Fat bike racing is becoming more and more popular each winter, with races taking place pretty much anywhere it snows. But while most fat bike races are XC-style endurance events, the Frosty’s Fat Bike Race Series is adding a new dimension: fat bike gravity racing.
The first two stops on the Frosty’s tour offers a downhill race, in addition to other activities like fat bike XC night races, endurance fat bike races, and meals and social activities. Racers can choose to register for the full slate of weekend races and events, or sign up a la carte.
But what makes the Frosty’s series truly unique is the addition of a downhill, gravity fed race event for fat bikers, often at lift-served ski resorts like Marmot Basin resort in Alberta, Canada. While the downhill courses thus far have stuck to wide open slopes instead of gladed, singletrack runs, downhill fat bike racing can certainly get the adrenaline pumping.
Randy Gibb, organizer of Frosty’s Fat Bike Race series, says “At Nordic Valley, we race on the cattrack, which at some points hits a 15 percent grade, but for the most part
it’s 20 feet wide with a gentle slope. Even without really steep runs, we have people hitting 45+ miles per hour when they come around the corner and traverse across the mountain at the finish line.”
Downhill fat bike racing also offers another unique twist, with flags marking the course, ski race style. So not only is speed important, but so is control.
Randy says, “[We] will see steeper terrain at our event at Marmot Basin Resort in Alberta, which is going to be more like a typical ski course around flags. When you’re on singletrack, a steep section is no big deal, but when you’re going downhill as fast as you can, anything more than a 10 percent grade is pretty challenging to keep the bike in control.”
Convincing ski resorts to allow fat bikes on their groomed slopes isn’t an easy task. Many resorts Randy approached said they’d never allow such an event, yet others have been very accommodating, offering groomed slopes and even breaking out the bike hooks for the lifts, even though it’s the off-season for bikes. Most of the downhill fat bike races begin early in the morning before the slopes are open to skiers and snowboarders.
As far as equipment goes, Randy says most folks are using pretty standard, rigid fat bikes for the gravity races. While full suspension fat bikes do exist, most are limited to 4″ fat bike tires which can be under-gunned in snowy conditions. Plus, the groomed courses don’t offer much in the way of big hits or technical terrain where suspension might come in handy.
The first Frosty’s Fat Bike Race took place at the end of December at Nordic Valley in Utah while the second race was completed this past weekend in Jasper, Canada at Marmot Basin Resort. Future stops include a race on January 28 at Wolf Creek, UT; at Aspen Valley, UT on February 11; and in Sun Valley, ID on February 25, though sadly none of the remaining races will include a DH event. Organizers are hoping to offer DH race options at more stops in next year’s series. You can get more info and sign up on the Frosty’s website.
What do you think: would you like to race a fat bike down hill in the snow?
Updated January 17 @ 1:10pm EST to clarify that the remaining series races will not include a downhill competition.