FIELD OF THE INVENTION
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The invention relates to apparatus and methods for conveying a user over snow, sand, or similar media, and particularly to a snowskate and/or snow scooter apparatus for conveying a user over snow without special boots, bindings, or sticks.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
There are various apparatus for conveying a user over snow, including skis and snowboards, among others. Snowboards are particularly simple in that they typically include a single board having a stand-on plate that supports two parallel side-by-side bindings for fixing the feet of a rider. Snowboarding involves using these bindings and the edges of the snowboard to control the direction and stability of the rider, because the snowboards themselves do not have inherent directional stability. Unfortunately, snowboarding requires significant skill and practice, putting snowboarding beyond the reach of casual users. Moreover, snowboards typically are expensive, creating an additional impediment to their use.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The invention provides apparatus and methods for conveying a user over snow, sand, or similar media. The apparatus may include mechanisms for providing directional stability, making it easier to use than skis and snowboards. Moreover, the apparatus may be less expensive than skis and snowboards.
FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a snowskate constructed in accordance with aspects of the invention.
FIG. 2 shows a top view of the snowskate of FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 shows a side view of the snowskate of FIG. 1.
FIG. 4 shows a bottom view of the snowskate of FIG. 1.
FIG. 5 shows an end view of the snowskate of FIG. 1.
FIG. 6 shows a perspective view of a snow scooter constructed in accordance with aspects of the invention, showing how wheels and/or a handle may be fitted to the snowskate.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 7 shows a side view of the snow scooter of FIG. 6, showing a braking device.
The invention provides apparatus and methods for conveying a user over snow, sand, or similar media. The apparatus, which may be termed a “snowskate” or “snow scooter,” generally includes a glide plate having an upper surface for supporting a user and a lower surface for slidingly and controllably engaging snow. The apparatus also may include wheels, a handle, and/or a brake, among others. The apparatus may be used by standing atop the upper surface and sliding on or through the snow or similar media under the influence of gravity, a starting momentum or both.
FIGS. 1-5 show a snowskate 10 constructed in accordance with aspects of the invention. Snowskate 10 includes an elongated glide plate 12 having a central portion 14 configured to support a user on snow and to slide over the snow. The glide plate also has a front portion 16 and a back portion 18 extending outward from the central portion that may be configured to perform various functions.
The central portion preferably is planar, or substantially planar, with approximately uniform width and thickness. However, the central portion may decrease in thickness toward its perimeter 20, and decrease in width toward the front 16 and back 18 portions. Moreover, in some embodiments, the central portion may be arched slightly before loading (e.g., in the longitudinal direction), so that the central portion flattens upon loading to produce a more resilient, uniform contact pressure with the snow. In addition, the perimeter of the central portion may be rounded to reduce or eliminate sharp edges, and/or curved to accommodate different types of snow (e.g., wet, powder, etc.) and terrain (e.g., flat or inclined, rural or urban, etc.).
The front and back portions generally are joined continuously to the central portion and preferably are shaped and dimensioned to enhance the safety, functionality, and appearance of the snowskate. For example, the front and/or back portions may be rounded rather than square or pointed to reduce their likelihood of inflicting injury. Moreover, the front and/or back portions may curve upward out of the plane of the central portion. A curved front portion may facilitate sliding over snow and obstacles, while a curved back portion may be used in braking, as described below. If both the front and back portions are similarly curved, the snowskate may be used bi-directionally. The bending of the front and back portions may proceed as a uniformly upwardly-arched curvature.
Glide plate 12 has an upper surface 22 and a lower surface 24 that may be shared among the front, central, and back portions described above. The upper surface may be configured to support and stabilize a user's feet. For example, the upper surface may be textured to reduce slippage by using bumps, grooves, ridges, and the like. Alternatively, or in addition, the upper surface may be finished to reduce slippage by using a relatively non-slip and/or anti-skid surface material, such as cushioned foam or another soft material. The features for reducing slippage may extend over most or all of the upper surface, or they may be confined to a stand-on region configured to receive the user's feet. The upper surface preferably is configured so that a user can alight atop the snowskate without a significant likelihood of slipping.
