Pedal to the Continental Divide in the dead of winter on these epic fat bike rides!
A couple of Colorado’s mountain towns boast some of the best fat biking in the United States, if not the world! Leadville and Crested Butte have led the charge, pioneering fat biking grooming techniques, legal access, events, marketing, and more. Buena Vista and Salida in the Arkansas Valley, on the other hand, are not on that list.
While the Arkansas Valley is nowhere close to a fat biking mecca, with some of the tallest mountains in the nation and ample snowfall, you can bet there are still some epic places to roll a fatty! This guidebook rounds up 5 of the best routes, ranging in length from bite-sized to epic.
All of these fat bike rides take place on dirt forest service roads that aren’t plowed during the wintertime. Instead, in the winter they transition to over snow travel for cross country skiers, backcountry skiers, snowshoers, fat bikers… and most notably, snowmobilers. The snowmobilers are arguably the most important user group on these routes, in part because the large machines pack in the snow, making the routes rideable for fat bikers. But most importantly, in many places the snowmobile clubs invest money in grooming these mountain passes for optimal over snow travel.
The best grooming in the valley takes place on Cottonwood Pass, thanks to a snowcat parked at the bottom of the pass and a regular grooming schedule. While the local snowmobile club spearheads the grooming, in recent years, local fat bikers have gotten involved, lending a hand in the labor-intensive process.
Marshall Pass also gets groomed frequently, but the grooming doesn’t usually start until later in the season, due to access issues on the dirt road and a slightly lower snowpack. Both the Hancock route and Tincup Pass in St. Elmo get groomed occaisonally… but that’s hit or miss. Finally, Old Monarch Pass never gets groomed, but it sees so much traffic that the lack of grooming isn’t a problem for fat bikers.
While you can’t expect to find groomed fattrack in the Arkansas Valley, pedaling up over 12,000 feet in the dead of winter is a truly surreal experience!