All set to ‘scoot’

Will snowscooting – a mix of snowboarding and BMX biking – become the latest rage at Ski Dubai? City Times speaks to Karsten Ehrly and Jerome Dutel

By Adam Zacharias

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Published: Tue 28 Oct 2008, 8:39 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:45 PM

A PHENOMENON WHICH fuses snowboarding and BMX biking techniques has launched at Ski Dubai.

Snowscooting lets participants steer their way down a ski slope using a handlebar and two snowboard-like soles.

The contraption was invented in 1991 by Frenchman Franck Petoud, as he was sat in a Swiss chalet with a group of friends on a cold and blustery night. Many had thought of similar ideas before, but Petoud’s straightforward design endured beyond all its rivals.

Seventeen years later, the sport’s popularity continues to snowball – partly because it provides a fresh set of challenges to both novices and experts on the slopes.

Today more than 22 countries organise international snowscoot competitions and the sport has federations as far afield as Korea and New Zealand. Visitors to Mall of the Emirates will now be able to try it for themselves, after its official UAE arrival on Sunday.

City Times met with two of the sport’s most prominent figures – Karsten Ehrly and Jérôme Dutel – and saw them break out their bag of tricks on a few trial runs. Karsten, 38, is the president of the Snowscoot Foundation Europe. A marketing manager from Frankfurt, he began riding snowscoot in 1992 and turned professional three years later.

Jérôme, 29, is the president of the Fédération Suisse de Snowscoot. He began snowscooting five years ago and has taken honours in numerous European competitions.

How did you both initially get into snowscooting?

Jérôme: When I was younger I spent a lot of time on my bike – quad bikes, mountain biking, BMX. Not at a particularly high level, just like any other kid. And I knew how to ski and how to snowboard. So when I tried snowscoot I picked up the technique in five minutes. My first fall was after an hour and a half. When you start snowboarding, you fall over every five minutes at first. It’s easier than snowboarding to learn and it’s easier to balance on the board.

Karsten: Snowscoot is a way of putting BMX style on snow. I was interested in mountain biking and used to buy a specialist magazine called ‘Vélo Vert’. There was a snowscoot advertisement in it – I called the number, then went to Grenoble and learnt how to do it there.

Where do you get your ideas for tricks?

Karsten: The tricks are more like those you find on a BMX or motorcycle. This is because in the air the snowscoot is like a bicycle, but on the snow it’s like a snowboard. It mixes the technical elements of both.

What are snowscoot speeds like compared to skiing or snowboarding?

Jérôme: You can’t really compare them. Normally we’re slower than a skier or snowboarder, but on certain tracks we’re faster.

Karsten: There’s one guy in Switzerland who holds the record for speed snowscooting. It’s like speed skiing, where they wear aerodynamic suits and special helmets. He reached 140kmh.

How have you noticed snowscooting’s growing popularity in recent years?

Jérôme: There are a lot of places in France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany where you can rent snowscoots and have snowscoot lessons. People are interested in doing it because they already know how to ride a bike so it is much easier for them. It’s almost the same movements as snowboarding but you have a handlebar. And people feel safer because they are more stable.

Why do you find it so exhilarating?

Karsten: I think it’s something really special. You don’t need sticks like skiing and you are not bound onto the boards like in snowboarding. You can wear snow boots, soft boots or hiking boots and it’s easy for people to learn. In Germany I taught an 80-year-old man who had seen us with our snowscoots. He left his skis in the bus and I taught him how to ride. After two weeks he said ‘this is pretty cool’ and ordered a snowscoot. It’s for all ages.

Jérôme: For me, I knew how to snowboard and ski and this was the next level. I can jump every bump in the snow and perform tricks, going off walls and trees and everything else. If you go to the Alps, you see people there in their free time. They have spent a lot of money but they look sad and I don’t know why – they just want to go skiing like everyone else. You see 10 snowscooters at the same place and they’re always excited and have a smile on their faces. It’s never boring.

Do snowscoot enthusiasts have that same crazy mentality that snowboarders are renowned for?

Jérôme: I think we’re different from snowboarders, we’re from different backgrounds. In snowboarding, you see people with the same jackets and the same styles. It’s more aggressive. In snowscooting, you have people who are older than that because snowboarders tend to be young. You can be more responsible and we’re very careful on the slopes.

How does it feel to see snowscooting come to Dubai?

Karsten: It feels great. The first time I came to Ski Dubai I brought my snowscoot and people asked me what it was. To be here is really special, it’s a pleasure and for us it’s great to be able to show snowscooting to the public. I hope we can reach the younger people of Dubai as well.

Jérôme: What’s good is that if people come and spend three days at Ski Dubai, if they don’t know how to ski or snowboard will they learn in three days? No way. With snowscoot, in one hour you can learn it and start trying new things. It’s a big advantage for Ski Dubai to have snowscoot because the history of winter sports here is very small. In Switzerland, everyone knows how to ski. Here, people don’t see the spirit of winter sports as just skiing; it’s all on the same level. They don’t care about that, they try what they want.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

To snowscoot at Ski Dubai, visit www.skidxb.com, call 04 409 4000 or visit Mall of the Emirates.

adam@khaleejtimes.com


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