Click on photo for larger image

Click on photo for larger image

Don’t you hate it when people ascribe beliefs and motives to you that don’t exist? They jump to conclusions based on presumptions, conjecture, and incomplete information?

Fat tire biker on Cascade ValleyWith the internet available to everyone, it is surprising at the laziness of certain individuals who fail to do any research before criticizing me based on conjecture and their own biases, but people with an axe to grind aren’t interested in facts or data.

Fat tire bikes on Goat CreekWouldn’t it be refreshing if people could just accept your words at face value without searching for any hidden meanings?

I was entertained by the comments on this Facebook group MTB trail reports: Calgary area mountain bikers. The moderator has taken down the posting so I have to go from memory. She told me “I actually deleted the post b/c it was completely off topic and people were getting ugly. My page is strictly for sharing condition info and I try to keep it on-topic.”

This is the photo I posted on Feb 20, 2016 of the fat tire biker on Elk Pass

This is the photo I posted on Feb 20, 2016 of the fat biker on Elk Pass

SkiHere reader, Henry Yau, posted the photo of the fat biker on Elk Pass on the MTB Facebook page and added the comment “Not Cool.” From Henry’s subsequent comments in response to others, he opined that it was a safety issue, and described the scenario of 250 racers coming down Elk pass during the Cookie Race at 45 KmH encountering a fat biker in the middle of the trail.

Click on photo for larger image

Click on photo for larger image

A few of the commenters  suggested my motivation in posting the photo was “public shaming,” or an “unwillingness to share the trails” with other users. The fact is, I gave no opinions and proffered no judgements. I simply stated “Curious sighting on Elk Pass” which it was considering fat bikes are not allowed on the groomed ski trails in PLPP.

The evidence from my previous encounters with fat bikers on ski trails speaks for itself. K-Country provides a list of dozens of trails where fat biking is allowed.

For the MTB commenters who believe there should be no rules and it should be a free-for-all on all trails, your anarchistic utopia awaits…it’s known as Syria.


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  1. As a skier (and mtn biker), I’d like a “few” trails remain as ski accessed only. If PLPP wishes to set user rules (as implied on their website) they have an obligation to also do so in parking lots at trail heads. The on-site signage regarding designation is wholly inadequate (& in much of Alberta!) and Alberta Environment and Parks need to get with the times and install really big, ugly but visible and informative signage so EVERYONE can minimize conflict and recreate happily!

  2. Bob provides a valuable service to all of us who XC ski spite of his cryptic notes on the waxes he uses;whatever happened to Green,Blue etc. instead of the numbers.
    My point is related to Fat Bikes. Perhaps parks officials should post signage for bikers to follow a protocol not destroying trails much like signage for snowshoers.
    Thank you Bob for all the work you put into this service!

  3. One of the main issues with hikers, snowshoers and fatbikes on x-country ski trails is the effect on the track setting. Bikes aren’t that hard to dodge, no harder than skiers.

    Fernie’s montane area has worked hard to preserve some trails as x-country only and some as multi use for snowshoers, hikers and bikers. So far seems to be working to me.

    One interesting thing I’ve discovered – when I’m skiing on Fischer s-bound 112s or voile vectors with old school leather 3 pin or plastic telemark boots, it doesn’t really matter whether I’m on the perfectly set tracks – I actually have just as much fun skiing the chopped up fat bike and snowshoe multiuser trails as I do on the perfectly groomed track set trails.

    It will be interesting to see what the future holds. If parks Canada and other bodies take a libertarian every man for himself approach to the trails where fatbikes, snowshoes and x-country skiers are all given equal access to the same trails – I could see a move within the sport of Nordic skiing towards wider slightly heavier gear. . .

  4. I think that I would like one-way loops for all users. I can live with snowshoeing, fat biking, classic skiing, and skate skiing on the same trail. Yah, like the rest of the world.

