Fatbiking Season Preview
With the continual addition of fatbike-accessible terrain, more fatbiking events naturally follow. Quebec is clearly the province stricken with the most serious case of fatbike fever, boasting as many as 20 races on the calendar, according to the Fédération québécoise des sports cyclistes (FQSC). Feb. 16 will see the sixth annual edition of La Traversée du Lac St-Jean, the infamous 32-kilometre traverse of the region’s namesake. Another one of the province’s most popular fatbike races is the FAT Rendez-vous Charlevoix on Feb. 2, held at the region’s Le Massif resort.
Quebec has several popular resort destinations for the two-wheeled winter activity, including Mont-Ste-Anne of mountain-biking fame. Mont-Ste-Anne also hosts a race and offers 23 kilometres of designated fatbiking recreation trails. Likewise, Mont-Tremblant in the Laurentians boasts approximately 60 kilometres of fatbiking terrain, 40 kilometres of which are shared with cross-country skiing, while another 17 kilometres are specifically for fatbiking. Many of the province’s parks welcome the big rigs, too, making hundreds of kilometres of track accessible. Even the federal government has recognized it’s more than a fad and is allowing users to make fat-tracks in select Canadian National Parks, including Quebec’s La Maurice.
Ontario is in a fatbiking frenzy as well, evidenced by its five-leg 45NRTH Ontario Fat Bike Series presented by Cannondale, including stops in riding destinations Parry Sound, Kingston and at Barrie’s Hardwood Ski and Bike. If athletes want to get extreme, they can take on the Wendigo Ultra – a 150-kilometre self-supported fatbiking ultramarathon from the Gatineau region’s Cobden, Ont. to Shawville, Que. and back on Feb. 9.
For those inclined toward a more leisurely pace and hot-cocoa stops, Ontario has no shortage of recreation trails open to fatbikes, such as a groomed nine-kilometre loop at Horseshoe Valley Resort, Ottawa’s 10-kilometre Sir John A. Macdonald Trail, the 49-kilometre Millennium Trail between Carrying Place and Picton, the 14-kilometre Old Railway Trail in Algonquin Park and 28 kilometres in Gatineau Park to name a few.
The sport that has been described akin to riding on pillows has not bypassed the Maritimes. Corner Brook, Nfld. will host two fun races this winter, while Nova Scotia welcomes riders to the Mahone Bay Fat Bike Festival, which includes a race on Feb. 3. New Brunswick’s Fundy and Kouchibouguac National Parks are also open to recreational fatbikes, boasting 18 kilometres and 12.5 kilometres of trail, respectively.
Moving farther west, Manitoba holds a race series with four dates through the winter, kicking off in Roseisle on Dec. 9 and wrapping up Winnipeg on Feb. 24. Organizers Two Wheel Revolution also host several social events throughout the season. Birds Hill Provincial Park, Riding Mountain National Park, Fort Whyte, Brandon Hills and the Pembina Valley all offer fatbiking-friendly terrain for those looking to explore the province’s extensive winter wonderland.
Saskatoon fatbiking club the Fatlanders are organizing a social ride on Dec. 1 to celebrate Global Fat-Bike Day. Favourite rides recommended by the group include the 20-kilometre Grey Owl’s Cabin Trail in Prince Albert Provincial Park and the 21.5-kilometre Green Lake Loop in Duck Mountain Provincial Park, as well as the trails of Blue Mountain Adventure Park.
Alberta is home to a huge amount of real estate open to fatbikes, so it’s no wonder the province is also high on the list for competitions, starting with
the new three-event Grizzly Fatbike Series in Canmore. Frosty’s Fatbike Series in Jasper on Jan. 10-12 features a XC-style race, a social ride with the Pros and the main-event Endurance XC race with a $5,000 cash purse, while the third annual Hinton Growler promises lots of snowy fun on Feb. 9.
Alberta has many options for “fatties” in the picturesque Canmore/Banff area, as well as neighbouring Kananaskis Country. Farther south is a new fatbiking-friendly provincial park, Castle, which was established in 2017 and features a cozy new warming hut. The Canmore Nordic Centre opens several of its popular summer mountain-biking trails to fatbikes in winter, such as EKG, Blue Coal Chutes and Odyssey. Fatbikes are prohibited on groomed ski trails. Nearby Highline Trail is also a favourite. Banff National Park gems Lake Minnewanka, Moraine Lake, Tunnel Mountain and Goat Creek areas all feature fantastic fatbiking choices in the heart of the Rockies.
B.C. is on the snowbiking bandwagon with some great places to shred. One of the country’s top fatbiking destinations, Nipika Mountain Resort in the Kootenay Rockies, grooms 30 kilometres of flowy, rolling singletrack through forests punctuated by stunning views of canyons and rivers. Nipika also hosts the Cross River Ripper fatbike race on Feb. 23. Other hot spots in B.C. for this cool activity include the Okanagan’s Silver Star Resort in Vernon, B.C. with 15+ kilometres of groomed trail, as well as the east Kootenay’s outdoor playground, Fernie.
It’s no surprise that one of the wintriest places in Canada has awesome spots to fatbike. Some of the Yukon’s favourite rides are at Grey Mountain and Mount MacIntyre in Whitehorse, as well as the multi-use Millennium Trail, which follows the Yukon River through town. Other suggestions include Bennett Lake near Carcross, which features impressive mountain views. The more adventurous will love to ride in the Fish Lake and Bonneville Lakes areas outside Whitehorse.
As fantastic as fatbiking is for active people seeking more outdoor recreation options in winter, controversy still exists around how trail access is managed and how terrain is shared among user groups, especially with Nordic skiers. The trouble lies in the way fatbikes leave their mark in the snow, often sinking in and chopping up the surface if conditions are too soft or warm. While many areas are multi-use, more fatbike-only trails are being developed to keep them off Nordic trails. Increased awareness and education about when and where to ride is helping users find harmony in the snow. Areas are also developing clear rules to help fatbikers make better choices. For example, Silver Star Resort does not allow fatbikes in above-freezing temperatures and restricts tire width to 3.75” or wider and pressure to 8psi or less to ensure minimal trail impact.
Also quite popular in Quebec is the FAT Rendez-vous Charlevoix on Feb. 2,held at the region’s Le Massif resort.
Frosty’s Fatbike Series in Jasper, Alta. Jan. 10-12 features three eventsand a $5,000 cash purse.
More fatbiking frenzy can be found at the five-leg 45NRTH Ontario FatBikeSeries presented by Cannondale.
Get fat this winter!