Sovis of Einstein Cycles in Traverse City, Mich.,
rides a fat bike through the snow.
ó Itís cold. Itís snowy. Itís already been a hard
goodness for clever diversions to have big fun in northern
Michigan, where snow is just another word for fun. Below
are three new ways you can take winter sports to another
big air bag
Mich. ó Christopher Gibson spins upside down on his
skis, then plop! He lands in the "Big Air" giant
air bag on the side of a ski slope.
hit this jump. It has a lot of pop. And after you do your
trick you just poof right into it," says Gibson, who
is the snow sports specialist at Treetops Resort.
30-by-30 feet square and standing a marshmallow-y 8 feet
high when inflated, the air bag aids beginners practicing
their first straight-air jumps or more advanced skiers
trying complex tricks.
first, it may seem intimidating, especially when you see
Gaylord snowboarder Abby Beachnau, 13, who soars and
twists high above the bag before gracefully descending.
But the bag, in its second year, also is a favorite of ski
school students and, increasingly, curious guests who see
it in action and want to try the only permanent air bag in
the Midwest. What do people practice? Everything.
(spins) are just getting crazy," says Gibson.
"People are doing triples and quads."
practicing ski or snowboard tricks on a hill combines a
surge of adrenaline with a real fear of falling, he says.
with the air bag, "the thrill is amazing. Itís all
adrenaline. No fear. Itís a good time."
you go: Big Air bag users wear helmets and are given
tutorials on how to gain speed and hit the bag properly.
Open to skiers and snowboard riders, itís $30 for a
2-hour session. Reserve a spot online at http://treetops.com/ski-and-winter-adventures/winter-activity-schedule/reserve-big-air-bag-session.
The bag operates, weather permitting, 10 a.m.-noon and
1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-noon Sunday and
3:30-5 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday. Call for current
Resort (3962 Wilkinson Rd., Gaylord) is open seven days a
week this winter due to excellent snow cover, says General
Manager Barry Owens. Treetops has 23 slopes and also many
$99-a-night lodging/ski deals. Go to www.treetops.com
or call 888-TREETOPS (888-873-3867).
CITY, Mich. ó Coming down the snowy trail, Cody Sovis
isnít pushing skis. Heís pushing pedals.
25, who sells, rides and races fat bikes for Einstein
Cycles in Traverse City, has seen the new sport take off
in the past year.
fat bikes would have been invented 200 years ago, skiing
would have never been invented. Bikes are so much less
work," he says. "When I first heard about them I
thought this was the stupidest idea ever. But once you
ride one for 5 minutes you get it."
within the past decade by Alaskans making their own fat
bikes by welding bike frames together, manufacturers began
producing them 4-5 years ago. The sport has only been in
the Midwest for 3 years.
biking is a huge thing in Minnesota, Wisconsin and
Michigan. Itís mostly mountain-biking people who use it
for cross-training, because up here you might get 6 months
of decent weather," Sovis says.
anyone can rent a fat bike and try it through the snow.
fat tires ó up to 4 1/2 inches wide ó are inflated
only 2-4 pounds per square inch, like a beach bike. I
tried it on a snowy trail and found it was more
challenging than riding a bike on dry pavement but less
tough than cross-country skiing. There are no extra skills
to master, except maybe figuring out how to squeeze the
hand brakes while wearing mittens.
hot are fat bikes? VASA, Traverse Cityís big series of
cross country races (this year Feb. 8-9) will for the
first time feature a "SkiFatalon" ó a
27-kilometer ski race combined with a 27-kilometer fat
bike race, "which is cool," says Sovis, who owns
an aluminum Salsa Mukluk 3 fat bike.
the rest of us, renting a fat-tire bike for a couple hours
is probably challenge enough.
you go: Many bike shops and resorts now rent fat-tire
bikes. The smallest bikes are about 14-15 inches high,
suitable for teens or adults 5-foot-2 and up. At Einstein
Cycles (1990 US-31 N., Traverse City,
www.einsteincycles.com, 231-421-8148), a 2-hour rental is
$25, all day is $60. No special tools needed, except maybe
to carry a special pressure gauge that can accurately
measure 2-6 psi, far lower pressure than most bike pumps
Mich. ó Send winter out with a roar.
this season, the Schuss Mountain Snow Challenge (April
5-6) will transform the snowy/muddy spring ski hills at
Shanty Creek Resort into an uphill racetrack.
trucks, Jeeps and other giant-wheeled vehicles will race
side-by-side uphill while spectators watch the noisy,
aggressive action from the sidelines. The event is a
fund-raiser for Michiganís Disabled American Veterans.
you donít have to just watch. If you happen to own a
modified or monster truck, there are various classes for
different size vehicles and modifications; entries are
online in advance only. See all the details at www.griztekusa.com/SnowChallenge.html(POUND)anchor(UNDERSCORE)160).
just one thing youíve got to know, baby.
be coming down the mountain when those trucks are coming
you go: Shanty Creek Resort (5780 Shanty Creek Road,
Bellaire) currently is deep into regular ski season. Mark
your calendar, though, for the Schuss Mountain Snow
Challenge, April 5-6. Spectator tickets are $10, $5 for
seniors, veterans and children ages 16 and younger.
Lodging packages and special offers are also available;
see www.shantycreek.com or 800-678-4111.