The lower surface may be configured slidingly and controllably to engage snow, sand, or similar media. To promote sliding, portions of the lower surface may be substantially smooth, without significant protrusions or indentations. To promote control, portions of the lower surface also may include control features, such as grooves or ridges. In the preferred embodiment, the lower surface is substantially smooth, except for a plurality of grooves 26 that extend substantially parallel to the sides of the glide plate to facilitate directional stability and steering. The depth, width, length, and number of these grooves (or other control features) can be selected according to the anticipated snow and terrain. Here, the snowskate includes six grooves, three on each side of the longitudinal centerline. These grooves are approximately ⅛ to ½ inch deep, and they run the length of the lower surface of the snowskate between the beginnings of the upward slopes of the front and back portions.
In summary, the preferred embodiment includes an elongated glide plate having (1) a longitudinal axis, (2) an upper surface for receiving the feet of a user, (3) a central portion having a substantially constant width, (4) a front portion bent upwardly, (5) a back portion bent upwardly, and (6) a lower surface having a series of substantially constant-width longitudinal grooves.
The glide plate may be formed of any material or materials capable of supporting a user and sliding over snow. A preferred material is a rugged plastic, such as polyethylene or P-Tex. Suitable dimensions (width, thickness, and length) of the snowskate range between those of a skateboard and those of a snowboard. Preferred dimensions are about 7 inches wide, 1 inch thick, and 30 inches long.
A user may “ride” the snowskate (or snow scooter) by placing the lower surface of the snowskate in contact with snow (or a similar medium), standing on the upper surface of the snowskate, and moving together with the snowskate under the influence of gravity, momentum, or both. The user preferably stands freely and upright on the upper surface, with his (or her) feet in a somewhat straddling position and his (or her) hands and upper body free. The user may move along straight or curved lines in the snow, without sticks or other aids, and with little learning, simply by shifting body weight to engage or disengage the grooves or other control features on the lower surface of the snowskate. For example, the grooves may be engaged to initiate running in a curve by shifting body weight toward the back and side of the center point of the glide plate. Similarly, the snowskate may be braked and brought to a stop by shifting body weight toward the back of the center point of the glide plate, such as on the back portion of the glide plate. In the preferred embodiment, a user may conveniently distinguish the upper and lower surfaces of the snowskate by the different appearances of the surfaces and by upward curvature of the front and back portions.
The invention provides several potential advantages over skis and snowboards. First, the snowskate does not require expensive equipment, such as ski boots, bindings, sticks, and the like. Second, the snowskate may be economically manufactured and purchased. Third, the snowskate may be light, compact, and convenient to transport.
FIGS. 6-7 shows three of many ways in which a snowskate can be modified for use under different conditions or on different surfaces. For example, the snowskate 40 may be fitted with removable wheels 42 (or wheel assemblies) for use on solid surfaces, such as concrete or pavement. These wheels can be attached to the lower surface of the glide plate using any suitable mechanism, including bolts or quick release mechanisms. The snowskate also may be fitted with a removable or permanent handle 44 for use as a “snow scooter” without the wheels or as a regular scooter with the wheels. The handle also may provide an additional mechanism for stabilizing the snowskate, making it easier to use. The snowskate also may be fitted with a brake mechanism to assist in the control of speed, for example, by fitting a pivotable brake plate 46 to the back portion of the snowskate. The mechanisms for attaching the wheels, handle, and/or brake preferably have low profiles so that they do not interfere with sliding motion of the snowskate on snow, particularly when the wheels, handle, and/or brake are removed.
The invention can be commercially exploited by industrial production, by the sale or use of the objects so produced, and/or by permitting third parties to perform the activities mentioned against a fee, among others. Although the invention is disclosed in its preferred forms, the specific embodiments disclosed and illustrated herein should not be considered in a limiting sense, because numerous variations are possible. Applicants regard the subject matter of their invention to include all novel and non-obvious combinations and subcombinations of the various elements, features, functions, and/or properties disclosed herein. No single feature, function, element, or property of the disclosed embodiments is essential.