Crested Butte is all-in when it comes to fat biking. If the success of the inaugural Fat Bike Worlds (FBW) in 2016 wasn’t convincing, the second edition in 2017 solidifies Crested Butte’s dedication to all things fat.
Beyond FBW, there are big ambitions to make Crested Butte a true destination for fat bike aficionados.
Since fat bikes became less of an oddity and more cyclists embraced the idea of year-round riding, the quandary of where to ride has been an issue. Crested Butte quickly adopted existing options such as groomed snowmobile trails like Kebler Pass and snow-covered roads like Slate River, Washington Gulch, and Brush Creek roads.
Non-motorized routes like Snodgrass Road have been available courtesy of the Town of Mt. Crested Butte and the Crested Butte Land Trust, and are groomed by Crested Butte Mountain Resort. While these are beautiful locations can be fun to ride, Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association (CBMBA) started dreaming of adding groomed winter singletrack to the fat biking options.
CBMBA is “the oldest MTB club in the world” and has embraced fat biking as part of its already renowned mountain biking trails mission. After 33 years of impressive all-volunteer work, the CBMBA Board recently created its first paid position. The honor and huge responsibility of filling the position of paid Executive Director was given to David Ochs. Ochs was a CBMBA Board member for thirteen years and is a well-known dynamo in the local mountain bike/fat bike scene.
As anyone who has ever been involved in trail advocacy knows, trail building and maintenance takes a massive amount of work. Crested Butte’s mountain biking community has what it takes. According to Ochs,
“Trails are an integral part of our community and why people choose to live here, recreate here, visit here, and buy second homes here. We are a community organization that takes major pride in its volunteers and workdays, and we love to throw parties in conjunction. We often have 200+ people at our (big) trail workdays. We have families make their schedule around the workdays and our Annual Overnight Work Weekend (each August) is a huge family and community event. Collectively and on average each year, CBMBA volunteers put in over 2500+ hours into Public Lands. We’re all about community – we’re all about the best trails on the planet, and we strive hard to make that a reality.”
During FBW we spent several days in Crested Butte to check out the new groomed offerings. Unbeknownst to everyone, Mother Nature had her own plans when she tossed “Snowpocalypse” at Crested Butte.
All-hands-on-deck were required to get on top of the epic snow in preparation for the FBW race courses. So, we rode what was possible with the understanding that there is so much more out there.
The first groomed singletrack we rode was the North Village Loop, which was used as the course for FBW’s Thursday Fun Race.
Having learned from the 2016 FBW event, the North Village Loop is now purposely designed to be beginner-friendly and no longer includes “Carnage Hill”.
Such care was put into grooming for Thursday’s race that North Village was still in good condition for the Friday FBW Demo Day event when we rode the loop. This course will be groomed all winter and is accessible from the Snodgrass Trailhead.
As soon as we finished riding North Village, we gave the groomed Snodgrass Road a go. The route also begins from the Snodgrass TH, so it can be easily combined with a lap (or more) of North Village. Snodgrass is steep, gaining 2,000ft over the 2.8-mile climb. When conditions are good, the climb is quite rideable, as it was for our first ½ mile. When the snow is deep and soft, it becomes a huge challenge, as it soon became after the first ½ mile of our ride.
The final option from the Snodgrass TH is the gorgeous ride to the ghost town of Gothic (see our upcoming hut trip article). The groomed singletrack is new this year and allows fat bikers to join skiers and snowshoers on this visually-stunning seven-mile out-and-back route.
On Saturday, we stopped in for the start of the FBW Championship race. We cheered on the 300 riders as they completed their first lap of the firm, groomed course. Fat bikes are only allowed on this course the day of the event, when Crested Butte Nordic graciously shares their trails for the Championship race.
From there, we headed seven miles down the road to Crested Butte South to ride the groomed Cement Creek Trail. Al Smith, of Camp 4 Coffee, has been volunteering to groom this multi-use trail for the past few years. This year, his grooming efforts are included in the CBMBA winter grooming proposal. CBMBA hopes to extend grooming farther up and are pleased to support Al’s work. Cement Creek is open to snowmobiling, as well as walkers, skiers, snowshoers, and fat bikers. On that day, we were only able to ride out about 2.5 miles before turning around due to very soft conditions beyond that. We could definitely imagine enjoying a nice, long ride during firm conditions.
We had planned to ride the new Brush Creek Road options, but grooming had not yet happened. The day we got home, Dave Ochs reported:
“We’ve groomed the Brush Corridor again–and it’s amazing! Besides the road and Tent City (which is such a great loop out there by the West Brush Turnoff), we have groomed the Canal Trail and a loop on the Lower Strand Bonus trail. This is truly unique in that it’s the only specific trail that is truly made for fat bikes. This is true backcountry track groomed just for fat bikes. Fun, flowy, groovy singletrack!”
“We’re hoping to finish the year with these areas being focused upon (Gothic, N. Village, Brush Creek, and Cement Creek), and with a bit more of a window between weather, we’ll also get Strand Hill Road and Farris Road groomed. Haven’t had much chance this winter with all the snow we’ve had, but those are also permitted for this year.”
It is clear that Crested Butte is on the cusp of being an amazing winter fat biking destination. As Ochs stated, “We (CBMBA) are all about providing good experiences for all users and creating sustainable and responsible trails and experiences.”
Of course, life in Crested Butte is not ALL about biking. You have to eat, drink and sleep between rides! Some of our recommendations:
- Elevation Hotel: Located on the main drag in Mt. Crested Butte, you can ride directly from the hotel to the Snodgrass TH. Rooms are comfortable and the working kitchen makes breakfast and lunch prep easy.
Food & Libations:
- Bonez: Excellent, hunger-satisfying food; great margaritas and over 100 Tequilas.
- Brick Oven: Vast variety of pizza and over 101 beers.
- The Mountain Express: Free Shuttle between Mt. Crested Butte and Crested Butte.
Thanks to the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association for helping make this trip possible!