These Electric Snowbikes Are a Great Alternative to Snowmobiles
MoonBikes is unleashing its quiet, eco-friendly, and easy-to-ride electric snowbikes in the U.S.
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Perched on an electric snowbike and staring at a field of untracked snow on top of Vail Pass in Colorado, my anticipation was high—but it was nothing compared to silently blasting through the 10 inches of powder, snow flying over my head. My hunch was confirmed: MoonBikes are unadulterated fun.
MoonBikes is a new-to-the-U.S. brand of electric snowbikes that is out to blur the lines of what personal snow machines look like. With a lightweight, agile design and a quiet, high-efficiency four-horsepower motor, a MoonBike blends the best aspects of snowmobiling, off-road dirt biking, and fat-tire biking. With a steerable ski up front and a motorized track in the rear, it rides smoothly on snow-packed trails and maneuvers through fresh pow with exhilarating ease.
I’ve been snowmobiling about two dozen times in Colorado, Wisconsin, and Canada and I generally love the thrill of it, but I also find snowmobiles to be a little bit too much machine sometimes. They’re loud, heavy, and steer slowly (especially with my limited skill set and aversion to crashing). Plus, the engine exhaust can be nauseating. You also need wide-open spaces or dedicated trail systems to go snowmobiling. Gas-powered snowbikes and dirt bike conversion kits are other options for motorized snow-riding, but they come with similar challenges.
MoonBikes have none of those drawbacks. The battery-powered snowbikes are relatively light (192 pounds), easy to ride, and almost silent, but they’re also extremely powerful, with instant torque at the touch of the throttle and a top speed of 26 miles per hour. Manufactured by Bosch Marignier in France, they can be configured with one or two lithium ion batteries (at standard and performance levels) for 1.5 to three hours of run time. Better yet, they can be taken on forest trails and backcountry spaces wherever e-bikes or snowmobiles are allowed.
“It’s an easy way to explore in the winter,” says Jason Bonser, North American general manager for MoonBikes. “They’re super light, they’re super approachable, and the learning curve is really quick. People ask me how long they’ll go, and my favorite answer is simply: ‘All afternoon.’”
A startup founded in the tiny mountain village of Saint-Nicolas-de-Véroce, France in 2018, MoonBikes is the brainchild of CEO and founder Nicolas Muron, an entrepreneurial engineer who set out to create an environmentally conscious recreational vehicle for exploring winter terrain. A $5 million round of seed investment helped the company grow its base in Europe—12 resorts have adopted MoonBikes rental programs—but the company expects the real growth to be in U.S. market, Bonser says.
MoonBikes opened a North American office in Boulder, Colorado, 14 months ago and has since developed partnerships with Michigan’s Boyne Mountain Resort and The Resort at Paws Up in Montana. The company is talking with several resorts in Colorado about starting a rental-based touring program, but it’s also selling MoonBikes one at a time. At $8,900, they’re not cheap, but they’re half the cost of a new snowmobile.
The brand showed off its bikes in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where it also launched a new app that will allow users access trail maps, monitor altitude, and track distance, speed, duration, and battery level on a ride.
Can MoonBikes be an eco-friendly alternative to snowmobiles? While it might not move the needle for advanced snowmobilers who might miss the all-out power of a gas-powered motor, MoonBikes is hoping to develop an audience out of other motorized and non-motorized recreational consumers who ride motorcycles, ATVs, mountain bikes, and fat bikes. The bikes are meant to only carry one person, but I could envision using MoonBikes to sherpa gear into the backcountry or to tow skiers during alpine touring sessions.
I love winter and engage in it every way I can—alpine skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, fat biking, alpine touring, skimo racing, winter mountaineering, skate skiing, and snowmobiling—but while I own gear for all of those human-powered sports, I know I will never buy a snowmobile. They’re too expensive and I just don’t have enough interest.
And, admittedly, I don’t have expandable funds at the moment to add a MoonBike to my quiver. But as I am watching more fluffy snow fall out my window, I’m definitely thinking about saving for one.