was a leading Canadian skibobber, designing several skbobs himself. Skibobbing grew into the 1970s, with a world cup competition held at Mount Rose, Nevada, in 1971. It proved popular in some areas, virtually unseen at others - and sadly banned 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 skibobbing, the sport all but died out in the USA.
In Europe, on the other hand, skibobbing remained popular with many skibob clubs across Austria, Switzerland, Germany and Czech Republic. The annual world champioships continues today, with a world cup circuit across Europe and over 10 nations regularly competing. Mike Flachsmann's racing skibikes lead the way, building on the earlier Keeda model, and continue to be the most favoured skibob on the World Cup circuit. The leisure sport has also flourished led by Bobby and Harald Brenter, grandsons of Austrian Engelbert Brenter, whose ligth-weight Brenter Snowbikes can be found across the Alps and more recently at many ski areas worldwide.
In recent years skibobbing has seen a bit of a comeback in the USA; a number of resorts offer full access, some offer restricted access, and a few offer rentals. Competitions are still held across the country.
Freestyle skibikes (ridden without footskis) have become popular recently, especially in the States, and in some areas of France you can still see the Snow Scoot, a hybrid skibike made with a snowboard and no saddle.
The photos above are from the Ski Museum in Spital am Semering in Austria where they have some of the earliest skibikes on display.