Riding bumper cars on ice — these are at Howelsen Ice Arena in Steamboat Springs, Colo. — is one of a number of relatively new diversions being offered in winter recreation destinations, along with airboarding, snow bikes and snowkiting. (Photo by Karen Schwartz/Associated Press)
By Karen Schwartz
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — After nearly 50 years of living in the Rocky Mountains, I thought I knew how to enjoy the winter. I’ve gone skiing, skating, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, tobogganing, sleigh riding, dog-sledding and more.
But until this winter, I’d never heard of bumper cars on a skating rink. And it wasn’t until recently that I had my first chance to carve turns down a ski hill on a snowbike.
It’s part of a trend to provide visitors to ski resorts and other snowy destinations with a wider variety of choices, said Troy Hawks, managing editor of the National Ski Areas Association Journal.
“What we’re seeing is a larger swath of the family — you’ve got the grandkids all the way to the grandparents — and all of them have their idea of how they want to spend their day,” he said.
Some activities are more popular in certain regions, and some aren’t well advertised, so for a different spin on a snow-destination vacation, here are some things to look for:
These massive, inflatable air bags are placed at the bottom of jumps to allow skiers and boarders to try flips and spins. Nail the landing on your feet and you ride off down the hill. Fail, and you have a soft landing. www.bagjump.com or www.bigairbag.com
A high-tech spin on winter tubing, these snow body boards are inflatable sleds with molded plastic runners on the bottom and handles on the top. The sleds can reach speeds of 60 mph or more (nearly 100 kilometers per hour), and users steer by shifting their body weight. They’re offered at some ski areas (though banned at others) as well as through some private operators. www.airboard.com has a partial list of rental locations.
Bumper cars on ice
Just what it sounds like, these are turning up at skating rinks from coast to coast. The battery-operated “cars” are large rubber tubes with molded seats that can hold one adult or an adult and small child. Controlled by two joysticks, they are easy to steer or spin as they bump along on wheels with tiny cleats. Most rinks have age, height or weight restrictions.