It floats on top of snow like a dream. Annual sales double each year. And it’s so easy to use, even a novice can get the hang of it in mere hours. If you’re guessing it’s the latest powder skis or a snowmobile, guess again: Think two wheels.
Fat bikes—designed specifically for riding on snow—are the newest fad in winter sports. They are hard-framed beasts with 3.8-inch-wide tires that gleefully plow through the white stuff in the winter. Could Park City become as popular to pedalers in the winter as it is in summer? After he rode one for the first time, Patrick Fannon, owner of Switchback Sports (1685 Bonanza Dr, 435.615.1555, switchbacksports.org), says he knew within minutes that the sport would have some traction. He added fat bikes to Switchback’s rental fleet last winter and could hardly keep up with demand. “It’s fun and really easy, which is cool,” Fannon says. “You’d assume by looking at it that it’s inherently more challenging. The nice part about it is that it doesn’t require someone be an expert mountain biker.”
The surface area and the inflation of the tires allow you to cover a lot more ground than on a traditional mountain bike. And because you aren’t getting jarred around on rocks and dirt, fat bikes need no suspension. Heavier than most bikes, fat bikes turn slowly, but speed isn’t the point. Snow biking is a great option for travelers who either want to mix up their vacation or want to save money. (Renting a fat bike costs around $40, and access to area trails is free.)
Fat bikes were originally built for the Iditabike, an endurance race in Alaska along the famous Iditarod Trail. Then in 2005, the mainstream industry was essentially established when Surly introduced the Pugsley. The fat-bike market is doubling every year, says Gary Sjoquist, co-founder of the annual Fat Bike Summit. “We figure there’s about 20,000 fat bikes on the market,” he says. “And it’s going to continue to grow, now more than ever, because Trek and Specialized are in the field.”
These recognizable industry players will be sold in the mix with bargain bikes and the cream of the crop. Fat bikes can be purchased at big-box chain stores for as little as $200, while the top brands, like Borealis, sell for upward of $8,500. Additional rental options can be found at Jans Mountain Outfitters (1600 Park Ave, 435.649.4949, jans.com), Pedego Electric Bikes (1890 Bonanza Dr, 435.649.6663, pedegoparkcity.com), and White Pine Touring (1790 Bonanza Dr, 435.649.8710, whitepinetouring.com).
While the ski resorts around Park City do not currently accommodate fat bikes, there are more than 50 kilometers of terrain to pedal in the Round Valley area. These trails are shared with cross-country skiers, so recreationists need to play nice. “We like to think good friendly trail etiquette is always at the core of any winter sport,” says Mountain Trails Foundation Executive Director Charlie Sturgis.
Snow biking is a fairly new sport, so it’s inevitable that it will continue to grow and evolve. For now, it’s just plain fun.