Winter has hit, at least in the Sun Valley area, and that usually means one thing: skiing. But for those not content to do just one winter sport or who might not be on the mountain this winter, fat biking is a fun outdoor alternative that has gained traction over the last few years. Fat biking is like regular biking except that the super broad tires—usually over four inches wide—make it possible (though certainly not easy) to ride over snow. So if you’re an avid cyclist or mountain biker who sheds a tear each winter at putting their bike away, hop on a fat bike and keep the fun going all year long.
Where to Rent
Before going all-in on a fat-tire bike, which can set you back about the same price as a mountain bike, you’ll want to try renting one of these. And before you think of channeling your inner MacGyver, it’s not possible to turn a regular mountain bike into a full-fledged fat-tired bike due to the width of the rim and clearance at the fork, although you can increase the width of your tires to a certain extent. Three shops in Ketchum carry fat bikes: Sturtevants, Elephant’s Perch and Formula Sports. Sturtevants offers a small selection of bikes for $49.99 per day; Formula Sports offers bikes at $45 for half day and $60 for full; and Elephant’s Perch offers bikes for $35 for half day (four hours), $45 for full day or $255 per week.
Where to Ride
The easiest, most accessible area to ride on a fat bike is the Wood River Trail—the bike path that runs 19 miles from Bellevue to Ketchum. Although the Wood River Valley is home to numerous biking trails in the summer, not all trails accommodate fat bikes, so be sure you’re in an appropriate spot. North of Sun Valley is the Sun Valley Nordic and Snowshoe Center, which has five biking trails optimized for fat-tired bikes for a total of nine miles of terrain. While nine miles may not sound like much in mountain biking terms, fat bike riding is a different beast and a vastly more difficult workout. Riding here does require a Nordic Center pass.
Head about nine miles north of Ketchum to the SNRA Visitor’s Center on Highway 75 to ride the 4.3-mile Durance Loop groomed for fat bikers and skiers. The ride starts at the SNRA headquarters building and a Blaine County Recreation District (BCRD) pass is required. Passes start at $18 for one day and are also available in three-day, seven-day, and year-long prices.
Ten miles south of Ketchum in the town of Hailey lies Quigley Nordic, where beginning fat bikers will find the perfect 5k loop. Dog & Fat Tire Loop is home to fat bikes, skiers and dogs for a flat, easy winter cruise. A BCRD Quigley Nordic Pass is required, which costs $10.
Lastly, the Bigwood Fat Bike Park, located on the Bigwood Golf Club in Ketchum, has six miles of daily maintained single-track trails. The park was created in 2015 in partnership with the golf course and local professional mountain biker Rebecca Rusch, who got into the sport of fat biking four years ago.
“It’s the best of all possible worlds to be outside and go bike riding,” Rusch said. “It’s totally different than mountain biking on dirt. And you don’t need 50 miles to get a great fat bike workout; it’s just fun.”
Trail fees to use the park are $15 per day. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily and until 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays. There are no fat bikes for rental available here.
Snowball Special Fat Bike Race
The annual Snowball Special Fat Bike Race is yet another reason to get on a fat bike and have some fun. Started in 2016 by Rusch, the race takes place on the Sun Valley Nordic Trails Diamondback, White Cloud, Dog Loop, Boundary and Proctor Loop—all of which are usually closed off to bikes. The course starts and finishes at the Sun Valley Nordic Center with the option of doing one lap (20k) or two laps (40k) or to enter with a friend to do a 40k duo relay. Sun Valley trail passes are required.
The event draws about 100 people every year for the fun weekend. “Every time people come, they say they want to get a bike,” Rusch said. “They just have a great time. You feel like a kid.”