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Ski Season Isn’t Over — Add 2 Wheels and Shred: Here’s How

Approaching ski lines by bike can shorten the approach, open vast new terrain, and give birth to unique human-powered adventures.
fully loaded bike with all necessary ski equipment(Photo/Bergen Tjossem)
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It was the middle of May in Colorado. The snow line had melted up to 9,500 feet, giving way to the lush green understory of coniferous forests and budding aspens. My ski partner and I were grunting up a rocky pitch of a Forest Service road on our bikes deep in the mountains. But that was just a means to an end. The real goal was the 2,000-foot face that lay ahead, blanketed in quickly ripening corn snow.

Snowline stopped the ride, and we peeled the ski gear off our bikes, hiding them in the woods and taking off on foot for another half mile. With consistent snow, we clicked into our skis and started skinning the remainder of the approach. Then we made the final transition, dawning our crampons for the peak’s final face.

An hour and a half later, within minutes of the corn snow over-ripening, we dropped in for one of the last ski runs of the season. Springtime in Colorado means the approaches to the best ski lines — the couloirs and faces buried deep inside mountain ranges — get longer. It’s also the time of year when snow is the most stable and the corn conditions dependable.

Mounting ski gear to bikes and utilizing extensive dirt road networks is a great way to get there and back faster and more efficiently. It can open up new zones in familiar ranges or entirely new places. A few simple planning, packing, and transitioning tips will help you land that perfect corn window.

In short: Springtime in the high mountains means longer approaches and shorter timing widows for backcountry skiers that won’t give in. Adding a bike to the equation can open up vast new skiing possibilities. A few simple, hard-won packing and transitioning tips can make bike-to-ski or bike-to-camp-to-ski adventures the most rewarding ski adventures of the year.

Mapping & Apping: Find, Plan Your Bike-to-Ski Adventures

A map screenshot showing a detailed route for a bike to ski adventure
A map of a detailed route for a bike-to-ski adventure is crucial for avoiding getting lost or frustrated in the mountains; (photo/screenshot)

Like any big adventure in the mountains, the process all starts with a map. Bike-to-ski adventures are a fantastic way to get monumentally lost or frustrated if you haven’t done your pre-navigation homework. CalTopo is a great place to start. It’s one of the best online mapping tools available for planning bike-to-ski adventure routes.

Once you’ve identified a possible ski line, try turning on the Map Builder Overlay. That feature reveals roads and trails, including obscure and rarely traveled Forest Service and other access roads. If an access road nearby has a chance of being dry, you’re in business.

Next, turn on the Sentinel Weekly map layer, which displays imagery taken weekly by satellites. That can help users determine where the snow starts and ends as spring progresses. The resolution is relatively low, and it can be obscured by clouds. But the layer can give you a good sense of how long you’ll be able to ride before hitting snow. (It doesn’t hurt to confirm that your planned ski line still has snow, either.)

The Sun Exposure overlay can help you time your adventure by allowing you to toggle sun exposure by date and time of day. Will your east-facing line start baking at 6 a.m.? You’re going to need an early start or an overnight. North-facing and deeply inset? You might be able to snag a few extra hours of sleep.

onX also offers amazing mapping capabilities that make it easier to find bike-to-ski adventures. Like CalTopo, it will show you slope angles, ski routes, and most county roads you can use to access the snow. You can set waypoints and make routes, and with an account, you can use the 3D feature, which allows users to tilt the map and visualize terrain from totally different angles.


man riding bike
(Photo/Dave Pfeiffer)

There are about 20 ways to attach your ski gear to your bike. It will, of course, depend on what kind of bike you’re riding, the duration of your adventure, and the type of trail. Unless your bike approach is really short, there’s only one key guiding principle. Get as much weight off your back as possible.

Sitting on a bike saddle on a rough road with a bunch of weight on your back hurts. Unless it’s a short approach, mounting heavier ski gear to your bike will make a big difference. It has the added bonus of lowering your center of gravity and taking weight off your arms and hands. That makes the riding far more enjoyable, not to mention safer.

Gravel bikes, like those listed in GearJunkie’s guide to the Best Gravel Bikes, are made for this kind of adventure. Mountain bikes can also work with some creative attachments. Road bikes will work for paved roads like Glacier National Park’s Going-To-The-Sun Road or Colorado’s Independence Pass. But road bikes will get eaten alive on rough dirt roads.

