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1st Annual West ‘n Back – This is how it happened…



Local cycling adventure king ping, Jay Petervary, said to me one day this Fall, “Do you really understand?” To which I instinctively responded, “Of course I do. And how dare you ask that?” Sure, I had no idea what he was referring to, but I’m not about to answer no to a question like that from a guy like him.

“No bup, do you really get the network of Winter groomed snow machine trails between Island Park and West Yellowstone?”

1500 miles of Snow Machine Trails between West and Island Park

Alright, I can’t possibly fake it at this point so I admit I really have no clue, other than stories and local lore, as to what awaits up North.  I’m a skier… so why should I care about a network of relatively flat snow machine trails in the opposite direction of all my skiing fantasies?

At the time this conversation was going on, Jay and I were huddled (not literally, I swear) inside his garage deciding weather or not to drive to Rexburg for a Cube ‘Cross race in near blizzard conditions. I’d like to tell you we finished the conversation on the drive to the race… I’d really like to tell you that.  Actually, I’d really like to tell that to Saur-dude and Harder but, I can’t.  Damn it.

Anyway…. Jay went on to give me the one on one low down on the shangrila that he and Tracey have been pioneering for the past few Winters in our back yard.  Ha! Pioneering groomed trails you say?  Here they were, against all odds, forging across the tundra, fighting for survival in a new land… while yielding to ‘biles the whole time.  Yes, I was in my skin suit, on the edge of my seat.

The trails and the roads around Island Park yield primo riding.

 

After some more yapping from Jay, I was convinced there are some sweet trails up North that are worthy of some attention.  Remember, he’s the man and the man should be listened to.  With that out of the way, Jay laid on me the concept of the West n’ Back ride.

“Imagine if we laid out a 50 mile route from Ashton to West Yellowstone on groomed trail?” Jay spun the tale while I was all ears, “A rider could choose to ride 50 miles to West, or 100 miles West and back. Not only that, the route would have multiple points of access to gas stations, bars, and lodges while sneaking in and out of some seriously remote Continental Divide trail.”

This sounded better by the minute as our day of cross racing disappeared in the conversation.   He explained this idea was not aiming at a formal race, but rather a free group ride with a competitive edge.  Something in line with the dozens of free Mountain Bike and Gravel Road races that are popping up across the West.  That morning, the cross race in Rexburg was dead and the West n’ Back Grand Fondo was born!

After adjusting for a Snow Machine race this was the final proposed route in yellow.

As the day of the event approached… so did the storm.  No matter, the date had been set, riders had traveled, West n’ back was on and we gathered at the shop Friday night for a chalk talk.

With its many turns, riders made sure to check and recheck the route.



Jay gives the etiquette talk.

Morning came and Teton Pass was closed – No Jackson riders this year unfortunately.  We had to wonder what awaited us up North since the storm continued to pound all night.  I told myself years ago I would never go for a long Fat Bike ride in on a powder day again after pushing my bike for nearly 7 hours a few years back at the Togwotee Winter Classic.  Oh well, since the Pass would be closed most of the day, my ski area was closed too.  Might as well go explore some new trails with some good people!

 

Foster the People? No - Shuttle the People, Foster!

Thanks to JH Limo Lounge we had a pimping 4WD Van for the drive up – bikes and riders were clean livin’ on the inside!

uh, yeah. About that storm last night...

Once in Island Park, it took about 5 seconds to realize that even though all the trails were groomed last night, another foot of fresh snow fell and made them un-rideable.  So we changed course and headed to the Ponds Lodge for another chalk talk.

Time for another chalk talk

Jay double checked the grooming report, talked to the great ladies at the Ponds, and poured over the map to save the day and the ride.  Joe and I waited patiently… at the bar.  I have to give another shout out to the Ponds Lodge.  If you are driving or riding through Island Park, be sure to stop in and enjoy a great staff, awesome food (we sampled the breakfast burritos and the pizza later on), a huge tap wall, and a clean, modern sports bar atmosphere.  They have newly remodeled cabins for rent too and there is Fat Biking, XC Skiing, and Snow machining out the door.

Time to ride.

All riders had lots of STOKE even with the change of plans!

Jay and Bergy itching to ride.

Here's the "start line"

Since the trails were too deep, we opted for an out and back road ride.  The conditions were on the soft side of things but in general the riding was pretty fast.  Even though we weren’t on trail, it felt like it!  The whole crew moved along together all day.

The roads had great riding!

Joe Meiser, Product Manager from Salsa/Surly/45NRTH, flew out from Minnesota to check out the emerging scene here.

Many things await you on the trail…

Back to the Ponds for post ride Pizza, Wings, and Beer!

After all riders were sufficiently soaked through from sweat and snow, we called the Ponds Lodge the “finish line”.  About 32 miles in all through beautiful country.  The day was filled with “thumbs ups” from snow machiners and when we were hanging in the Ponds parking lot there were lots of questions and enthusiasm from the ‘bilers.  The Ponds owner, RJ, came over to our table after his snowmobile ride and was super welcoming!  He was excited to have another user group visiting his business and he gave us some great advice while pointing out trails on the map.  I personally can’t wait to rent a cabin at the Ponds and explore more trail!

Jay P called it – this is the place to ride!

Cheers!

Everyone loves Fat Bikes!



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