Those of us who waited on pins and needles for great fat bike grooming in Spokane last winter were mostly disappointed. Not by the amazing and dedicated volunteers and park staff who make groomed trails happen, but by Mother Nature who just failed to send us enough snow.
But this year, La Niña promises a “harsh” winter with a good chance for lots of snow.
The great news for fat bikers this year is that land managers, park staff, and volunteer organizations from all over the Inland Northwest are poised by their groomers, just waiting for the snow to fly.
Pine Street Woods – Sandpoint, ID
One of many such organizations is the Pend Oreille Pedalers in Sandpoint. As they celebrate the opening of a brand-new trailhead at “VTT” (short for velo tout terrain–French for “mountain bike”), plans are in place to groom three loops in the popular Pine Street Woods. These loops are beginner-friendly, 21”-wide singletrack with a total of 5.5 miles of riding for those who tackle all three loops.
Jason Welker, executive director of Pend Oreille Pedalers, says grooming the VTT trail system, down the hill from Pine Street Woods, would add an additional 2 miles of trails with more elevation opportunity for riders looking for more of a challenge.
Riverside & Mt. Spokane State Parks – Spokane, WA
At Riverside, trails will be groomed for XC skiers and fat bikers. At Mt. Spokane, fat bikers will be welcome to use shared-use trails such as the Kit Carson loop, but should avoid the Nordic area.
Sno-Park permits will be required at Mount Spokane, but Discover Passes will suffice for a visit to Riverside.
With the marked upsurge in outdoor recreation in all four seasons, good trail etiquette is paramount. The City of Spokane’s website includes best practices for fat biking, including yielding to all other trail users, avoiding XC ski tracks, leashing dogs, and using tires that are at least 3.8” wide with 4-6 PSI air pressure.
With intermittent snowfall and warmer temperatures, snowy trails are difficult to maintain. Being aware of how each instance of trail use affects the trail is vital to ensuring they will last for others to ride as well.
9B Trails – Bonners Ferry, ID
North Idaho’s Boundary County is home to 9B Trails, a non-motorized trail group responsible for maintaining all four seasons of trails near the Canadian border.
This winter, 9B will be grooming trails off of Kootenai Trail Road in Paradise Valley called the Section 16 Trails. Beginners can enjoy a 2.5-mile inner loop that is mostly flat, while more experienced riders can use this loop to connect to a 5.4-mile outer loop. The outer loop features more climbing and descending, offering beautiful views of the Kootenai Valley.
The trailhead for this system is located at 1099 Kootenai Trail Road in Bonners Ferry.
Canfield Mountain – Coeur d’Alene, ID
In Coeur d’Alene, Dave Dutro, Trail Maniacs founder and one of the volunteers responsible for the growing network of groomed fat bike trails on Canfield Mountain, notes that last year may have been the most disappointing year for grooming.
“We had plenty of snow above 3,000 feet, but not enough down low for the groomer to travel on.” That may sound like a bummer, says Dutro, but it forced them to adapt to the conditions by making some modifications to the grooming sled so it can travel on little to no snow.
Dutro also invested in a set of tracks for his ATV that allow him to groom all the road sections, which he says gives some relief to the groomer and operator, which “get punished with a heck of a workout.” Dutro is hopeful that this innovation will allow them to add an additional three or more miles of groomed trail this season that would make more loop options that won’t require riding all the way to the summit.
Eventually, Dutro hopes to be able to keep Forest Service road #1562 packed down all the way to road #1535, which would connect to hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobile trails and endless riding possibilities. “That’s a lot of ifs,” he admits, “but if we get a snow apocalypse, we are prepared.”
Local ski Mountain Resorts
Local resorts are also jumping on the wide-tired wagon with groomed trails for fat biking. To name just a few, Schweitzer Mountain Resort has 19 miles of groomed trails at the base of the resort. These trails are groomed seven days a week and trail passes are $15/day.
While most fat bike events have not yet been confirmed as of print time for this issue, one that will almost certainly go forward no matter what the world throws at us is Fat Pursuit, a winter endurance event held in Island Park, Idaho, near Yellowstone, that includes 60K or 200K distances that can be tackled on fat bike, foot, or skis.
The 2022 60K event is set for Jan. 8, and the 200K version runs Jan. 7-9. Coeur d’Alene fat biker and endurance athlete Dave Dutro praises the event, noting that Fat Pursuit founder Jay P is “an innovator” and that “fat biking wouldn’t be what it is without him.” Sign up and make the Inland Northwest proud.
Find the organizations listed above on social media and give them a “like” or a “follow” to stay up to date on the latest trail conditions and any fat bike events and races that may happen this winter.