An e-bike for the snow?
Special to The Colorado Sun
It’s a stunningly beautiful bluebird Colorado day in the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area, and there’s no one in sight, just a landscape of white in every direction.
With the flick of my right wrist, my thumb punches the throttle of the personal snow machine I’m riding, and I go zipping off the snow-packed platform of Shrine Pass Road and plunge into a field of untracked powder. Another ping on the throttle and I zoom through the fluff with ease. But my high-torque, easily maneuverable steed is not a snowmobile. Specifically, I’m riding what might be best described as a battery-powered electric bike, built by a French company called MoonBikes.
Powered by lithium-ion batteries that drive a highly-efficient, 4-horsepower motor, MoonBikes have a wide, steerable ski up front and a motorized track in the rear. It’s an electric vehicle that looks something like a mashup of a snowmobile and a fat-tire mountain bike, and it operates a little like both. MoonBikes can ride packed-down trails, cut through powder, slice through gladed sections of trees, and switch directions with a very small turning radius.
The Boulder-based North American office of MoonBikes, a subsidiary of the French startup company that developed these sprightly machines, is hoping to bring more of the easy-to-maneuver, fully-electric snow scooters to Colorado by next winter. Founded in France in 2018 by entrepreneur Nicolas Muron, the company sees the U.S. and Canada as prime territory for growth.
It secured $6.5 million in seed funding from investors with a plan to tap the surging post-pandemic U.S. snowmobiling market, which reported a 16% increase in sales in 2021, the highest recorded since 2009. Snowmobile sales declined 9% last year, though the Western U.S. — one of MoonBikes’ key target markets — remains very strong.
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