  5. Maybe what needs to happen (other then educating people and better signage) is the co’s heading out on the trails handing out tickets for infractions similar to the park wardens in the national parks. Hefty fines and court appearances for breaking the rules in the parks certainly make people think twice about their actions.

  6. Before the post was taken down the comments (including mine) were supporting the fact that the cyclist shouldn’t have been there and that all trail users should stick to the rules. One or two were questioning whether the signage is good enough compared to at the Nordic Centre, and a couple questioned whether the cyclist was asked if he knew that he shouldn’t have been there or not. I only recall one comment along the lines of ‘fat bikers should be allowed anywhere they like’ and I suspect that this was being sarcastic (at least that is how I took it). The debate then got a bit off topic and the moderator quite rightly took it down. We should be careful not to create a conflict where little or none exists.

    I absolutely agree that your comments about Fat Bikers have always been respectful and supportive of them when they are following the rules.

    I found the list of recommended trails a bit confusing since it seems to imply that Fat Biking is only prohibited in Peter Lougheed Park and at the Nordic Centre, it is just not recommended elsewhere (including the top section of the Goat Creek Trail). It also rather overstates the amount of trail recommended as in some cases (such as the Nordic Centre) many trails are listed, but these simply form a single loop or trail. I’m also a bit concerned that all the trails list are of an ‘Advanced’ standard and would not be suitable for novice bikers or children. I suspect that it is these groups that come into conflict with skiers since there is no easy way to identify which trails they should be on. The loop at the Nordic Centre, for example contain several sections that are rated as Black Diamond and are definitely not suitable for these groups.

    Finally we should probably reflect that the current weather is likely causing some of the problems. The trails at West Bragg Creek and in Canmore are (I believe) unusable at the moment as all the snow has turned to ice. I think that we can all agree that we would like to see more snow!

  7. Everyone knows about NIMBYism and NIMBYs. What largely seems to be getting discussed here is what I call NAIDD. No Activities I Don’t Do. Be it a hiker on the North shore Van sabotaging trails or similar in Fish Creek. Many people seem very protective of what they do in a given area often to the exclusion of any other type of user.

    I’m not justifying the biker on these trails. Clearly he is there due to the grooming but the grooming wasn’t done for his activity or supported by it. OTOH valid users do want space. Parks Canada has long held a bias against biking which helps fuel resentment. I was involved in the fight about shutting down Redearth creek and saw the attitude first hand. The fight in the US for wilderness access is another.

    Without getting too political, one of the few things out of Stephen Harper’s mouth that I agreed with was, ‘Canada’s parks are protected FOR Canadians not FROM Canadians.’ I’m good with that as long as it is evenly applied for user groups and isn’t focused on corporate profit. Ditto for provincial parks and spaces. We’re rebuilding a golf course for that group that will likely flood again. Some money for other recreation groups isn’t unreasonable.

    • I think, more than anything, the issue of Fat bikes on xc ski trails boils down to etiquette. When it comes to etiquette, I think we can all agree that all trail users do not abide by it universally. Since I began xc skiing 15 years ago, I’ve had skiers, snow shoers, walkers, and one fat biker (so far) not practice proper etiquette when I’ve been on downhill runs (moving over to allow for safe right of way passing) which every time resulted in a typical yard sale and snow “refreshment”. I’m lucky that only one of those instances also lent to an injury. The last couple of trips I took out to WBC this season opened my eyes to just how popular fat biking has become. I’d say close to 40% of the vehicles in the lot and lined up down both sides of the road had bike carriers. So, there are more and more people enjoying this fairly new sport each year, which means more people who quite possibly do not know proper etiquette, and the always smaller subset who do know, but don’t care. Fat bike etiquette does not only mean yielding to downhill skiers, it also means sticking to assigned fat bike trails, staying out of track, and abstaining from riding when the snow is too soft. It would be naive to assume that the majority of the fat bike community would not only be aware of proper etiquette, but that they would follow it 100% of the time.

