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State parks provide model for fat bike use, acceptance

Published January 27, 2015
Fat Bike Summit founders Gary Sjoquist and Scott Fitzgerald

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. (BRAIN) — Some 250 advocates, land managers, U.S. forest service representatives and industry suppliers and retailers attended the fourth annual Global Fat Bike Summit here at the Snow King Resort this past weekend. Gary Sjoquist, QBP’s advocacy director, said that while Jackson Hole is a remote location, it was selected for various reasons.

Sjoquist along with retailer Scott Fitzgerald, owner of Fitzgerald’s Bicycles in Victor, Idaho, founded the event and remain among the organizers. Helping plan this year’s gathering were local advocacy nonprofit Wyoming Pathways and local retailer Hoback Sports.

“The first two Summits we had too much snow, so people couldn’t get to them. And the third one in Ogden [last year], we didn’t have enough snow. We want to get land managers on snow bikes and we knew there would be reliable snow in Jackson. Plus, fat bikes are an accepted practice here.”

The Snow King Resort grooms its singletrack and Sjoquist said the surrounding business community is supportive of fat bike use. Jackson Hole is also next to Grand Teton National Park, which like other national parks, doesn’t allow fat bikes. However, with a new park superintendent, Sjoquist said there’s hope that that could change.

Among the attendees this year were representatives from Grand Teton National Park, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, state parks, chambers of commerce and Nordic ski resorts.

“This was a great, positive event that showed how this fat bike thing is growing, expanding into kids’ bikes and how land managers are realizing this is the real deal. It’s not a fad. It’s going to be around a long time. We need to figure out how to accommodate these bikes,” Gary Sjoquist, QBP advocacy director, Fat Bike Summit founder.

“For the first time we were able to have state park managers talk about — based on what they had learned at previous summits — they’re now building singletrack for fat bikes at their parks. They’ve got grooming equipment and now have singletrack available. It was a really good way to show national parks – look, state parks are doing it and they’re making it work,” Sjoquist said.

“We didn’t quite get there this year, but Grand Teton and Yellowstone have at least said ‘we are ready to listen,’ ” he added. “That’s a big step forward.”

The Bridger-Teton National Forest Unit was presented with a land manager award for their efforts to create a mountain biking destination — building mountain bike trails for summer and for fat biking during the winter. They also were presented with a Surly Pugsley to patrol their trails.

In addition to a full day of panels and discussions Friday, a demo area had fat bikes from Salsa, Surly, Trek, Specialized, Durango Bike Company, Borealis, Felt and Rocky Mountain. The weekend festival drew three times the industry support it had in previous years. Specialized brought 20- and 24-inch fat bikes for kids to demo.

A short track race next to the expo drew beginners and experts alike for three-lap and six-lap competitions. Attendees could easily ride from the Snow King Resort into the adjacent forest’s singletrack trails.

While the location and date of next year’s Summit hasn’t been set, Sjoquist said the success of the event and the growth in fat biking means that it will likely return. But it may make more sense to have various regional summits that address land management issues that are specific to the local area.

“This was a great, positive event that showed how this fat bike thing is growing, expanding into kids’ bikes and how land managers are realizing this is the real deal. It’s not a fad. It’s going to be around a long time. We need to figure out how to accommodate these bikes,” Sjoquist said.

 

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