An overview of the first incarnation of ski-biking in America
By: Rod Ratzlaff
With the proliferation of ski areas in the 50's and 60's, the popularity of the
sport continued to grow in Europe. The Federation International de Skibob (FISB)
was formed in 1961. The devices were termed "skibobs", apparently derived from the
bobbing of heads and bodies as they rode over bumps on the slope. See the International
"History" section for further information.
It was just a matter of time before the bikes made the Atlantic crossing into
In 1956, German skibob racer,club President and bike builder Lorenz Ertl attempted
to introduce the sport to the eastern ski establishment. He demonstrated at several
ski areas using a bike he had built and planned to manufacture, but he could not
convince the resorts to allow the bikes on their slopes as a matter of policy. He
did succeed in garnering some publicity for the sport by way of sports show exhibitions,
appearances in commercial advertisements, and a feature article in Look Magazine
in 1958 (see The Lorenz Ertl Story). This effort did not produce enduring results,
although a children's skibob was manufactured in the U.S. during this period.
The timing was more favorable for the next initiation a few years later. California
resident William Cartwright became interested in skibobbing during a stay in Europe
after he and his family were introduced to the new sport. He imported several bikes,
and in 1963 adult skibobbing was successfully introduced to the United States through
Mr. Cartwright's efforts.
In February,1965, the Skibob Club of Santa Rosa was organized with the aforementioned
William Cartwright as president. There were ten members of the club. The club became
a member of the FISB, and was recognized by that international body as the only official
skibob organization in the US.
It was not an easy task to pioneer a new sport in the States. Lacking the necessary
funds to popularize the sport, plus experiencing hostility from most ski areas and
the US Forest Service, he approached the American Athletic Union(AAU) with the possibility
of having it adopt the sport and take over its government and promotion in the US.
In 1966, the AAU adopted the Skibobsport as one of its three National Wintersports
and placed it under the National Luge Committee as a sub-committee with Mr. Cartwright
By this time Bill Cartwright had moved to Missoula, Montana and had invited the
Swiss Champion Skibob Team of seven members; plus an FISB vice president, to conduct
a series of demonstrations and races to promote interest in the sport. From January
13 to 25, 1967 the Swiss team performed at the Snow Bowl, Missoula, Montana, Treasure
Mountain in Park City, Utah, and at the Broadmoor Hotel slope in Colorado Springs,
In February, 1967, the FISB granted membership to the AAU sub-committee as the
only official representative in the United States with Cartwright as Council member.
Through his efforts, the FISB awarded the Third World Championships to the United
In November 1967, a rival organization was formed. The American Skibob Association(ASBA), headquartered in Littleton, Colorado, would become a prominent entity in
the sport. Their stated purpose was to "promote the sport of skibobbing as a recreational
and competitive activity and to help regulate the growth and development of the sport
in an orderly and healthy manner". The board of Directors included renowned ski authority
Willy Schaeffler. On February 10, 1968, the ASBA sponsored a skibob clinic at Arapahoe
Basin (CO), with Austrian racer, skibob manufacturer, and world speed record holder
(102 mph) Erich Brenter providing the instruction. Mr. Brenter also designed the
course for the first competition event, held at Aspen Highlands (CO) on February
12, drawing over 40 entries. As time passed, regional ASBA chapter organizations
were formed across the country, as well as various local clubs.
Left: The "Skibob Times" industry news-magazine was published by the ASBA. They also
developed a skibob design standards code. Above: The standards test committee inspect
a new skibob (Sitzski) at Arapahoe Basin (CO) in 1968.
ASBA / USSBF Headquarters
In 1968, the United States Skibob Association (USSBA) was formed in Missoula,
Montana by U.S. skibobbing pioneer William Cartwright. This was essentially an evolution
of the Skibob Club of Santa Rosa.
In February, 1970, the American Skibob Association (ASBA) and the United States
Skibob Association (USSBA) merged to form the United States Skibob Federation (USSBF),
with headquarters in Littleton, Colorado. This amalgamation became the officially
sanctioned national body for skibobbing in the U.S, with Mr.Cartwright serving as
the FISB representative. The primary initial focus of the new organization was the
3rd World Skibob Championships, to be held in the United States in March, 1971. State
and regional qualifying races were scheduled prior to a national championship in
order to finalize the membership of the official U.S. Skibob Team to compete in this
world event. Another USSBF and FISB goal was to establish skibobbing as an Olympic
event by 1976, which would have required 25 participating nations. There was a gradual
erosion of support in the 70's, and the USSBF was officially dissolved in 1980.
