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Longest running skibike festival returns to Purgatory Resort

Durango the ‘epicenter’ of sport’s revival

Purgatory Resort has long been a heaven for skibikers. Ideal conditions will welcome those attending the longest running skibike festival in the country this weekend.

In partnership with the American SkiBike Association, Purgatory will host its SkiBike Festival on Saturday and Sunday. It is the 18th consecutive year Purgatory has hosted the event.

“Purgatory was at the center of where this sport got going again,” said Jim Cameron, chairman of the American SkiBike Association. “Roy Meiworm started the festival, and Mike Sparkman has helped make Durango an epicenter of what I would call the rebirth of skibiking in the USA.”

Skibiking got its start in the 1950s. Cameron said it made a run in the late 1960s and early ’70s before dying down as resorts resisted the movement and the sometimes questionable equipment. When it made a return in the late 1980s and early ’90s, Purgatory was one of the mountains that embraced the sport. Now, roughly one-third of ski areas in the U.S. allow skibiking.

Skibiking has continued to grow in popularity and is now allowed at roughly one-third of U.S. ski areas.

“The sport of skibiking is really growing all over the U.S. as well as in Canada and Europe. It’s taking off as a sport for all ages and abilities, and it’s great for adaptive skiing,” said Sherry Rawls-Bryce, one of the American SkiBike Association board members who got her start in the sport with a lesson at Purgatory Resort in 2013.

Technology improvements have helped in that process. No longer are skibikes – also often called snowbikes – made of converted mountain bikes and old chopped up skis. Frames are specifically made for skibiking purposes. Companies have also standardized the fittings to attach skis so customers can use a variety of skis on their frame from numerous manufacturers.

Powder skis will be in demand this weekend with up to 10 inches of snow in the forecast for Saturday and another four inches Sunday.

“We will have two brands of new powder skis we will be showing at the festival,” Cameron said. “People don’t realize how the industry has standardized some things now. It’s like when snowboard companies all aligned and decided on a universal way of attaching bindings to any brand of board.

“The bikes are much better since the old days of conversion kits.”

Skibike technology has rapidly evolved in recent years, making the sport more accessible to a variety of athletes.

Several skibike manufacturers will be at Purgatory Resort this weekend showing off the latest equipment.

Cameron said he expects a slightly smaller gathering this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, he knows some skibikers will come from as far as Seattle and the Midwest to partake in the action. The stop at Purgatory Resort is the third of five official events the American SkiBike Association has scheduled around the country this year.

“In the past, we have had races. But we aren’t going to do races this year,” Cameron said. “But everybody is coming to ride. It’s a great networking event and a chance to check out the latest and greatest gear from the manufacturers. It’s like a big skibike summit, and everybody is jazzed to be in Durango again this year.”

Cameron also will be working on filming an instructional video this weekend at the base area. And while there won’t be any official racing, Cameron said some riders will hit up the Purgatory NASTAR course Sunday.

“Skibiking results are captured in a national database,” he said. “A lot of the people who go to Durango have qualified for nationals in the past.”

jlivingston@durangoherald.com

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