Fat bikes on ski trails

Huge US XC ski area opens to fat bikes

The 1945 Christmas carol “Let It Snow” may proclaim how nice it is to just sit around the fire during the holidays, but for many cyclists the line “the weather outside is frightful” rings too true this time of the year. That is unless one happens to be pedaling a fat bike through the powder of a winter wonderland.


Many trails designed for cross-country skiers aren’t open to bicycles, but now, in the state of Washington, the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association has opened select trails for the first time to winter bike riders – albeit with conditions.

There are some restrictions: your tires must be fat! (at least 3.7in wide): there are some restrictions: your tires must be fat! (at least 3.7in wide)
Methow Valley is a low-pressure environment (your tires must be below 10psi)

Methow Valley is home to what it claims is the nation’s largest cross-country ski area, with more than 120 miles of groomed trails.

“The Methow Valley does have a number of fat tire enthusiasts who have been riding winter trails for a number of years,” said Kristen Smith, MVSTA spokesperson. “This year however the popularity in fat biking has definitely surged to a whole new level. Riding in the snow seems to be the ‘bucket list’ to do for every cyclist. It’s the combination of how cool the fat tire bikes look combined with the adventure of being able to ride during a season that normally you can’t ride.”

MVSTA is looking to draw more cyclists to the area and expose them to mountain biking but also expose them to the sport of Nordic skiing.

To hit the trails on a bicycle riders will need to purchase and a trail pass, and tell the ticket vendors that they will be riding on a fat tire bike. The key is “fat tire” and only purpose-built snow bikes are allow, which means both tires will need to be at least 3.7in wide, and tire pressure must be less than 10 psi.

Methow valley has more than 120mi of groomed xc trails: methow valley has more than 120mi of groomed xc trails
Methow Valley has more than 120mi of groomed XC trails

Riders are encouraged to stay off trails with more than 3in of new snow and should leave the trails if leaving a rut deeper than inch or having a hard time riding a straight line. While these rules may seem excessive it is key to ensuring that various winter sport enthusiasts can share the trails. Full rules are posted on the MVSTA website.

“That of course will be the key to the success of the program,” Smith told BikeRadar. “We are a cross-country ski area and the condition of the ski trails and the experience our Nordic skiers have is our number one priority. That being said we are confident we can manage it in a way that both parties can have a great time out on the snow.”


The season is expected to begin on December 16, which will coincide with the first fat bike demo. A local bike Shop, Methow Cycle and Sport, will be hosting two free fat bike demos, with the first on opening day and the second on January 13. The shop also offers fat bikes for rent for those who want to try and don’t expect a new ride under the tree.