Monday, July 12, 2010

Snowboarding Alternatives: The Awesome History of the Snowterbike


The snowterbike has a history spanning back over 70 years and yet you’ve probably never come across one. In this article we take a look at the history, present and future of the snowterbike, and like any good internet story, we start with the Nazis…

Vintage Snowterbikes…

BMW Schneekrad (Germany)
When you’re busy planning world domination you sometimes need to take a break from things and for the Nazis that meant heading to the Alps. Unfortunately for the Nazis snowboarding didn’t exist at the time so they had to invent their own alternative and this is what they came up with, the BMW Schneekrad.
Built in 1936 the Schneekrad was built in the days before snowmobiles were invented. It is also probably where there term ‘Rad!’ originates from.

Based on the BMW R 12 motorcycle it has a huge track running right around the bike itself and it also comes with a nifty sidecar. 
One fundamental problem however is that there is no obvious way of steering the thing and that explains why the original snowterbike never really took off. 

Indian Motorcycle Skis (USA)
Just like rocket technology the US took the German knowledge and built their own version. In 1950 this bad boy appeared in Popular Mechanics. By adding some skis onto a normal motorbike, they managed to improve on the turning ability but introduced a new flaw, because there was now no traction at all so actually moving in snow in any direction was impossible. The dream of the snowterbike faltered again. 

Larven (Sweden)
Next the Swedish took up the baton with the Larven. Designed by Lennart Nilsson in the late 50s, production started in 1965 and continued until the 1980s. In the late 80s when production finished a Larven would have set you back $4,250. The most successful snowterbike yet, about 4,500 Larvens were sold. 
The major downfall of the Larven, and the reason it never really sold outside of Sweden, was probably the fact they gave it a stupid name. Larven means larvae in Swedish. There’s a reason why no one else names their products after maggots.

Here’s the Maggot in action

“Treat yourself and your ‘cycle to a SNOWJOB in ’73…just for the fun of it!”

Talking about stupid names holding back the snowterbike industry, the next lot to fall on that sword were the Advanced Recreation Equipment Corporation.  As one of the commentators points out on The Knee Slider, “Imagine being sold a snow job from a company named A Wreck. No wonder they weren’t too successful.” 
Unfortunately it never sold in much numbers and it would appear to be another snowterbike with real steering problems.

ECHO Snowbike (Japan)
After both two failed attempts in Europe and two in the US the next place to try was Japan. The Japanese Kioritz Corporation through its ECHO USA brand was a specialist in building chainsaws. Strangely they decided that snowterbikes were the next big thing and they designed the Echo Snowbike. Unfortunately their plans were scuppered by the treat of legal action from snowmobile manufacturers, US import restrictions on Japanese engines and low sales expectations and in the end they packed it in after building just a few thousand. 

However the patent holder wasn’t finished, after ECHO’s failed attempt he took his idea to Chrysler and it was given a second chance.

Chrysler Sno-Runner (USA)
Bizarrely this puppy was a result of a US Army request to Chrysler to produce a ligh-weight snow vehicle. The military spec vehicle was designed to reach a heady top speed of 35mph. 
Unfortunately when the military tested the Sno-Runner, it turned out that this snowterbike also had a major flaw - it was useless in powder. The military immediately cancelled its order but the design refused to die and Chrysler decided to foist a reduced speed Sno-runner onto the unsuspecting public.
The public soon discovered a second flaw - the bike didn’t work at altitude. This was of course quite a significant issue because this is where most of the customers were.
The Sno-Runner, which cost $900 new, was only built between 1979 and 1982 before an inevitable financial crisis at Chrysler halted production. About 28,000 were built during that time and the last 4,000 were flogged for just $288 after they changed the name from Snow-Runner to Sno-Rabbit.

And so ends the history of the snowterbike. The consistent and abject failure of the design has amazingly not put people off the idea so let’s see the versions you can buy today.

