Grooming in North Valley underway
By Toni Todd
There’s no denying the fun of sliding on snow in the mountains. For many, however, skiing and snowboarding are just pleasant diversions between cycling seasons. Given a choice, they’d ride over slide any day.
Enter: Fat bikes, beefy trail-riders equipped with grippy tires, perfect for packed snow. It’s tough to go fast on a fat bike, and with those plump tires, they’re not particularly agile, but many are finding that riding a bike on snow is a blast. Fat bikes have gone from cool idea to craze in no time. However, Gunnison Trails’ executive director Tim Kugler was not an early convert to the sport.
Kugler says he’s since ridden a fat bike on snow several times. “When you’re out on the trail, in the right conditions, it’s not quite like mountain biking, but it’s pretty darn similar and it’s super fun.
“It’ll be very much dependent on snow levels,” says Kugler of Gunnison Trails’ grooming efforts this winter. “Gunnison in particular—you can’t always count on great snow.”
The organization is slated to receive a fat bike groomer this Friday. The best case scenario, he says, with lots of snow, Gunnison Trails plans to groom two fat bike routes at Hartman Rocks, each a 13-mile loop. One will start from McCabe’s Lane trailhead, and another from the Gold Basin base area. Kugler says he envisions the grooming will be “experimental and adaptive.”
In addition to snowfall, grooming will also depend on how well the grooming device works on the terrain available. Kugler describes it as looking somewhat like a lawnmower. It is brand new, untested on the Hartman Rocks trails.
Groomers will monitor conditions and change routes as needed, based on how well the trails hold up. “Talking with Dave Ochs and the efforts that took place at the north end of the valley last year, I’m gearing up for many hours behind our grooming machine,” says Kugler.
That machine is called The Trail Tamer, a track sled made by Tracks USA. Kugler says he anticipates it creating a packed snow surface rather than perfect corduroy. “I don’t think the depth we pack makes the snow melt any slower,” he adds, addressing concerns some might have that the spring riding season could be delayed as a result of packing trails for fat biking in winter.
On the front side of Hartman’s, the tentative plan is to groom Jack’s Trail, Beck’s Trail, Buddy Bear, The Luge, a small portion of Graceland and the Sandy Wash Trail. “Parallel to all those trails are existing fire roads we’re going to groom so people can make a loop,” says Kugler.
Kugler praised Gunnison Nordic’s efforts and the quality grooming they do at Hartman Rocks, too. “We’re going to be next to them,” he says, creating space for skiers on one side of a trail and fat bikers on the other.
Gunnison Trails will also groom four to five miles for fat biking at Van Tuyl. “It’ll be the perfect lunch loop,” says Kugler, “or a great opportunity for beginners to rent from a local shop and go right out there.”
Gunnison Trails will provide fresh, daily updates on its website and via social media, both for the trails they’ve groomed for fat biking, and for the trails groomed by Gunnison Nordic. A great experience on a fat bike, says Kugler, is completely dependent on conditions. “We hope to educate riders on when to go and what we’ve groomed,” he adds, not only to ensure a good experience, but also to keep the trails in the best shape possible.
In the north valley, fat biking continues to gain momentum with groomers smoothing out trails in the Gothic, Brush Creek and Cement Creek corridors. Grooming will be conducted by the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association through a United States Forest Service permit, and the CBMBA crew will be maintaining the North Village area around Snodgrass, as well.
“We have some other ideas for areas in the future, and we’re looking to see the viability of adding them to the mix,” said CBMBA executive director Dave Ochs.
Ochs said the organization has been working closely with the Forest Service and both Crested Butte Nordic and the Crested Butte Land Trust to develop more opportunities for fat biking while ensuring land use regulations are followed.
Says Ochs, “We’ll have a hired hand this year as we’re looking to partner with SNOtrackers to do more and better grooming up Cement Creek, all the way up to Hunter Creek Trail using their machines, and we’re also looking to the Fat Bike Worlds demo for what machines can do and what type of grooming jobs can be done around here.”
Here’s a clue: Think singletrack…