Attaching Ski Boots to Your Bike

Ski boots mounted on the bike
Voile ski straps securely attach ski boots to the bike, making gear transportation easy; (photo/Bergen Tjossem)

One piece of gear makes this all possible: Voile ski straps. They’re practically miraculous for strapping gear to other gear. Skis to bikes, poles to skis, boots to forks — ski straps are the secret ingredient. It may sound excessive, but I bring about 10 in my gear bag, just in case. Chances are your ski buddies will need to borrow some, too.

When it’s time to put it all together, I start with boots. Tailfin’s excellent Cargo Cages are another secret ingredient designed to integrate with ski straps. I have them mounted to each leg of my fork and one of my frame’s bottle cages.

Attaching ski boots is easy from there. One ski strap, firmly cinched under the boots’ cuff buckle, locks them to the cargo cage. I’ve ridden some pretty rough roads with this setup and have yet to lose a boot. They’re locked in there. Best of all, the cages keep the boots from scratching the fork’s paint.

If cages are not available, you can attach boots to your skis; just make sure they don’t get in the way of your pedaling motion.

Attaching Skis & Poles to Your Bike

red skis strapped to the bike with bright yellow stripes
(Photo/Bergen Tjossem)

With boots on board, skis are the next piece of gear to mount, and there are a few different options. And yes, all of them are dependent on ski straps.

Mounting Skis: Option #1

My go-to option is to attach the tips of my skis to the middle of the bike’s top tube with a ski strap and tails pointing backward. I’ll then attach them to the rails underneath the saddle with another ski strap. That way, the skis are essentially hanging from the saddle (as pictured).

I like this method because it keeps the tip free of the bike’s steering zone, clear of my knees while pedaling, and well away from the back wheel when things get bouncy. A third ski strap around the tails can be used to lock the ski sandwich together.

Mounting Skis: Option #2

The second option is to attach the skis to your bike’s top tube with ski straps so that they extend out behind the bike as if they were an extension of the top tube. This method can work just as well.

But it’s worth checking if your knees interact with skis’ bindings at all during pedal revolutions. Even the slightest rub or knick will get very annoying over many miles.

This method is particularly effective if you’ve got pannier racks that the skis can rest on. Traveling hundreds of miles on your bike with your skis? This will probably be your best setup.

skiis and poles striped to the bike
(Photo/Bergen Tjossem)

Mounting Ski Poles

Poles can be tricky to mount, but they should run parallel with the skis. If you’re really slick, you can attach the poles to the same ski straps that hold your skis to your frame. But I’ve defaulted to the easier option. I slap a few extra ski straps on to secure the poles down.

Poles seem to pop loose more than any other piece of gear. I’ve found it worthwhile to double down on straps here. It saves time and energy in the long run.

Protect Your Bike’s Frame!

I can’t stress this enough: protecting your frame from the skis’ edges is essential. Steel edges rubbing on a metal or carbon frame over miles of bumpy roads will cause severe damage — usually aesthetic but possibly structural.

At the very least, I’ll wrap my skins around my top tube and seat post, where my edges interact with the bike. Handlebar grip tape, foam from a pool noodle, or even an old piece of clothing duct-taped in place can also work. Your bike and future self will thank you.

Get That Weight Off Your Back

close up of bike equipped for bike to ski adventure
(Photo/Bergen Tjossem)

Spring comes with more stable snow and more terrain for ski touring. That often means more technical gear, which can get heavy fast.

Depending on the length of the cycling approach, I’ll often compartmentalize my heavier gear into Tailfin’s handy Cargo Cage Packs. Those integrate with the brand’s Cargo Cages, allowing me to slot my backpack in when it’s time to stash the bike.

If I’m carrying crampons and a thin rope, I’ll add those to Tailfin’s Cargo Cage Packs and mount them to Cargo Cages on my frame. My first-aid and repair kit also goes into a Cargo Cage Pack. Combined, those items will take several pounds off my back.

Water is easily the heaviest thing most backcountry skiers carry at 2.2 pounds per liter. I’ll typically carry 2-3 L (4.4-6.6 pounds) inside a Hydrapak and stuff that into my Salsa EXP Anything Cradle Top Load Kit. If you’re short on space, carrying water using your bike’s bottle cages is even easier. Then, you just drop the bottles into your pack at the transition.

If you’ve got the space, a water filter also isn’t the worst idea for longer rides.

