Although fatbikes are versatile machines that allow bikes to reach areas that were previously unrideable, they are not always welcome by land access and trail managers. Fatbikes float over snow dirt and sand much better than “skinny” 2 inch wide tires found on typical mountain bikes, so they do very little damage to most trails.
Finding trails to ride fatbikes in the summer is not difficult, fatbikes are typically welcome in any areas in which road or mountain bikes are allowed.
However, finding suitable winter trails for snow-loving fatbikes can prove challenging. Very few snowshoe or XC trails allow fatbikes. While this is starting to change in certain areas, increasing the availability of trails open to fatbikes will require patience, cooperation, time, and advocates who support friendly and cooperative shared trail usage.
Snowmobile trails are often very desirable trails for fatbike riders, since they are often in beautiful areas, offer many miles of adventure, and are well managed. However, even setting aside safety issues (the speed of snowmobiles and the fact that snowmobilers aren’t expecting bikers on their trails) many snowmobile clubs and organizations may want to keep their trails closed to other uses. Fatbike riders should be sure not to ride on any snowmobile trails without permission and/or the requisite permits. Fortunately, there are also races and organized rides where snowmobile trail managers and fatbike riders / race organizers have worked together to allow shared use of the trails on certain days.
While XC ski trails, snowshoe trails and horse trails all are ideal trails for fatbike riders, most parks, ski areas and groomed trails don’t yet recognize that these trail users could all cooperatively share the trail, given appropriate trail marking, trail space, and education. Obviously having fatbikes on trails groomed for classic XC skiing is not desirable to skiiers, but having fatbikes on snowshoe trails or alongside XC ski trails should cause no trail damage, interference or harm.
So, at Ride Fatbikes, we’d like to maintain a list of trails that are open to fatbikes in the winter, particularly areas where the shared use of trails has been worked through cooperatively so fatbikes have become a welcome addition. Please leave a comment below, or Contact Us if you might like to submit a guest post to address how you’ve helped improve trail access for fatbikes in your area.
As of January 2013, IMBA (the International Mountain Bicycling Association) has created Fatbike Best Practices. At RideFatbikes.com, we’ve dedicated a page in our Trail Advocacy section specifically to showcase these standards and best practices. Find the IMBA Fatbike Best Practices here.