Updated 1/1/2005 with a little bit of new information and removed some old information and dead links.
Todd Murray - Click here to contact me. Click here if you're about to ask me where you can buy Sled Dogs.
Note: There's a new company called Premier Snow Skate that sells something called a snow skate, but it's not the same thing as Sled Dogs snow skates. It's more like a skateboard (although I'm not sure why they don't call it a snow skateboard). I've never tried their snow skates, but I'm pretty sure you can't use them at downhill ski areas because they don't have safety leashes. You can find out more about them at their web site, http://www.premiersnowsk8.com/.
Don't ask the obvious question, "How do you keep the wheels and bearings from getting full of snow?" because you don't use inline skates in the snow. Instead, you use snow skates, which are like ski boots with a short ski underneath which is about the length of the boot. The best-known (relatively) brand is Sled Dogs, which was based right here in the Twin Cities.
The next obvious question is: "Are they hard to learn?" Not at all. If you can skate or ski, you can learn snow skating and skiboarding easily. They behave differently than skis or snowboards do, but it's easy to pick it up. And if anyone asks, "Are they fun?" I tell them, "Yeah, they're a blast." You can do all sorts of tricks on them, and they give you the freedom to go all-out without breaking too many dog bones. Here's a list of more questions and answers.
I started off with a pair of Sled Dogs SD150's, which have a short, narrow base on them about the length of the boot. Later on, when Sled Dogs introduced the K-9 model, I bought a pair of them. (I reviewed the Sled Dogs K-9's here.) The company promised that the new model would be more maneuverable and usable in different snow conditions. That much was true, but the removable base turned out to be a major problem with quality control.
Unfortunately, sometimes a company comes out with a good idea, but it never takes hold in the marketplace. Or they run into financial snags. That's essentially what happened to the Sled Dogs company. When I first saw their product demos in September 1994, I thought they'd really take off. I was even more excited to see their K-9 snow skates (with a wider and longer base) when they came out in the fall of 1996. But, the company had a number of technical problems with the K-9's, such as buckles that fell off and leashes that broke. And, they spent too much money producing the infomercial and manufacturing K-9 skates without making enough money on sales. The company went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy (here's a play-by-play description of their bankruptcy, and here's a copy of a Star Tribune article about their bankruptcy) and reemerged as xdogs.com, which sells extreme sports gear but has nothing to do with snow skates. They've sold the patents and designs to a Norwegian company, Sled Dogs AS, which has a web site at www.sleddogs.no.
If you're looking for Sled Dogs snow skates, I'm really not sure where to find them other than at some closeout retailers. eBay has had Sled Dogs auctions from time to time. Click here if you're still wondering where you can buy Sled Dogs.
Skiboards are also similar to snow skates, but they work differently. Instead of being sold as one unit, they're sold as a board/binding combination, and you need to supply the ski boot. I was initially cool to the idea, but after I tried skiboards a few times I found that they handle very similarly to Sled Dogs.
If you believe the magazines and the hype, skiboarding is the next big thing. If you're being more rational, skiboards are essentially a cross between skis and snowboards: about 70 to 100 centimeters long and about twice as wide as a ski. I've tried them a few times, and I've found the motion to be very similar to that of snow skates. Since the Sled Dogs Company is bankrupt, I'd recommend these as an alternative to snow skates.
I'll be more honest: I've been on skiboards the past couple years, and they're a much more viable product than snow skates. Click here for my skiboarding page.