Fat bikes on Howelsen Hill: Pedal hard and leave no ruts
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Wintertime on Howelsen Hill isn’t just for the skiing.
The Howelsen Hill Nordic Center is set to open to fat tire biking once more snow falls, said Howelsen Park Supervisor Brad Setter. Generally, this happens in mid-December.
The city of Steamboat Springs asks users to follow these etiquette guidelines while fat tire biking on Nordic trails:
- Bikes should yield to all other users.
- Ride on the firmest part of the track, stay on the right side of the trail around corners and look out for oncoming traffic.
- Leave room for skiers to pass.
- Don’t ride in classic ski tracks.
- Allow tracks time to set up after grooming before riding.
Don’t ride on groomed trails if:
- You’re leaving a tire rut deeper than an inch.
- You’re having a hard time riding in a straight line.
- Your bike tires are narrower than 3.7 inches.
- Your bike tire pressure is greater than 10 pound per square inch.
Those using Nordic trails on fat bikes or snowshoes should follow some guidelines to keep groomed trails in good condition for all users.
Fat tire bikes should avoid riding in classic tracks. When riding on Nordic trails, be sure to ride single file.
Fat bikers and snowshoers should also avoid groomed trails when warm snow or freshly groomed snow is still soft. Setter likens it to rutting up a muddy trail in the spring or summer.
“If you’re mountain biking on a muddy trail, you’re doing damage to the trail tread,” he said. “It’s the same thing in the winter. If you’re riding a fat bike on super soft snow, whether it’s too warm or it’s just been groomed, and you’re leaving a big rut — especially in the middle of the trail — that ruins the trail surface for skate skiers and Nordic skiers.”
He said fat bikes have virtually no impact on the snow surface when trails are hard packed and set.
Routt County Riders Executive Director Kelly Northcutt said fat biking is growing in popularity. As races emerge, people are more frequently training and hitting the snow for longer rides, she added.
“The sport has grown so much,” she said. “More and more people are buying them.”
She said she thinks there will be a need for more awareness from all trail users as fat bikes become more common.
Those planning to fat tire bike on Howelsen’s Nordic trails, including the Bluffs Loop, must have a day-use ticket or Howelsen Hill Nordic Center pass, Setter said. Fat biking is not allowed at Howelsen from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday due to a higher volume of athletes training on the trails.
Users can access single-track trails on Emerald Mountain from Blackmer Trail for free at any time. Dogs are not allowed on Nordic trails but are allowed on leash on single-track trails. Starting Jan. 1, dogs must be leashed on Blackmer Trail.
Uphill skiing is also allowed without a ticket on Howelsen Hill Ski Area, but Setter said the city asks those skinning up the mountain to use Mile Run.
The city grooms Blackmer Trail, and Routt County Riders plans to groom NPR and some other Emerald trails as weather conditions allow. Northcutt said the group will share updates on grooming on its trail building Facebook page, Routt County Riders – Trail Builders.
With the intensity of use on Emerald, Northcutt recommends venturing out to Routt National Forest and other areas. Stagecoach State Park, Catamount Nordic Touring Center and Haymaker Nordic Center all have fat bike-specific trails, she said. Routt County Riders assembled a guide of best practices for fat tire cycling and information about places to fat bike in Routt County at routtcountyriders.org/fat-biking.
The southern side of Emerald Mountain, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, will close for the season Saturday, Dec. 1, to prevent disturbance to winter elk habitat. Adjacent Colorado Parks and Wildlife land and the Humble Ranch are also closed.
All areas south of the Ridge Trail, including Beall Trail and Kemry Draw, are restricted to all forms of entry from Dec. 1 through June 30. The vault toilet at Kemry Draw is closed through April 30.
The Ridge, Rotary and Wild Rose trails are open all year.
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