At this point, your backpack should feel comparatively featherweight. All that it needs to carry for the riding portion is extra layers, food, and avalanche equipment. For very long rides, you can mount your backpack to the tails of your skis or on top of a pannier setup. However, I prefer to wear it on my back to mitigate the bounce factor on dirt roads.

And for a truly minimalist approach to small-scale objectives, you could get away with a hip pack. Check out GearJunkie’s guide to the Best Bike Hip Packs of 2024 if you’re shopping around for one.


skier navigating the slopes
(Photo/Cam Patterson)

Day tours late in the spring typically provide a short window of good, safe skiing. Clumsy transitioning can take more time than you’ve got. You’ll be transitioning from the bike to foot or ski, depending on the snow coverage. The only difference in transitioning is whether your boots and skis go on your feet or in the A-frame carry on your back.

Having gear compartmentalized on your bike makes the transition easier. Cage Packs and stuff sacks strapped to your bike are the easiest to drop directly into your backpack.

Once your gear is removed, stash your bike somewhere safe off the road. Just also remember where it is. If you’re using CalTopo or another mapping app, drop a pin to find it easily on the return trip.

Flat pedals are less cumbersome for bike-to-ski adventures because you don’t need to bring an extra set of bike or trail shoes. My go-to options are SCARPA Ribelle Run Kalibra G gaitered running shoes on flat pedals. Those allow me to hike through the snow after the bike portion before it’s consistent enough for skis.

Packing Overnight Gear

laid out overnight gear for a bike to ski adventure, showcasing all the essential equipment
Bike-to-ski essentials for overnight adventure; (photo/Bergen Tjossem)

Late spring and early summer ski touring and mountaineering are almost always characterized by severely early mornings. You need to get on and off the snow before the sun, and ambient temperatures erode the snowpack’s cohesion. When that happens, avalanche danger rises sharply, and the skiing becomes downright treacherous. Adding a bike to the spring ski equation adds options in terms of timing.

There are an unbelievable number of spring ski lines in places like Colorado and Montana that are best served by simple, bike-approached early mornings.

Other lines and zones, however, are best served by an overnight stay somewhere along the route. That allows you to maximize the next morning’s cooler temperatures. That also means adding overnight gear to the equation.

Fortunately, the principles are the same. Try to get as much weight off your back as possible. It might mean getting more creative with how you strap things to your bike.

More on-bike storage helps a lot. Overnights are when I’ll don my big REI Link Seat Pack, whose side straps can hold skis like they were made for it. That pack, and others like it, are big enough to carry my sleeping kit; that includes an Outdoor Vitals’ Oblivion Sleeping Pad, StormLoft Down Topquilt, and ultralight pillow.

For more lightweight sleep systems take a look at GearJunkie guides to the Best Backpacking Sleeping Bags and the Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads.

loaded bike with equipment for bike to ski adventure
Handlebar bags add a lot of extra space for packing essential items; (photo/Bergen Tjossem)

A handlebar bag can also provide a ton of extra pack volume. Salsa’s EXP Anything Cradle Top Load Kit is big enough for a lightweight backpacking tent or bivy sack, a small stove like the Primus Lite+, lightweight freeze-dried backpacking meals, and other odds and ends.

A frame bag, like Salsa’s new Half Frame Pack, is roomy enough for a spare tube, tire pump, and bike tools to fend off any adventure-ending mechanical failures. It’s also a great place to stash electronics like headlamps, a battery bank, a cable lock, etc.

Tailfin’s Top Tube Bag is another volume-extending bag that’s perfect for stashing on-the-go snacks, bars, gels, and electrolyte drink mixes. It’s big enough to fit a few days’ worth and is easy to access while riding, even with skis attached to the bike. That pack comes in options to expand your on-bike bag volume by up to 1.5 L.

Don’t forget, you can add a bunch of extra gear inside your fork-mounted ski boots. They’re also an excellent place for extra water or layers.


skier on the slope
(Photo/Dave Pfeiffer)

Ski season doesn’t have to end when the resort’s lifts close. Heck, it doesn’t even need to end when most of the snow melts. But it does get much more demanding.

Work smarter, not harder. Add a bike to the equation and cut your approach times. Travel deeper into the hinterlands and harvest spring corn at peak ripeness. Just remember three keys to success: Map your route, get the weight off your back, and always bring extra ski straps.

man riding fat bike through woods in the snow

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