After a long winter’s drought, significant snowfall has finally adorned southcentral Alaska in white, and cooler-than-forecasted-temperatures mean the white stuff just might stick around for a while. Before the next Chinook blows in to spoil the party, it’s time to break out your fat bike and sample winter on two wheels. It just might change your opinion of the long, cold season.
Tim Woody, a longtime mountain biker and one of the early adopters of fat bikes in Alaska, said the snow is a welcome change, but the shortage of the last few years actually boosted the popularity of the emerging sport.
“We’ve suffered through two nearly snowless winters that drove a lot of skiers and snowshoers to the sport of fat biking even though conditions were usually marginal, at best,” Woody said. “So I think most of us longtime winter-biking junkies feel incredibly lucky to have a decent base of snow on the trails. We finally can ride without worrying whether our studs will keep us upright when we hit glare ice on steep hills.”
Thanks to the work of groups like Single Track Advocates, trails dedicated to fat-tire biking abound throughout Anchorage and the Matanuska and Susitna valleys. The group’s web page, singletrackadvocates.org, provides information on local trails including location, maps, difficulty and current riding conditions. It is the go-to site for local ride planning, whether you’re an expert or a newbie.
If you’re interested pitting your pedaling skills against other winter riders, then check out the Abomidable Winter Bike Event Series sponsored by Chain Reaction Cycles. The most popular event in the series is the Frosty Bottom, an annual winter endurance event held entirely on the multiuse trails that wind through Anchorage. This year’s race is set for Jan. 14 at 10 a.m. Starting at the Kincaid Chalet on the west end of town, the Frosty Bottom follows the Coastal Trail, and the Chester Creek Trail to Goose Lake for the short course. For those interested in a little more suffering, the long course extends to the Tour of Anchorage Trail and continues all the way to the Anchorage Hillside and back again, for a one-of-a-kind urban fat-bike racing experience. Cost is $80 for the full course, $60 for the short course. Other races in the series are set for Feb. 4 , Feb. 11 and March 4. Go to www.chainreactionalaska.com/abominable-snow-series for more.
If you’re interested in more rustic riding, mark your calendar for Feb. 5 and point your handlebars north toward Willow and the community’s annual winter carnival. The 17-mile ride is open to all nonmotorized locomotion, including runners, bikers, skiers and snowshoers and begins at 10:30 a.m. For more information, visit www.waco-ak.org/carnival.php.
Whether you’re interested in racing or just riding, fat-tire bikes are a great way to enjoy Alaska’s backcountry and the many trails in and around Anchorage.
“I hope everyone with a fat bike will be stoked to get out and ride, especially if we keep getting fresh snow,” Woody said. “With all the prime winter singletrack we have in Anchorage, the more fat-bikers we have, the better. There’s plenty of room to have a trail to yourself, but when more people ride, it’s easier to keep the trails firm and fast after each new powder dump.”