Grooming of fat bike trails on Emerald has begun |

Grooming of fat bike trails on Emerald has begun

Routt County Riders has started grooming trails on Emerald Mountain and hopes people have good trail etiquette to keep the trails in great shape.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

A man on a sled was spotted on Emerald Mountain last weekend.

He wasn’t aided by reindeer and wasn’t wearing a red suit, though. Frank Geeslin was riding his snowmobile not to deliver toys but to groom fat bike trails. The grooming marks the beginning of fat bike season on the Emerald Mountain Trail System, which for some, is better than any gift they’ll receive this holiday season.

Geeslin is a former Routt County Riders board member, and he continues to volunteer to do the work on Emerald that grants fat bikers a smooth and enjoyable ride. Geeslin started on some trails last weekend and hopes to get to additional trails after more snow this week.

This week, he’s groomed Prayer Flag Road, Blair Witch, Angry Grouse and Larry’s Luge. Last winter, the city ran a small snowcat over Prayer Flag Road to give a wider track. That might happen again this year.

“Even though it’s not an ideal snow surface yet, he’s trying to run the groomer to get compaction in the snow down low, so it’s established a compact zone for him to groom on,” said Routt County Riders Executive Director Laraine Martin.

Later, he’ll be able to groom Orton Trail through the wide open meadow, which has a less obvious trail corridor. To prevent any damage to the vegetation below, Geeslin is waiting for more snow before traveling over that area.

A map of groomed trails is available online at

Not every trail that will be groomed has been groomed, and not every trail on Emerald will be groomed.

“We’re walking the line between wanting to groom routes for fat bikers but then not groom so much that other trail users feel like they’re being edged out,” Martin said.

Right now, conditions are pretty variable, meaning some places will have great snow coverage, while other spots will have visible vegetation. Early season travel on trails is great to provide a sturdy, packed surface to support future snow and future trail users.

Most of the trails on Emerald are multiuse, but people should be considerate trail users. Groomed trails are not off limits to hikers, but they should not be walked on if trail users are sinking into the snow. Postholing is a big no-no on groomed trails.

Routt County Riders remind people about proper trail etiquette.
Routt County Riders/courtesy graphic

Routt County Riders likes to tell people to “Think Before You Sink” and has clever reminders posted on their website and around the trail system in the winter. “Think Before You Sink” asks people to wear snowshoes if they are leaving footprints, and lower the psi in their tires if they are leaving a rut.

Grooming takes time and effort and is very easily undone by a few footprints. Making divots and dents in the trail is more likely in warm weather, so opt to get on the trails when it’s cold or in the morning and evening.

For those looking to get into fat biking, Emerald may not be the best place to learn. The groomed, solid trails make it far easier, though. When Martin started fat biking last winter, she opted for county roads, which provided a smooth and relatively low gradient surface to get used to the somewhat-awkward cycling variant.

“It’s really hard. I heard someone say once that, ‘Fat biking is like mountain biking but way harder and less fun,’” Martin said. “I like the idea of people being able to come to town and rent a fat bike and go out and go fat biking, but it definitely takes work getting used to. You feel like you’re pedaling on slippery sand. It’s way better when you’re on a groomed, frozen, actual firm surface.”

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