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You’re out for a ski tour on Vail Pass, quietly huffing up the hill. There’s a faint whirr of the highway, but other than that, all you hear is your breath and the gentle clack of your boot heels on your skis as you skin up. Out of the corner of your eye, you see a machine buzz by. But that’s just it—there’s no buzzing. It can’t be a snowmobile because you would have heard the cacophony coming from miles away. An electric bike has no business up here in the powder. Perhaps it’s some sort of hybrid of those things, and that would probably make it a MoonBike.
Founded by Nicolas Muron and born in the French Alps with North American headquarters in Boulder, MoonBikes are fully electric snow machines that ride more like a bicycle than a sled. In the rear, a snowmobile-like track propels the bike, while a wide-but-short ski steers the front. Compared to a snowmobile—most of which top out around 500 pounds—a MoonBike is a fraction of the weight and size. Loaded with one battery, a MoonBike tips the scales at just 190 pounds. It’s manageable. It slides easily into the back of a truck or, with a pal, onto a standard vehicle hitch rack, and should you tip it or get it stuck in the snow (like I did when I first took it for a spin), it’s a whole lot easier to get free than a hefty sled.
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Ideal for folks who want to get out and have some fun in winter beyond the resorts or cyclists who need a shoulder-season activity while the trails closer to home dry out (like me), a MoonBike is a great alternative to a large (and often mechanically complicated) snowmobile. (Pricing is comparable; a MoonBike starts at $8,900.) And like a sled or a bike, you can ride it for fun or use it to get somewhere else—in this case, deeper into the backcountry, say, if you wanted to ski-tour more remote lines. A MoonBike has three different modes: eco, normal, and sport. Eco helps reserve battery, while sport mode gives you the most speed and power. With one battery, the bike will power you for an hour or so. There’s space for a second battery, and that’ll get you about three hours of riding time (and add 30 more pounds to the machine).
MoonBikes are growing in popularity in mountain towns around Europe, but because of use restrictions on that side of the pond, most users rent from fleets owned by ski resorts. In the U.S. and in Colorado specifically, motorized travel is less restrictive, so the options for riding a MoonBike here are numerous. Like any motor vehicle, these electric snow bikes are prohibited in wilderness areas, but Colorado’s bevy of national forest and BLM lands (pretty much anywhere you’d take a snowmobile) are all on the table. It’s unclear whether or not you’d have to legally register your MoonBike (is it an e-bike or a sled?), but the company recommends doing so.
MoonBikes’ stateside headquarters are right here in downtown Boulder. There isn’t a showroom or storefront yet, but the company does offer demo rides for folks who are curious. The best way to get one for yourself is to head to their website.