As Fat Bikes Descend On Crested Butte, Controversy With Nordic Skiers Simmers

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Photo: Fat Bike Championships Crested Butte
A fat biker rolls over a backcountry trail near Crested Butte.

The Fat Bike World Championships are bringing hundreds of cyclists to Crested Butte this weekend to compete in an emerging two-wheeled sport that is taking resorts by storm. The fat-wheeled bikes are also churning up some controversy with skiers who have to share their Nordic trails with the bikes.

Colorado Matters host Nathan Heffel talks with Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce director and avid fat biker David Ochs about the world championships -- and the controversy.

Click the audio player above to hear the conversation and read highlights below.

On where fat bikes can go:

"We are very dependent on other users, which lends to the whole Nordic collaboration, if you will. We are very dependent on either snowmobile tracks or snowshoes or even skiers punching their way through the snow first. But from there, yes, there's a lot of opportunity for fat bikes to get around in the backcountry."

On the conflict between skiers and fat bikes:

"A lot of that is being the new kid on the block. It's a lot like snowboarding was in the late 80s when they were the new guys coming to the ski resorts and weren't exactly welcomed very warmly by other users. I think it's coming around with the Nordic skiers. And at the same time, like many other users, you could be doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. If it's a warm day and someone is out there on Nordic trails, and they are punching through the snow and making a two- or three-inch rut, it's not an ideal situation for the skate skier coming up following behind you and have this rut in ths middle of the trail. But again, we see some very cold nights here and some very cold times, period, in Crested Butte. A lot of times, those trails are very hard. And when that's the case, there's really not much of an issue. ...

"I think there's some warming up to do on both ends. At the same time, fat bikes don't want to take over all the Nordic trails. The main point is access and being able to get use of the drainages and the areas we love to access and recreate in. And some of that comes from the public lands, in many cases, that the Nordic Center shares and provides access [to]."

On the future of fat biking in Colorado:

"Time is going to be an ally here. ... I think they're going to come together. And I hope that's going to be the future. In many ways, when there is a new user it just takes a little bit of time to, I don't want to say infiltrate, but just be accepted by the other user groups."