Nation's Largest XC Ski area opens to 'Fat Bikes'

Methow Valley in Winthrop, Wash., is the nation’s largest cross-country ski area. This winter, the resort is opening some of its trails to bikes.

The rise in popularity of fat bikes, which have the ability to “float” better on snow, sparked the initiative at Methow.

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Fresh tracks on fat tires

There are more than 120 miles of groomed trails at Methow Valley. Only a few will be open to biking, and only when the conditions are right.

“The ski trails will remain our top priority,” said James DeSalvo, the executive director at Methow. “It will be interesting to see what response we get [with bikers on the trails].”

DeSalvo continued, “We believe we can manage fat biking use so that it has no greater impact to our trail platform than that of our traditional skiing public.”

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Pristine winter mountain views, now available on a bike

You can’t ride any old bike out there. “Purpose-built snow bikes” are the only option, including models like the Surly Pugsley and Moonlander, the Salsa Mukluk, and other bikes that have tires wider than 3.7 inches.

Another caveat: Snow riders at Methow must roll with tire pressure less than 10 psi.

If you are leaving a rut deeper than 1 inch, a rule at the resort states, it is too soft to be biking on the Nordic trails.

For those who know the area, Methow plans to open up its Bitterbrush and Barsley trails in Winthrop, Thompson Ridge Road and MeadowLark on Sun Mountain, and Gunn Ranch Road and Grizzley Loop in the Rendezvous.

Want to try the sport? Fat bikes are available for rent at Methow Cycle and Sport in the town of Winthrop.

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Riders on Methow trail

Why ride a bike when you can ski? A Methow press release sums it up: “In addition to providing a great way for cyclists to stay in shape during the winter season, fat bikes give people another way to play in the Methow Valley’s dry, sunny, cold, snowy conditions. Simply layer up like you would for skiing and get out and ride.”

—Stephen Regenold wrote on the rise of fat bikes in the post “‘Fat Bike’ Trend: Overrated or For Real?”

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Fat bikes offer new way to explore the winter wilderness

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