In 1971, the AmericanSkibob Instructors Association (A.S.I.A) was organized with
the cooperation of the USSBF, based in Park City, Utah. The primary mission was to
properly educate the public and certify instructors in the Skibob sport. Donald Heins,
president of the dynamically growing NorthWest SkiBob Association, contacted Gerald
MacDonald, head of the USSBF Education Committee and an Austrian certified skibob
instructor, and prototype program work began. Gene Zenger, Captain of the U.S. Skibob
team, was consulted for his special expertise in management, policy and technique.
The result of these efforts was the "Check Out" instructional program outlined in
the manual: The A.S.I.A Handbook of Skibobbing
Gene Zenger >
A.S.I.A director, and one of the top skibob racers in the U.S.
ASBA GIANT SLALOM, Aspen Highlands (CO), February 11,1968
This was a 22 gate course set by then world speed champion Eric Brenter. Mr. Brenter
was in the US to conduct skibob clinics at ski areas, his first was at Arapahoe Basin
(CO) on February 10. There were 30 entries in the Men's Division and 10 entries in
the Women's Division.
ASBA DOWNHILL, Arapahoe Basin (CO), May 4,1968
A 1 2/3 mile course with 39 competitors was held in a heavy wet snowstorm with the
best time put in by Alf Tieze of Dillon (CO) with a 3:01 effort. Vail co-founder
Earl Eaton had the second best time to win the Senior I division. Max Dercum, A-Basin
Ski School Director won the Senior Mens II division. Iise Tautz of Littleton (CO)
had the best time in the Womens Division. There were three ASBA sponsored races in
the '67-'68 season--Aspen Highlands and two at A-Basin.
ST. PATRICKS DAY SPECIAL, Arapahoe Basin (CO), March 17,1969
A Giant Slalom and Special Single Pole Dual Slalom was won by Alf Tieze. A surprise
entrant and a first time skibobber who captured the 1st. place trophy in the Special
Slalom was Milo Belonoznik of Liberec, Czechoslovakia. He was in Colorado as an FISB
Committee member to inspect the proposed ski jump site in Denver's bid for the 1976
Winter Olympics. The 50 year-old Czech decided to get involved with the skibob club
in his home town when he returned home.
There were also races held at Mt. Telemark, Wisconsin | Lookout .Mountain, Minnesota
| Rebel Ridge, California | Slide Mountain, Nevada | Mt. Rose, Nevada | Breckenridge,
Colorado | Park City, Utah | *Plus a cowboy ski bob race in conjunction with the
Western Stock Show in Denver.
3RD NATIONALS, Arapahoe Basin (CO), April 11-12,1970.
Giant Slalom on Saturday and the Downhill on Sunday, the combined winner was Art
Kormgiebel, Bogus Basin, Idaho with Fred Petersen of Minneapolis, Minnesota second
and Alf Tieze third. A 14 year-old girl from Ironwood, Michigan, Ingrid Gallo won
the Women's Combined. There were 32 competitors from eight states competing. Several
skibob clubs in various states also held competitions this season.
4TH NATIONALS, Jackson Hole, Wyoming,February 27-28, 1971
A 32-gate Giant Slalom and a tough 1 3/4 mile Downhill was won by Gene Zenger of
Salt Lake City, Utah. Second in the combined was Fred Petersen of Minnesota. A total
of 38 men and women participated. Women's Division champ was Joan Mansfield, Seattle
(Bio), Washington. Runner-up was Iise Tautz, Littleton, Colorado. Qualifying racers
from this event would form the nucleus of the official International U.S. Skibob
3RD WORLD SKIBOB CHAMPIONSHIP, Mount Rose, Nevada, March 22-28, 1971
This prestigious International FISB sanctioned event was the climax of skibob competition
on American soil. 110 racers from 11 countries would compete, including the fledgling
U.S. Skibob Team. EVENT REPORT
Erich Brenter at Aspen Highlands (CO), 1968
Third World Championship commemorative decanter
Fred Petersen en-route to a 2nd place finish at the 1971 National Championship Downhill,
Jackson Hole, WY
Several skibobs were manufactured in the United States during this period... REPORT
Colorado Governor John Love (front, 3rd from left) and family experience skibobbing
Vail Ski Area co-founder, skibobber and racer Earl Eaton
Olympic skier Jean-Claude Killy
Charlotta Dercum, age 87, demonstrates fine form
The Wild One's...
How to ride the Poma...
I wish to thank Lee MacDonald for providing materials and insight into the skibobbing
scene of the 60's and 70's. Lee served as ASBA/USSBF Executive Vice President/Secretary
and Board Member. He also manufactured the All American Skibob. Also, thanks to Fred
Petersen for photographic support.
* This is a work in progress... If you have any information or photos relevant to
this subject that you would like to share, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org