  8. just imagine some skier coming down at 20-30 km/hr and facing this biker in the middle of that turn with poor visibility on the last picture, been there and done it and even crushed once on one of those fast downhill sections from Elk Pass, below Blueberry junction

    • Yes I’ll bite…

      Just imagine YOU are skiing up the trail at 15-20km/hr, and there is “some skier coming down at 20-30 km/hr”. the only difference is that arguably the biker can turn away and/or brake versus the uphill skier. So your “argument” doesn’t change anything.
      How is that different than an uphill trudging snowshoer? or group of XC skiers (adults or youth) spread all over with skis, limbs, and poles presenting the biggest danger? (which I *very* frequently encounter on trails); or Dog(s) like WBC?

      … as you were…

      • Difference is hitting a 35 pound fat bike and rider at speed will almost certainly do more damage then hitting a much softer skier or snowshoer! Not to mention a skier or snowshoer could definitely move out of your way faster if they had time to react. The fat biker is also more likely to be in the middle of the trail avoiding the ski tracks. Maybe if they had super human strength they could bunny hop right off the trail to avoid a collision (highly unlikely).

  9. Dang first world problems!!

    I wish it were as simple as activity “X” can be enjoyed at location “Y” and therefore our utopian world has no conflict. The reality is even within the ski community there are discussions and disagreements – whether that be skate/classic, no/dogs, skinny/fat skis, fast/slow, wax/less, racers get off *my* trail, etc etc… Fundamentally we are all out there looking to enjoy ourselves, enjoy the wonder of nature, and have good times. Right? Now the good times are even better if there is no conflict, right?

    Trust me, I know enough about multi-users and conflict… I have done and still do a lot of different activities: XC & road & commuter biking (even used to teach spin classes), XC/Skate/DH/Telemark skiing, running, hiking, snowshoeing, indoor sports, etc.. Pretty much seen it all. I ‘ve seen many many dumb things, behaviors, and even done a few stupid things myself (fortunately less as I get older/wiser). Certainly there are some areas more suited to certain activities than others which is why guidelines and rules are made… eventually. New sports challenge everyone. Remember when snowboarding was almost banned?

    Some folks seem to LOOK for it and FIND trouble. Some of us rarely seem to get bent out of shape. So what we need to start with is addressing ATTITUDES. Gee, perhaps starting with ourselves and then our children too. At home we certainly drive the concept respect into our kids repeatedly, but then again my wife and I are “old school” we hold our kids accountable? So I respectfully ask that everyone do their best to have a great attitude, smile, ask open questions, and be considerate of everyone everywhere all the time. There’s more than enough “goodness” to go around isn’t there?

    • Hear! Hear! I couldn’t agree with you more. It makes me happy and sad to see so many people out enjoying our public spaces. Happy that others are learning to love these places, just like I was given the chance to do growing up here (whatever sport they choose to pursue). Sad as well because always with the increased numbers comes the percentage of those inconsiderate jerks who just don’t respect these spaces nor the other users who do practice respect and courtesy. Those jerks will always be around somewhere – it’s unavoidable (unless you go deep into the backcountry – which I often do in the summer in order to escape them – ha ha). All we can do is continue to encourage a more predominant culture of respect and courtesy (which it mostly is amongst mountain enthusiasts). Eventually, the jerks will fall in line, or go elsewhere where they don’t get constantly hassled (or fined). Fat biking is not going away – it becomes more popular every year, so management & education is the key. I’ve been unsure myself in the past if fat bikes are actually allowed in Kananaskis (now I do know) – there sure aren’t any indications that they are not allowed posted at the trail heads. Perhaps better signage, and reminders of multi-use trail ettiquette (like they do in WBC) are the way to go. It’s usually individuals, not entire groups that ruin it. The majority generally influences the few, so Richie Rich is right on – ‘be considerate of everyone, everywhere all the time’, and it will eventually be contagious on the trails 🙂

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