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  • Airboarding Hits North America

    By Tammie Thompson

    Photo courtesy Airboard What's the newest craze to hit the snowsports industry? Airboarding! Designed as a sled, but more like a "body board", the Airboard is not just about sliding down the hill. It's about creating a unique experience on snow.

    Originally started in Europe, the airboarding craze has taken off at several European ski resorts. Liability shy resorts in the U.S have adopted a wait-and-see attitude, but several are introducing small numbers as a test to see if it takes off.

    The Airboard is an inflatable sled made of durable urethane impregnated nylon material. It quickly inflates with a small hand pump (included). What makes Airboard different than other inflatable sleds is the profile runners, which run the length of the board. These indentations in the bottom coated material give the rider control by tracking in the snow. Just shift your body weight and the Airboard carves. Give it a little pressure to the handles and you can carve as well as on a snowboard or skis. It comes with a hand leash so you can capture the board when you bail.

    We had the chance to try the Airboard at Northstar-at-Tahoe last season. Northstar was testing the program to see if it was a fit for the resort (it was not). But it sure was a fun ride!

    Photo by T.Thompson Jake and Graham, fresh off the slalom racecourse, had a go on the boards. They were able to ride the lift without a problem, jumped off at the top, and were "airboarding" in no time.

    It took a few tries to get the correct weight balance, but both boys looked like naturals after a few minutes. Skiers stopped and stared as the Airboards careened down the hill. Comments flew at the boys almost as quickly as the Airboards shredded the hill, "Where can I get one? What is that? Is it hard?"

    "It's so fun," says 11 year-old Graham. "You go so fast, it feels like you're flying." Both boys had no trouble stopping, by either planting their feet or doing a hard turn. They headed into Northstar's Magic Moguls for some bumps and came out giggling. The board is so durable that it can handle bumps, hits, kickers, and even halfpipes.

    If our test was any indication of the future of airboarding, you might see more resorts take hold of the concept and "board" with it.

    Sugar Bowl offers night Airboarding on Knob Hill Tuesday and Saturday nights, from 7 to 9:00pm. Greg Murtha, former Director of Marketing, says "It's a blast. There's no doubt people love it. It's hard to get them off the board so others can try."

    Photo courtesy Airboard In several portions of the country snow enthusiasts venture into the backcountry with their boards. Lightweight (only six pounds), the board can be folded into a backpack for a trek up on snowshoes and a big ride down on the board.

    Airboards come in two sizes: Adult for riders over 85lbs, and Kid's for kids 6-11 (or lighter weight teens). They retail for $269 & $149 and can be found at various sports shops, as well as online. See our KidzStore ) for purchase. For more info on Airboard see their website at .

    Airboards are also offered at these regions & resorts in varying degrees:

    Aspen Valley, CO
    Canaan Valley, West Virginia
    Hoodoo, Oregon
    Schweitzer Mountain, Idaho
    Smugglers Notch Resort, Vermont
    Sugar Bowl Resort, California

    Look for the new Softboard® snow bodyboard, to hit stores. Borrowing design cues from the award winning Airboard Kids Classic, the Softboard® combines excellent control and stopping action with a softer, more cushioned ride. Perfect for sledding hills and snowplay, Softboard snow bodyboards are easy to control, easy to carry up the hill and super fun.

    "Our snow bodyboards have no hard edges to bang against and at under 3 pounds, this may be the lightest sled to haul back up the hill," said Ann-Elise Emerson, president of Emo Gear, LLC, the distributor. Like the Airboard Classic snow bodyboards, Softboards have low profile runners and internal i-beams for carving turns and stopping, offering riders a controllable, fun ride. The Softboard’s new Griptec surface and Glideskin base are designed for comfortable cruising on sledding hills.

    Bodyboarding is easy to learn and incredibly fun. Lying chest down on the Softboard riders carve turns by shifting their weight and pressing down on the hand grips, driving the underside profile runners into the snow. They stop like skiers by turning 90 degrees into the slope.


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