The first thing to know about winter biking – or fat biking – is that it’s harder than it looks. Keeping your tires on the trail takes some skill, but there’s the promise of a soft landing in a snowbank should you fall off. Past the learning curve, it’s fast-paced, a great workout and an excellent way to experience the outdoors!
Called fat biking because of the large, squishy bike tires that grip onto packed snow, this exhilarating new winter sport has been building in popularity for the past few years. Rental shops, race organizers and trail groomers are all getting in on the fat biking action. Alberta Parks has also jumped onto this trend and offers designated single-track trails at Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park and has opened up other Kananaskis Country trails to biking.
On the Fat Biking Path
Alberta Parks staff and planners have included this new and growing sport into the winter activity mix this year.
The first designated trails at Canmore Nordic Centre are for winter cyclists at the intermediate or advanced skill level, but the park is also easily accessible to trails in Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park south of the town of Canmore. And for a particularly good variety of winter trails, head to the West Bragg Creek trail system just west of Calgary, which has recently grown into one of the most popular locations for fat biking in the province. Beyond there, in Elbow Valley, bike on trails include Diamond T, Sulphur Springs and Prairie Creek.
A little further afield, the Bill Milne Trail in Evan Thomas Provincial Recreation Area on Highway 40 near Kananaskis Village is great for beginners, wide and packed down, and accesses additional track on the Evan Thomas Fire Road and Wedge Connector trails. Or head up the newly repaired Ribbon Creek Trail (lower trail) for creek views and a challenging ride.
Fat bikers can ride to Watridge Lake from the Mt. Shark parking lot in Spray Valley Provincial Park, but not beyond, to Karst Springs. If you’re venturing into the backcountry, take the same precautions for avalanche danger as you would if you were skiing or snowshoeing. This is particularly good advice on the newly built sections of the High Rockies Trail in Spray Valley, which in some areas passes directly across avalanche slopes.
Albertans are always trailblazers when it comes to winter sports – fat biking is no exception. With only two rules of etiquette to remember: don’t ride on cross country ski tracks and ride only with tires 3.7 inches (9.4 centimetres) wide or wider, this sport is sure to continue to pick up traction.
Now it’s just up to you to give it a try!