TUNNEL OF WHITE
TAKE A CHANCE
At first glance, and when entertaining the idea of riding a mountain bike in the snow for the first time, the prospect felt a bit daunting. Adrenalin flows and a slight panic sets in. However, equipped with a medium level of fitness and the presence of mind to not over exaggerate the challenge before it had begun, riding in the snow was far easier than I initially expected, and the exhilaration of such exquisite surroundings soon conquered any previous trepidation. This year is the second year I have taken part in this threeday event and I am now more fixated on the experience than ever before.
South Africa has mountain biking conditions and events that attract people from all over the world and are often sold out within hours of opening. No matter how creative the local races can be though, our climate makes sure none will be able to create the dreamy landscapes which riders take to every day of the Snow Bike Festival.
Within the first hour of day one, I was having the most surreal ride in the saddle I had ever experienced. The initial tightly packed group of riders quickly thins out and the total white-out that surrounded us was something special to behold. From the trees carrying their burdensome load of twinkling snowy powder, to the thickly covered riverside path and the gushing white water of the half iced-over river itself, the snow was everywhere; I was riding through a tunnel of pristine white perfection.
There was more than just the sense of sight that was being gifted with such a jewel though.the lack of almost any sound added to the unique experience of the ride. The snow absorbs sound really effectively, which dampens the surrounding sound effects we become so used to when out in nature. Out here in the snow, it is just the crunch of the fat tyres on ice and snow below, and my own deep rhythmic breathing to listen to until riding past a pocket of cheering spectators interrupts the sublime sensory cocoon.
Three days of riding these long loops of trails allows riders to interact closely with both nature and communities alike, and provides a tangible insight into the everyday lives of the locals.we got to cycle passed barns with geometric piles of winter firewood stacked outside as the livestock shelter inside, local houses that were hundreds of years old with their ornate family stories proudly carved and painted on the façade for all to see, and the natural ebb and flow of village life around tall spired churches, narrow streets, and friendly faces.
Of course, there are a few challenges in the race; it takes a little more skill than normal bike riding to descend along the red run from the top of a climb on day two. I quickly learnt how to pull on the back breaks lightly and shift the weight to slide the back wheel out a little.this controlled wheel slide is the best way to negotiate the off-camber tighter turns – and it is super fun once you get the hang of it! When the way ahead is
Three days of riding allows riders to interact closely with both nature and communities alike, and provides a tangible insight into the everyday lives of the locals.
straight though, it is just full throttle downhill for maximum fun factor.
Gstaad is the perfect town to host the event. The opulence of the event mixes seamlessly with the simpler town life. During Summer, they host the major European volleyball series, and tennis too in the form of the ATP Swiss Open. Both are grand attractions in the area.
The rich local experiences of Gstaad are well worth experiencing. Since the cycling was not too intense, I had energy enough to enjoy fondues at night in a real barn (complete with a couple of fat cows a couple of meters away) and, of course, fondue in the day too (it really is all about cheese in Switzerland) with fantastic views and a portable packed lunch at one of the fondue pots on the hillside.
Hot air ballooning is also big in these parts, and a trip to Glacier 3000 is a great idea to get an overview of all the fun sports and activities that present themselves when snow and steep slopes combine.