Wow. Over the years, I’ve been involved with countless events at every level from sponsor to organizer but this year’s Fat Bike Summit and Festival was the most comprehensive event we have been at the head of. After months of conference calls, spreadsheets, emails, and brainstorm sessions, I finally found myself in the van driving up to Island Park Thursday night. At that point, my hope was that everything was simply on cruise control.Thankfully I wasn’t working this one alone, and since last Summer we had assembled an amazing team to help with the Summit and Festival. Every detail of the weekend had a steward looking over it and the pieces were all coming together perfectly when I arrived in Island Park. After unloading the van and checking into the Sawtelle Mountain Resort, a group of us headed to the Ponds Lodge for some last minute “preparations” and good times before diving into a very busy weekend.
Since we are an Irish Bike Shop, Murphy’s Law tends to show up from time to time and once again we awoke Friday morning to fresh snow fall and terrible driving conditions. After we lost the majority of attendance last year due to these conditions, I wondered if we were in for it again. As we approached the meet and greet hour, one by one land managers and Fat Bike advocates began arriving. Before you knew it we were scrambling to get more chairs to the room and capacity had been reached! Everyone was in good spirits and eager to hear what was to be presented.
After I gave some welcome remarks, Mountain Bike Hall of Fame-er and QBP Director of Advocacy, Gary Sjoquist, started to build the case for Fat Bike integration on existing groomed networks. Then QBP Product Designer and Manager, Joe Meiser, gave a great presentation on the current state of Fat Bike technology and industry trends. I sat back, watched, and had my first of many “wow, this is coming together” moments of the weekend!
Following up Joe was Andy Williams, Special Events and Trail guru from Grand Targhee, laying out the success his resort has had adopting Fat Bikes as regular trail users on their groomed Nordic network. Grand Targhee was the first resort in the Country to allow Fat Bikes on their trails and Andy has been instrumental in opening up other Nordic centers around the Country by sharing his experiences. In fact Methow Valley, the Country’s largest Nordic center opened up to Fat Bikes this Winter after learning from Garnd Targhee. A huge accomplishment!
Wraping up the morning session was Anna Laxague, Pacific Regional Director for IMBA (International Mountain Bike Association), and Casey Greene, Adventure Cycling cartographer. Anna brought the audience up to speed with IMBA’s stance on Fat Bike advocacy and explained they were handling the issue on a case by case basis currently while figuring out internally how to move into greater Fat Bike advocacy roles. Casey presented some fantastic data on the economic impacts of cycle tourism around the Country with case studies that illustrated how literally millions of dollars can flow into small towns annually with relatively small investments in cycling amenities. Thankfully we had some Chambers of Commerce folks present to hear this powerful message!
After the morning session, land managers were offered a taste of the Fat and everyone headed outside for a demo ride courtesy of Salsa and Surly. Unfortunately another Fat Bike brand, 9:zero:7, got stuck in Utah with icy roads and was unable to attend. In typical fashion, everyone came back to the room smiling and talking about how much FUN Fat Biking is. Getting people to ride the bikes is probably the single most important thing you can do to explain the sport properly.
After a quick lunch it was back to business and the focus of presentations turned to public lands near SE Idaho. Without a strong representation from Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, we spent most of the time hearing from District Rangers from the Jackson, Teton Basin, Ashton/Island Park, and Hebgen Lake Districts of the National Forest. Great information was shared and the central take away message was that each individual subdivision of an agency has their own guidelines that need to be addressed. There really is no one rule on the Forest or National Park that manages Fat Bike Winter access.
As Friday’s Summit wrapped up, we opened the floor to questions and had a great dialogue between Fat Bike users and land managers. It is safe to say that everyone in the room walked away with a better understanding of how this new user group can integrate into various areas. The best part of the day was hearing from multiple land managers about how thankful they were to be in attendance. That blew me away!
Throughout the day more and more Festival participants arrived and by the time the Pizza was served and Snake River Brewing kegs were tapped, the room was full with Fat Friends! After dinner, Tracey and Jay Petervary gave a stunning slideshow highlighting their multiple record breaking Winter rides along the Iditarod trail in Alaska. Everyone in the room felt humbled by these accomplishments and lucky to have a weekend to learn from these legends of the sport.
Again the morning began with a check of how much snow fell over night! With a fresh 6+” of somewhat wet snow, race director Jay Petervary decided that the 60k course was not a great option. So with intentions of keeping a smile on everyone’s face we shifted all riders onto the 25k course and broke the groups into Elite and Sport categories. Everyone agreed this was a good call. Demo bikes were set up, blinky lights turned on, a safety meeting was held, and the racers were escorted by USFS snowmobiles to the start line – very pro!
Thanks to a fulfilled request to have the course groomed the night before, conditions were actually pretty good – thanks Freemont County Groomers! There were some challenging spots but on the whole the trail was ride-able and relatively fast. The terrain was spectacular and Jay did a great job of picking the route.
Racers returned to the basecamp and enjoyed a day of demos and group rides before everyone convened again for a presentation by Joe Meiser and the Petervarys on Fat Bike and Bike Packing gear. This presentation alone was worth the $99 entry fee!The Festival rolled from gear clinic into Dinner, awards and raffle. Before the evening was over, bike shenanigans thanks to Greg from Surly and one last group ride thanks to Joe Meiser went down.
The last day of the Festival started with another great breakfast feed under the tents (yes, heaters were doing just fine). During breakfast, myself, Gary Sjoquist, and Tim Young lead a roundtable discussion with the everyone to summarize the conversations and presentations from Friday’s Summit. The room was super engaged and some great ideas were kicked around for Fat Bike advocacy next steps.
One last group ride hit the trails and the demos tents were broken down with lots of smiles and high fives celebrating the perfect weekend!
So what’s next? Good question. With any big event like this there is a certainly a decompression time to be had by the organizers. But, give us a week and we’ll compile some more tangible next steps and conclusions from the Summit and keep you in the loop…. stay tuned!
Thank you once again to all the sponsors and volunteers who made the 2nd Annual Fat Bike Winter Summit and Festival possioble. Please check out www.FatBikeSummit.com to see who stepped up to make it happen!