The 2019 Snowbike Gathering Reflects the Evolution of Snow Bikes
The sport has reached a standard nearly on par with that of snowmobiles, with OEM backing and everything that goes along with it.
Today, manufacturers of modern snow bike systems offer a diverse lineup of kits, parts, accessories and even apparel specific to snow biking. It is safe to say snowbiking is here to stay and the innovations will continue to evolve as it expands further into a worldwide market.
All images by Media 21
2019 Snowbike Gathering
The growth in presence and culture of the snow bike community is evident by the attendance at the 3rdannual Snowbike Gathering in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. The event is organized by two local riders who are dedicated to the growth of the sport. Scott Chisholm and Andrew Thompson are the founders of Vernon Snow MX and they started the event in 2016. The 2019 Snowbike Gathering welcomed 60 riders from across North America to Park Mountain and Nelson Mountain, near Lumby, BC on February 23, 2019.
Local riders and out-of-towners were invited to experience the beauty of the Monashee Mountains and meet other passionate snow bike enthusiasts. With a slight deviance from the average motorsport event demographic, the gathering had a wide variety of both males and females between the ages of 20-65.
There were multiple snow bike brands present, beginners to advanced riders in attendance and even the odd set of tandem riders on one bike. I am not certain if the world record book has anything set for snow bikes yet, but it seems that the gathering probably holds the record for the most snow bikes in one area, ever.
Check out the video by the organizers of the event, Vernon Snow MX:
The gathering kicked-off (and wrapped up) in the parking lot at the base of Park Mountain. To start the group ride, riders embarked on a 20km, groomed trail ride to the filming area. Snow conditions were favourable with 60 cm of fresh pow and a clearly marked path to the cabin, allowing all riders to make it to the filming area with ease.
Once at the cabin, the snow bikers gathered together and a drone captured the group of riders shredding the powder around the area from the air. Afterwards, riders were encouraged to use their GPS to navigate a loop of the area or just freeride. Local riders accompanied people new to the area to show them the honey pots and ensure nobody was riding solo.
When the riding was done for the day, riders enjoyed a free BBQ and event sponsors made sure that everyone went home with some goodies.
With big group gatherings, it is always a concern having so many people to keep an eye on in one area. And as the day progressed the lighting became variable, making for compromised visibility. One rider hit an unseen cross ditch due to poor visibility in flat light. He reported a 9/10 on the pain scale and confirmed he was not able to ride out. Fortunately, the organizers had Search & Rescue on-site and used their satellite communications device to call in a helicopter. This incident reinforced the importance of having the proper safety gear and communications in the backcountry. Thankfully Scott and Andrew were extra prepared, and the rider was transported to safety and on the road to recover as efficiently as possible.
Evolution of the Snow Bike Industry
At this point, manufacturers, dealers and riders are equally involved in the evolution of the industry.
Engineers are listening to dealer and rider feedback and putting their time and resources into offering new chassis and product development with rideability in mind. Manufacturers are offering more models, suspension options and track sizes to cater to different riders. And they are supporting their products with warranties and rebate programs.
Aftermarket companies are helping bike setups become better adapted to winter riding with accessories like engine blankets, heated bars and custom foot pegs.
At the dealer level, today’s riders can expect snow check options, parts and service to be readily available where they live or ride.
And for the riders who have been discovering what’s possible on a snow bike, the recent introduction of snow bikes to X Games is a sign of the progression. Professional motocross racers are now racing snow bikes. Freestyle motocross riders are evolving snow bike freestyle. There are even some professional snowmobile athletes adding snow biking to their resumes. And, of course, there are even more enthusiasts out there working to take their snow bikes to new places every day.
It is clear that snow biking is here to stay. And just like the diversity of snow bike kits on the market today, the culture and community of snow bikers continue to evolve and grow with events like the Snowbike Gathering.