Fat-tire biking, or snow biking, is really taking off this winter. There is good reason for this; it’s a blast!
The extra large tires on fat bikes allow running lower tire pressure, which provides superior float and traction, letting us ride over otherwise undesirable terrain, like snow. You can’t put these fat tires on any old bike, as a special frame is required to accommodate the big tires, which can run between 3.5” and 5.0” wide.
Even though lots of folks are getting into the fat-tire bikes, there are times when the trails are firm enough to get by with a regular mountain bike with regular tires. It’s just that with the fat tire bikes, you are going to have more float and traction, therefore opening up more terrain and winter-time fun.
The best place to snow bike is on single track trails that have been packed down by other trail users, like snow shoers. In fact, snow shoers are otherwise known as the snow biker’s best friend, because they pack down the snow on the trails at just about the right width for snow biking. There is also the option of biking on groomed multi-use trails, but if you chose that option be sure to follow the rules of the groomed trail area. The Fernie Mountain Bike Club just published some policies for biking on groomed multi-use winter trails, which can be found here: http://www.bikefernie.ca/fmbc-fat-tire-and-snow-bike-policies. Of important note is that the Golf Course and the new Elk Valley Nordic Centre do not permit snow biking, so please don’t ride at either of those places.
In terms of dressing for snow biking, you will want to dress for aerobic activity in winter temperatures. The problem areas are the extremities because your feet and hands will get even less circulation than normal due to your body position on the bike. For hands, look for gloves that will give you enough dexterity to operate the brake leavers and gears, but also keep your hands warm. Because snow biking typically involves some walking here and there, a good pair of winter boots with good tread is recommended.
There are lots of places around town that can be good for snow biking, but some of the best spots are: Lazy Lizard (start from the Island Lake Lodge parking lot), the trails around Gorby (Mount Fernie Provincial Park) and Ridgemont. Conditions are, of course, a fluid thing because the snow surface is constantly changing with precipitation, temperature and use. If you are on Facebook, there is a page dedicated to posting trail conditions called Fernie Fatbike. Just “like” the page and you can read others’ posts and post on trail conditions yourself.
The most reliable area to snow bike single track is Ridgemont. This is because it gets lots of traffic, from snow shoers (we love you guys!) to Nordic skiers to runners. A great loop is to head up Cemetery By-Pass, to What’s Up Doc, up Queen V to Eco-terrorist and across to into Kid’s Stuff, where you will enter the ‘”new” Eric’s Trail entrance and you can take the luge-like run all the way down Eric’s (so fun!). From the bottom of Eric’s, you can do another quick climb up Ridgemont Road to the bottom entrance of Eco-terrorist and then let it roll down Sidewinder to town.
A common initial reaction to biking on snow-covered trails is that it’s “crazy,” but it really is a great way to get out and enjoy Fernie’s first class trail network, it allows mountain biking addicts to get their fix during the winter months, and helps us to stay in shape and healthy all year long.