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Sanders: Winter Park trails for fat biking, winter riding tips

Keith Sanders
Mountain Biking With Keith
Alexander Head fat biking on the trails near Rendezvous in Winter Park.
Staff Photo |

Early season snowfall has been great and it looks like we are setting up for a great season. Winter Park is open and early season conditions are going to be pretty darn good. Of course this means that the fat biking can be great!

I’m seeing more and more fat tire bikes on the trails. Fat bikes have become a mainstream form of trail use in the winter. I am constantly running into more people who have fat bikes. I know I love riding mine. Of course that doesn’t mean that I am giving up my skis. The majority of us live here for outdoor recreation and have the full complement of toys to meet that need. I’ve always told people that the cost of the toys isn’t the main factor, it is the remodel of the garage to make everything fit that will set you back a bit.

Fat biking has become another user on the winter trails. Trails close to town see a variety of users. Cross country skiers, snow shoe and fat bikes. I also see quite a few people out hiking on the trails as well. This is in part due to easy access to the trails and the high amount of use trails near town receive resulting in quite a bit of snow compaction. One thing I really like about riding my fat bike is that I can get away from most of the other users just as I would in the summer by riding a bit farther away from town. Most of the trails in the area are groomed for snowmobile use which by default creates a vast trail system that many of us enjoy . Once I am a mile or so from town about the only other users I see are other fat bike riders and snowmobilers. Fat biking lets me get away and enjoy winter in what seems like my own personal winter wonderland.

The recent storms have dropped quite a bit of snow. Trails are getting packed in, traction is great and staying warm is rarely an issue. One key thing that is often overlooked on fat tire biking is that the trails are actually smoother in the winter than summer. As snow pack builds the rocks and roots become covered leaving a smoother surface. Often your main concern is not the obstacle but taking your eyes off of the amazing views created by the removal of dead and fallen trees.

“Use a Camelback or similar hydration pack and not water bottles as the bottles will freeze.”

Winter Park Trails

Just as in the summer you can hop on your fat bike and access the trail system at any of the trail heads in the area. The new trail construction by the Town of Winter Park makes this very easy from downtown and around Winter Park. For those of you who are new to Winter Park you can find some great maps at http://www.mountainbikecapitalusa.com Two great access points near town are Leland Creek which is just over the railroad tracks on the Kings Crossing road. Another is Sunset Pink which is on Vasquez Road on the right just after you leave the paved portion (hint Vasquez Road goes straight- paved road curves to the right, if you pass the Woodspur Lodge you just missed it). These are great places to explore. Both trail accesses converge Sunset Pink and Sun Dog. Favorite trails in the area are WTB, D4, D3, Blue Sky. Leap Frog and D2. Stop by some of the local shops that do bikes in the summer for maps. The Winter Park Chamber has great maps as well.

Tips

A couple of tips for your next ride. Use a Camelback or similar hydration pack and not water bottles as the bottles will freeze. Remember you are going into a bit of a backcountry experience so be a bit prepared. I take some extra clothing just in case something goes wrong. That typically includes something to cover my face, handwarmers, easy to eat food (it freezes), extra gloves and a flashlight for any late afternoon excursions. Keep your cell phone in an interior pocket. Batteries get cold and most phones will not operate if they are too cold. Avoid heading down a trail that you are uncertain of how much it is packed or if the trails it leads to will be packed. If it is too soft you may be able to ride down but not back up resulting in having to hike. Not all trails will be packed. Be ready to take an alternative route that may take a bit of extra time to complete your ride. Above all have fun!

Looking for more information? Like Grand Mountain Bike Alliance (GMBA) on Facebook. GMBA is your local mountain bike group. Check out Mountainbikecapitalusa.com. Great site by the Winter Park Chamber!

Keith Sanders is the President of the Grand Mountain Bike Alliance, 3x US National Mountain Bike Champion and owner of Beavers Sports Shop. You can reach me at keith@winterparkskirental.com


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