News: Curt Gowdy State Park to Offer Groomed Trails for Fat Biking

You read that right. Groomed trails. For fat bikes. The word you’re looking for is “awesome-licous.”

In case you didn’t know, grooming trails for fatties is not common practice. In fact, many popular ski resorts, until very recently, seemed to frown upon the idea of fat bikes using groomed trails, reserving those bits of horizontal corduroy only for Nordic skiers and their ilk. The folks working for Curt Gowdy State Park are part of a groundswell movement to open winter access up to fat bikes, and ensure that there are safe, fun trails for fat bikers to enjoy (as opposed to slopping through waist deep powder for miles).

It does not get much better than this on a fat bike. Photo: courtesy Curt Gowdy SP
It does not get much better than this on a fat bike. Photo: courtesy Curt Gowdy SP
Employees at Curt Gowdy State Park have been working with a local fat bike enthusiast to survey the park to determine which trails would benefit from this endeavor. Keep in mind that this is the first year that Curt Gowdy will be doing this, so they need our support to pioneer projects such as this. As such, the number of trails has not been determined, but they project to have one large 4-mile loop, and four spurs off the main route to form a series of mini loops.  There will also be a lollipop loop to take advantage of a particular drainage that was described to me as “really awesome to downhill.”
Curt Gowdy State Park is located just west of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and has a considerable variety of terrain and elevation. Known in the non-winter months for its choice 16+ miles of mountain bike singletrack, it has also been part of the route for the annual Laramie Enduro, a grueling 70-mile mountain bike adventure race with thousands of feet of climbing.
A rider enjoys groomed trails on a fat bike. Photo courtesy of Curt Gowdy SP.
A rider enjoys groomed trails on a fat bike. Photo courtesy of Curt Gowdy SP.

One of the people working hard to make these trails happen is Paul Gritten, of the Wyoming State Trails Program, who noted, “I am trying to stay in the trees, in draws, and on north facing slopes where possible,” avoiding steep climbs and mandatory hike-a-bike sections of the system. Park officials have designated the trailhead to start at the Visitor’s Center, with convenient parking, restrooms, and most importantly: a place get warm up between runs.

“We are really excited to offer a unique experience to non-traditional state park users,” said Gritten. “Fat biking is a relatively new sport and gaining momentum quickly, and we are glad to be taking a proactive lead in Wyoming State Parks.”

At this time, they are planning to groom 6 to 8 miles of trails at Curt Gowdy State Park starting mid-December, and grooming three days a week until the end of the season, projected to be March 14th, 2015. “We are going to groom the trails with a snowmobile and drag, which is two feet in width,” Gritten said.  Open areas will be marked with snow poles for visibility along the edge of the trail. “We are asking users to have at least 3.7 inch tires,” Gritten continued, “and a maximum of 10psi.” In case you didn’t know, running low pressures even down to 3psi are ideal for fat bikes in snow to improve traction and footprint. These requirements are similar to IMBA’s recommendation for riding fat bikes in the snow. You can find more unsolicited advice about riding fatties in an article I wrote earlier this year.

Ready to ride? Photo courtesy of Curt Gowdy SP
Ready to ride? Photo courtesy of Curt Gowdy SP

Also according to Gritten, the promotional part of the groomed fat bike trails will be announced through their official Facebook Page.  They have also solicited local bike shops with flyers, and hope to produce maps of the trails in the coming weeks. (If you would like to help them spread the word and disseminate information, contact Mr. Gritten on the Facebook page.) He also pointed out that unpredictable conditions in winter may also be challenging to potential visitors, and they’re actively working on a strategy to keep patrons informed about road and trail conditions, weather conditions, and grooming frequency. Using GoPro cameras, they actually plan to video grooming operations and trail users to promote more of this overall genius idea.

“We also will be at the Global Fat Bike Festival in January to promote and discuss the program,” he said.
I plan to travel to Curt Gowdy in Februrary with friends and check these trails out, so look for a more in-depth report in the near future. Thanks to Paul Gritten for your efforts, information, and time.

Your turn: do you live near a place where there are groomed fat bike trails? Either way, what are your thoughts about opening land areas up to fat bikers for the winter?

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