Modern Snowterbikes…

Antarctic Snow Chopper (Antarctica)
Built just last year by snowmobile mechanics Bob Sawicki and Toby Weisser at McMurdo Station, it’s a one-off snow chopper. The whole thing is made of scrap, the brake is a bent crowbar and the accelerator handle is an old tent pin. You can read the whole back story here
Of course because it is a snowterbike it does have some flaws, it only goes 6mph and you have to go to Antarctica to ride it, so this isn’t going to be something your likely to run into the next time you go snowboarding.

Mystery Snow Chopper (Mystery Location)

Mountain Creek Jib Lab Chopper (USA)
This was made in 2009 by Orange County Choppers during the TV show American Chopper and it’s the most expensive bike on the list. The bike itself is a custom chopper with a snowboard rack and although it isn’t really a snowterbike like the others in the article, I’ve included it because I like the show. If you want to watch some of the highlights of the episode you can watch them on the Mountain Creek site

Conversion Kits
The next few companies all produce a kit to turn a normal motorbike into a snowterbike. If you want something just slightly better than riding a motorbike in snow, but not as good as a snowmobile then here are your options:

Snoxcycle (USA)
Costs $3000
What they say: With the Xcore™ or Xtreme™ products you can cure your winter blues in about the time it takes to change a tire!
*Bike not included

2Moto Radix (USA)
Costs $4000 
What they say: This weekend we presented your product Radix. It was a big success. We compared it with products from companies such as Snow Hawk and Explorer. Radix from company 2 Moto had the best results.This product was tested by two riders, one of them was Ivan Jakes / Paris Dakar rider/. Ivan says "There’s no comparison towards other brands and I would bevery happy if we could race on this style in the future."

Taizhou Macro Vehicle Industry & Trade Co., Ltd. Snow Runner (China)

Probably very cheap.

What they sayOur main products include Moped, Scooter, and so on.

AD Boivin’s EXPLORER (Canada)
Costs $3,000 
What they say: The EXPLORER benefits from 8 years of R&D by sing the exact same ski.

Fortunately though invention is not dead, and the last of these companies has also gone to the trouble of building a proper and surprisingly workable snowterbike…

AD Boivin Snow Hawk (Canada)
I feel the need... The need for speed!
This is easily the best snowterbike that has ever been made. That said it still has the traditional snowterbike flaw because it’s a monstrous combination of ski-doo and monoski. For $12,250 you can have a lot of fun on this unstable device.

Riminimoto Slide Scooter (Italy)
If you were interested in those conversion kits, but you can’t afford a motorbike then you don’t need to be left out. This is a conversion kit for scooters for just $600 a pop.
What they say: The scooter of snow, one of those inventions that makes you say “Strange had not thought of that before.” 
Want to see it in action? Love the soothing sounds of the flute? Check this shit out…

And now come with me as we take a trip into the future. As Dr Emmett Brown once said “Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads.”

Future Snowterbikes…

Kvant Snow Carver (USA)
Concept by by Patrik Peterson“The Kvant snow bike comes with mono curving ski and curve belt drive, giving efficient curve handling and control on snow.”

Dominic Schindler SnowMobile (Austria)
It has a top speed 70 mph, a pricetag of $31,999 and the laziest name of all the snowterbikes. 

Hyanide (Germany)
The first snowterbike was German and the last one is too. Either things have come full circle or they have not moved at all, because this is essentially a shiny new version of the original BMW design.
Designed by Oliver Keller and Tillamn Schlootz the Hyanide is apparently named for its resemblance to a crouching hyena. Also like a hyena it moves pretty fast with a top speed of 85mph and it will chew up any wildlife that gets in it’s way. They have tried to improve on the 1936 version by allowing the entire frame of the bike to bend to allow turning. There is no news on whether they plan to add a side car. 

Back in 1936 the Nazi’s aspired to world domination and the invention of a new mode of snow transport, but in the end neither of their plans has worked out. If you are interested in buying yourself a snowterbike I’d recommend a snowmobile...

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1 comment:

  1. There is a new player to this industry that is taking it by storm the Frozen MOTO. you can see these bikes at and check them out you will not be disappointed!


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