January 29, 2014 - 4:01 PM
KELOWNA – With an abundance of trails and easy access to the back country, the Okanagan is already known for having world-class snowmobiling in the winter and dirt biking in the summer. Now a new trend combines both pastimes.
The machines are known as snowbikes—dirt bikes modified with a ski on the front and a track on the back. And they’re catching on in popularity. Raymond Ferris, 30, has been riding dirt bikes for more than 15 years. This year, he spent more than $5,000 modifying his Yamaha dirt bike with a kit called a Timbersled he purchased from a dealer in Vernon.
“I remember first seeing them at a bike show in Vancouver,” he says. “I wanted to try it. It’s always hard putting my bike away in the fall and I don’t have room to store a (snowmobile). It’s a way to utilize a bike year round.”
Clayton Prince, president of the Kelowna Snowmobile Club, says he saw his first snow bike five years ago and has watched them evolve and become more popular ever since.
“We don’t hang out the welcome sign for non-snowmobiles ordinarily,” he says. “But from our side of it, it gives us an opportunity to introduce people to what we do in the winter and the trail networks, which is a good thing.”
Prince says his group has had discussions about whether or not snowbikes fit the definition of a snowmobile and thus, deserve to be accommodated on their groomed trails.
“I’m a pure snowmobiler so I look at everything with a slanted eye,” he says. “It certainly is something that has big attraction, though. They can be handled on a trail, they’re not wide or anything like that. If you meet one of these snowbikes on a trail, it’s no big thing, unlike a tracked ATV that’s eight feet wide and 1,200 pounds.”
Tracked ATVs, he says, don’t fit the definition of a snowmobile because of the amount of space they take on the trails.
“They’re far too wide for our groomed trails,” he says.
The die-hard snowmobilers may not feel much enthusiasm for the new machines, but there’s no denying their rising popularity. Part of that may be that local bike and snowmobile dealerships have been actively introducing them to customers.
“The guys at Kelowna Yamaha have kind of been pioneering it here,” says Prince. “They’ve really done a good job getting the machines out and demonstrating them.”
Sno-Moto at Whistler/Blackcomb also has begun renting Timbersleds for $300 per day. Its website says the bikes are “beginner-friendly” and that even new riders have an easier time manoeuvring them than they do with traditional snowmobiles.
“They are probably here to stay,” says Prince. “It's an opportunity for people who own dirt bikes to use them year round and that's pretty appealing. Once people understand the etiquette on the trails and get used to them, they will fit in with our activities just fine.”
Product demo of a Timbersled-equipped snowbike.
A video by Vernon residents Chad Edwards and Reagan Sieg.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at email@example.com, call (250) 718-0428 or tweet @AdamProskiw.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014