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Fat Biking 101: How to get out riding in Fernie this winter

Fat biking is to biking as snowshoeing is to hiking. Rolling on tyres twice the width of a standard mountain bike, the extra girth really helps to keep you on top of the snow. If you can ride a bike, you can ride a fat bike.

Fernie's amazing trail system is perfect for winter riding, with everything from easy, level, multi-use community trails, to groomed shared trails, to challenging singletrack. Pick up a copy of the multi-use trail map and ask for advice at gear shops or at the Visitor Information Centre and sign up for a camp or join a weekly ride! If you're new to fat biking, here are some pointers to get you out riding this winter. 

Local rider, Troy Nixon speaks of his passion for the new winter sport

What is a fat bike?

Fat bikes are just like any other bike, but with custom forks and extra-wide tires to provide extra stability, grip and stopping power in the snow. It's a self-powered activity; you can go anywhere you feel comfortable riding. It's also great exercise! Just like nordic skiing and snowshoeing, it's a great cardiovascular workout and uses a good range of muscles but is also low-impact thanks to the forgiving snow conditions and bike suspension.

Fat bikes can be rented at the Ski Base and Gearhub Sports in downtown Fernie - perfect if you're planning to ride the town trail network. Fernie Alpine Resort has bikes for rental at the resort. Most rental fat bikes come equipped with a frame bag containing a few trail essentials and run on low tire pressures to maximise grip.

What should I wear when fat biking?

It may be -10°c out there, but you'll definitely don't want to be overdressed for your ride. It wouldn't be Fernie if conditions weren't susceptible to change at a moments notice. Be smart and dress in light removable layers so you have the option to remove or add layers throughout your ride according to how you feel.

Base: On milder days you can get away with your usual biking shorts and jersey. Leggings worn under shorts will be essential on the colder days. If you're heading out for a longer ride it's worth considering some padded shorts to protect your sensitive spots.

We recommend a skintight base layer on your top half. Merino wool will help draw sweat away from your body and keep you drier. Try to avoid cotton as it'll be saturated in sweat after your first climb and take a while to dry off leaving you pretty chilly.

Mid: If it's especially cold, we'd suggest taking a softshell jacket, or light fleece. Again, breathability is the key. Avoid cotton.

Outer:  A simple rain jacket or windbreaker will work to protect you from the elements, Something lightweight and waterproof is ideal, but once again also breathable so you don't get damp from the inside.

Hands: Any insulated gloves like ski gloves, or trail running gloves. Something with a little water resistance is ideal too. Mittens whilst warmer can get a little cumbersome to work the gears and brakes. A good compromise are the lobster claw-style gloves.

If you don't mind spending a bit of cash, pogies fit over your hands and bar grips so you can wear lighter gloves for extra warmth.

Feet: Warm socks like ski socks work well on your feet. Rentals bikes come with flat pedals. Whilst there are specialist winter biking shoes, if you are just trying this sport out we recommend wearing winter hiking boots. They'll provide you with enough warmth and dryness for your adventure.

Helmet & Eye protection: Wearing a helmet is essential. We've seen people use their ski helmets, but it may be a little sweaty for some. A standard biking helmet works fine - optionally take a toque to wear underneath in case it gets cold.

Fernie's epic winter snow will mean you're be mostly riding a few extra feet atop of the trail. Be wary of low hanging branches which may now be at eye level. Clear lens eye protection is worth considering if you plan to rip hard and fast down new trails.

What extras should I bring on a ride?

Keep a buff, or neck warmer with you in case the temperature dips. Be mindful of how long you are planning to ride, and pack enough snacks and water. Water in hydration packs may freeze in the tube so we recommend keeping it in a flash in your pack. All rental bikes in Fernie have a small frame bag to store these items so you can avoid wearing a rucksack if you prefer.

Which trails would you recommend?

Fat biking in Fernie, BC has come a long way largely due to the fantastic volunteer crew who maintain the trails and even go out their way to groom and compress down the snowpack for a firm grippy ride.

The grooming schedule is fairly freeform but you can get the most up to date information on our Trail Forks Conditions Page or the Fernie Fat Biking Facebook Page

Best Family Route: Beginners might like to start with the community riverside trails through Fernie to get a feel for their bike. These trails are mostly flat with few hills to tackle and become packed down quickly by walkers for easy riding.

At Fernie Alpine Resort, fat bikers are welcome on the approx 8km of groomed multi-use trails - Silk, Manchuria & Scandia Loop, accessed via Parking Lot #4. To avoid the steep trailhead, leave your car in the parking lot and ride back out to the road, turning left past the RV Parking to access the trails.

Best Route with a view: The multi-use trails in Montane off Coal Creek Road are groomed regularly and are the perfect place for beginner and intermediate fatbikers. Ride the Inclusive Trail or Easy Beaver out to the Montane Hut overlooking the ski resort and the Lizard Range.

Best Adrenaline Pumper: The singletrack trails at Ridgemont are easily accessed from downtown Fernie and offer great riding for more experienced fatbikers. Start from the Fernie Aquatic Centre and follow signage. The Kiddyup-Queen V-Deadfall-Sidewinder loop will be groomed when conditions allow.

Contra is the new flow trail on the network. It attracts more gutsy riders to ride the tabletops and high berms. We're certain it'll have your blood pumping by the end.

Best Calorie Burner: Climb Phat Bastard to Red Sonja in Mt. Fernie Provincial Park to really get your lungs burning.

Bluebird day views from Montane Hut

Trail Etiquette

Most, but not all, trails in Fernie are multi-use, and fat biking is welcome.

-Snowshoers and Nordic Skiers have right of way.

-Please stay at the edge of groomed trails to avoid creating grooves in skate-ski trails, and stay out of tracksets — these are for classic nordic skiing only.

-Avoid creating craters in the trails — step off to the outside of the trail, not at the centre.

-Fat biking is not allowed on Fernie Nordic Society Trails — these are clearly marked at the Fernie Golf Course and at the Fernie Nordic Centre at Mt Fernie Provincial Park.

- If you’re a biker or a hiker, dogs are allowed to be off-leash on the multi-use trails.

- Once again, please be respectful of other trail users, and keep your pet under control at all times.

- Dog bins and waste bags are available at the trailheads on Montane.

Don't forget to share your fat biking adventure with #ferniestoke. For more information about where to ride, rentals, and other helpful tips check out our Fat Biking section.