An email from QPB’s Gary Sjoquist: Trail sharing for fat bikes; upcoming Fat Bike Summits

I got this email today from Gary Sjoquist, QBP Advocacy Director, asking for help to get the word out. I’ve added a few links and photos to it.

Gary Sjoquist and Scott FitzgeraldAs Fat Bikes continue to grow, we’ll see this question of “where else can we ride” become more an issue. This is why Scott Fitzgerald from Fitzgerald’s Bicycles in ID and I launched the Fat Bike Summit series (West Yellowstone in 2012, Island Park in 2013).

At the national level, we want fat bike access to National Parks like Yellowstone and Teton. Currently, under Winter Use policies, fat bikes are banned from National Parks (even though some small National Parks use them for maintenance needs). Part of getting this ban reversed is to inform and educate land managers about what fat bikes are (and are not).

Nordic and fat bikesBut elsewhere across the U.S., the topic of trail sharing between Nordic and fat bikes, or even snowmobile and fat bikes, will need to be addressed. With major manufacturers now producing fat bikes, and tire production suddenly increased, the numbers are increasing dramatically.

In terms of trail sharing for fat bikes, there are some early success stories, however.

In Methow Valley, WA, the nation’s largest Nordic area has allowed limited fat bike access to groomed trails and reports no issues – even skeptics have reversed themselves after seeing how fat bike tires don’t damage groomed trails.

Michigan Tech University is another area that has experimented with opening Nordic trails to fat bike use, again with zero issues in terms of trail damage. In Victor, ID, in Snowmobile District 33, local fat bike riders negotiated access to groomed snowmobile trails via a sticker program.

Andy Williams on a fat bike on a groomed trailSo, will fat bikes and Nordic coexist automatically? No, and they probably shouldn’t. It’s going to be a case-by-case deal, where Nordic areas with declining numbers might see fat bikes as a workable alternative. And to be fair, the examples listed out west are vastly different than here in the Midwest, where sight lines are shorter and a lot of our riding will be in heavy woods or grassy rolling meadows.

But fat bikes are not a fad, folks – if you look closely at demographics, riding opportunities in low snow conditions (existing mountain bike trails) and the dearth of winter biking opportunities prior to fat bikes, it’s a sport primed for continued growth. Retailers love it, too, as it allows them to remain a bike shop during the winter months instead of trying to make it selling skiing stuff or fitness equipment.

At the Midwest Fat Bike Summit in Cable, WI, on Friday, January 10th, we’ll examine trail sharing for fat bikes and other winter trail users. We’ll also present fat bike trail grooming techniques, both hand-powered and mechanized, for dual and singletrack trail use by fat bikes. We’ll have more details about this event soon – be sure to check the MORC site.

Fat Bike Summit 2014 bannerAnother pivotal event for fat bikes will be the Global Fat Bike Summit and Festival in Ogden, UT on January 24/25. Co-hosted by QBP and the City of Ogden, this event will have a Land Manager Summit on Friday, Jan. 24th that will examine and quantify fat bike use, discuss grooming techniques, economic impacts, and offer land managers a demo fat bike ride. Friday evening, the Festival portion of the event kicks in with a Registration Party. Saturday will offer product demos, gear clinics, tech clinics, and several races.

Gary Sjoquist, QBP Advocacy Director


  1. Nita said:

    Great article and very informative. As a xc skier and a fat bike rider, I see both sides of this issue. I’m sure there are trails that aren’t amenable to both sports simultaneously, but if groomed ski or bike trails aren’t damaged or altered, we should be able to co-exist with a little tweaking.

    November 19, 2013
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    Nita, but wouldn’t you much prefer winter fat biking on a groomed mtb singletrack where you could more easily get the flowy, twisty experience that you do on a mtb in the summer?

    November 20, 2013
  3. Doug Janni said:

    Griff… I think all the MN mountain bike groups need to come together and work with the MN DNR on opening state parks to fat bikes in the winter. Especially now like the article says… in addition to all the name brand manufacturers, you have bikesdirect just flooding it right now with affordable fat bikes for anyone and everyone.

    There would be so many more places to ride if this was a possibility. I’ve seen so many of my local groomed XC ski trails just ruined by boot prints all over… yet I ride right over them with my fat bike barely leaving a mark.

    That article from Gary is really good… but I didn’t see anything mentioned about the MN DNR and our state parks. I’m hoping that summit addresses some of those issues. Thanks again for your great postings 🙂

    November 26, 2013
  4. Griff Wigley said:

    Doug, I think the DNR is cautiously learning its way on the issue via its mtb trails at Cuyuna Lakes. The first year, they didn’t allow any use of the trails in winter until the Whiteout Festival and even then, the Yawkey unit was open for one day only.

    It took a considerable effort by a lot of people to arrive at a new policy by this time last year. I wrote about it in January on their blog.

    So I wouldn’t expect much to happen in the next year or so for state parks/state trails. Shared use is tricky. The focus of the Midwest Summit, soon to be named the “Midwest Fat Bike Access and Grooming Workshop,” will primarily be on how to make existing mtb trails here in the upper Midwest more accessible to biking in the winter, with a lesser focus on shared use.

    November 26, 2013
  5. David Cobb said:

    Griff, is there any feedback from the DNR? It would be very interesting to hear what their thoughts and ideas were/are. Hearing feedback from the volunteers at Cuyuna, it’s almost a situation of “build it and they will come”! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if it weren’t for the driving force of the volunteers, all those wonderful snow covered trails would sit, well….snow covered!

    March 10, 2014
  6. Griff Wigley said:

    David, I’ve not heard anything more from the DNR about winter grooming. I saw 3 of their top Parks and Trails staff last week but there was no mention of it. The focus is 100% on the bonding bill:

    I’m guessing that the DNR’s Cuyuna Lakes staff (Steve Weber, Nick Statz) will make a report at winter’s end and then the higher ups will evaluate. And then MAYBE we’ll see something made public before next winter. The DNR moves slowly and carefully.

    March 10, 2014

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