Get packing

by • March 27, 2017 • Highlights, Single-track mindComments (0)113

Snowshoe outings help winter riders enjoy their trails

 

As rider Jon Kunesh discovers, sometimes the trail is just too soft. Luckily, so is the landing. Courtesy Nicholas Blades.

As rider Jon Kunesh discovers, sometimes the trail is just too soft. Luckily, so is the landing. Courtesy Nicholas Blades.

Tracks don’t fall from the sky.” Skiers have often seen this expression along with a plea from the local ski club to buy a membership to help pay for ski trail grooming, but what about the fat tire bikers who have their favorite networks of trails to ride?
Sure, the bikes with their 4- or 5-inch tires are designed to ride better in snow than the typical mountain bike, but when the snow starts piling up as it did in January, the going gets tough and even the tough don’t feel much like pushing. That’s when it’s time to dig out the snowshoes.
Admittedly, when the snow started getting deep, I was not thinking about riding my bike. Instead, I was looking forward to skiing in fresh powder. My husband Jon, on the other hand, made it his mission to snowshoe some of his favorite skinny trails so that they would be well packed for biking. His afternoon-long forays would involve taking shorter than usual steps to pack the trails, with the plan to ride the next day, only to be thwarted by more snowfall. When I joined him, it was sometimes to do some route finding, as well as to have another person grooming the trails.
He was not alone in his pursuit. In January, lots of bikers got out on snowshoes to pack a base for good riding. On social networking sites, riders asked what still needed packing and arranged group outings to do just that. The dedication to the cause was so strong that Jon encountered one snowshoer pulling a tire behind him to create the perfect-width trail.
While I enjoy snowshoeing for its own sake, knowing that I would contribute to making a solid base for biking was a good incentive for me to get out there. Jon summed up his motivation by reminding me that there are times when we benefit from those who make the trails and “then there are times when you have to pay your dues.” He also realized that with the back-to-back snowfalls, if he didn’t get out to pack his favorite trails, they may disappear under the deep snow. The payoff comes with the rides that follow, much like the satisfaction of doing summer trail work, yet with results that are more fleeting.

Rosemary Austin helps pack trail with snowshoes, to create prime winter-riding opportunities. Courtesy Jon Kunesh.

Rosemary Austin helps pack trail with snowshoes, to create prime winter-riding opportunities. Courtesy Jon Kunesh.

We rely on this sort of grooming because in Anchorage, very few narrow trails receive any kind of motorized grooming. The Kincaid and Hillside trails built by STA and a few trails on the Campbell Tract are the exceptions. Likewise, on rides I’ve done in Talkeetna, near Palmer, in Willow and on the Kenai, I’ve relied on snowmachine trails to allow me to explore areas that would otherwise be impassible by bike.
If you’re a winter fat tire biker, add snowshoes to your required gear list. You can help pack trails during the next snowfall. And you may just find that you enjoy exploring some of the narrow trails on foot.

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