Bike polo on Elk Avenue
by Than Acuff
Once again, fat bikers from all over the state, the country and even possibly from overseas, will roll into Crested Butte for the fifth annual Borealis Fat Bike Worlds presented by Ska Brewing Friday through Sunday, January 24-26. And while the Fat Bike World Championships on Saturday are the centerpiece event of the weekend, the Borealis Fat Bike Worlds will also bring a new event to the line-up by incorporating what is arguably the “oldest team sport” into the modern era. We’re talking Fat Bike Polo.
The Borealis Fat Bike Worlds are now completely under the umbrella of the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association (CBMBA). After sharing the event with the Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce the first four years, CBMBA has now taken the helm completely and they are simplifying things just a tad. For starters, they have eliminated the races typically held on Thursday of the event weekend at the North Village by the Snodgrass trailhead.
“It’s a tough venue with all of the wind and the weather,” says CBMBA director Dave Ochs.
As a result, the weekend officially kicks off on Friday, January 24 with fat bike demos at race headquarters behind the Crested Butte Community School. There will be a vendor village out there and fat bike demos from Borealis and the official Fat Tire World Championship course will be open for riders to enjoy and racers to strategize.
“It’s the only time people will get a chance to pre-ride and check out the course,” says Ochs. “We just want to thank Crested Butte Nordic and the homeowners along that stretch of Nordic track for allowing us to use it for the event.”
Registration for the weekend events and the world championships will be open at the event headquarters behind the school until 3 p.m. Then, things take a turn to prepare the masses for the debut of Fat Bike Polo—possibly the only Fat Bike Polo event on the planet, hell, probably the only one in the universe.
Following a brief break, event organizers will then be set up at the Brick Oven at 4 p.m. for registration and preliminary activities leading up to the Fat Bike Polo tournament on Elk Avenue.
According to an informational pamphlet procured by Ochs from the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum, bike polo was invented in Crested Butte in 1987.
The pamphlet reads, “One July 5th in Crested Butte, Colorado—the fat tire bike capital of the world—a group of merrymakers attempted to put last night’s revelries behind them. While playing a docile game of croquet, one visitor noticed her mountain bike lying neglected nearby on the grass. During some particularly slow play, she mounted her bike, mallet in hand, and took a few swings at a croquet ball. Eureka!!”
Now, thanks to CBMBA, bike polo has now made the move to winter for Fat Bike Polo.
“We’re jumping on that train and keeping the tradition alive on fat bikes, in the snow, on Elk Avenue,” says Ochs. “We wanted to do something different and bring Fat Bike Worlds to downtown Crested Butte. We wanted to bring the party to the heart of town.”
CBMBA has the mallets—ski poles with mallet heads on the end—and glow-in-the-dark balls and is looking for 64 intrepid athletes to be part of the magic Friday evening.
All of the rules for the tournament are available on the website cbfatbikeworlds.com so I will spare you that but rest assured, all you need is a fat bike, or a bike with plus-sized tires, and a penchant for the extreme. The action starts at 5 p.m. with the championship game around 8:30 p.m.
Ochs does recommend plenty of pads, perhaps even headlamps, and a readiness for anything.
“We have no idea what conditions will be like,” says Ochs. “I’m expecting high scoring, high fun entertainment.”
Saturday morning is when the weekend comes to a climax with the Fat Bike World Championships. Day-of race registration opens at the vendor village location at 8:30 a.m. and sign-up is already ahead of past years. The vendor village officially opens at 10 a.m. and the racing starts at 11 a.m. The start/finish area is behind the school and the racers will complete five laps, including the optional money booter, with a three-lap option available for the fun race.
“We got some heavy hitters coming back to defend their titles and it’ll be very competitive out front,” says Ochs. “But it’s also about being out there on a fat bike, eating bacon, drinking whiskey and having fun.”
The after-party kicks off at 3:30 p.m. with live music and the awards ceremony is at 4:20 p.m., with the party continuing at the vendor village with more live music, heated tents, Ska Brewing beer and plenty of BBQ food.
“We encourage anybody to come out and join in the celebration,” says Ochs.
The weekend closes on Sunday as 45NRTH will host a group ride on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.