I had been really looking forward to Winterbike for quite a while this winter – especially since I now have a fat bike to play on. Last year, the event was really well done and they managed to ramp things up a little more for this year. My daughter, Emma, and I started the day off a little early by my standards and even managed to arrive at the Dashney Nordic Center before any of the group rides started to form. We also got to witness the car in front of us avoid some deer in the road just prior to our arrival.
As for the weather, you couldn’t have asked for a better day. The temperature in the morning was in the teens and warmed up to almost 50 degrees by mid-afternoon. The snow stayed nice and firm through the morning hours.
After signing in and getting some cider doughnuts (yum!!) and our really cool T-shirts, I pulled my stuff together and visited with a few people. There were two rides that were supposed to leave early that morning at 8am: the “Epic Adventure” ride and the Single-track ride on the east side of Darling Hill. I had been out on the single-track earlier in the week, so I opted for the super, mega, ultimate “Epic Adventure” ride. Also, Jeff Hale was leading it, so I knew it would be good. A little later there would be some more moderate group rides around the touring center. My daughter, Emma, later joined the “Ride with the Girls” ride. The 8 AM rides left closer to 8:30, but it all worked out well.
Our ride started by climbing. Then we climbed some more. After that, we did some more climbing. This lasted almost 5 miles before things turned downhill in any meaningful way. Fortunately, I like climbing, so I was fine with that. We even had a nice snowmobile track switch-back above the Cutter Inn that we had to navigate. From there, we traversed some of the summer Kingdom Trails routes through Parr’s Yard and beyond. Eventually, we found our way to the Golden Road. We rode this trail as part of the Circumburke Challenge this fall but in the opposite direction. Out there, the snow was soft, not because it was warm but because it was dry powder underneath. When I left the packed trail, I was surprised how deep it was out there. Still, it was very manageable; and we were able to ride without difficulty. I did have to let some air out of my back tire to get a little more float. There were three guys from Pennsylvania who set a good pace for much of the ride out there. When they weren’t pushing the group along, the reverted to heckling each other. It was pretty cool.
Eventually, we ended up on the VAST trail that cuts through the gas pipeline through the town of Victory. The trail was wide open and smooth; much better maintained than most state highways around here. There were some flat sections where we actually had a paceline of sorts going. After several miles of this, we returned to the narrower trails and finished out the ride on some of the groomed stuff in the nordic XC network. Altogether we rode around 16 miles. My incomplete GPS data from the ride is here.
We arrived at the aid station much earlier than I expected. It was pretty well stocked with food and drinks of various sorts. They had some of that really good bread like last year along with some Vermont Peanut Butter – good stuff! It was quite a busy place with people hanging around from the other group rides. It was a nice setup and warm enough that we didn’t need a fire.
Another really nice thing they had were the fat bike demos from Carver Bikes and the Village Sport Shop. This was good, but be careful if you ever borrow a fat bike for any real length of time; it’s almost guaranteed to make you want to part with your cash if you don’t already own one. My daughter, Emma, took one out for about half an hour or so. Her response: “I want one!” We’ll see.
In the afternoon, they had the 6X snow downhill race. I didn’t show up to see the race until the finals. By this time a good size crowd of spectators had built up. The finish of the course ran through the lodge area and had been reduced to the consistency of a bowl of mashed potatoes. The conditions unquestionably favored the fat tired bikes this year. There were some pretty good prizes during the awards ceremony with champagne spraying everywhere – literally. In the raffle at the end, some guy won a fat bike frame from fatbikes.com along with a really nice set of very yellow rims. My daughter was really hoping to win that one. She did manage to get a Kingdom Trails sweatshirt, which was part of the many schwag items that were tossed into the crowd.
Last year, regular mountain bikes outnumbered fat bikes by a huge margin – I don’t think there were more than 12 or so of them in total. This year, they were everywhere and clearly in the majority. Mountain bikes with “skinny” tires started to look weird by the end of the day. The intermediate rides still were set up so that they were enjoyable on either type. Hopefully, that will continue in the future as not everyone who would enjoy this kind of thing has a fat bike.
Overall, it was a great day. The weather was amazing, and we had some excellent riding. There were lots of little extras like food, beer, sugar on snow and probably other things that I’m not remembering. Last year this was a donation funded event but I have no complaints about the $15 registration this time around; it was definitely worth it. Thanks to MTBVT, Kingdom Trails and all the others who made the event happen.
It was really great to have a second snow biking event with Überwintern being just two weeks ago. The scale of Winterbike was significantly bigger, which isn’t surprising considering it is in its second year. The weather at Überwintern was 100% winter where this weekend was more like spring skiing. I hope MTBVT can develop both of them so that we will have two very cool biking events to look forward to during the very long winters up here. Both were really enjoyable.
Below, I have posted some of the photos I took. I’ll add links to any other blogs or articles the event as I find them. I’m still waiting for this guy to post something too (no pressure Wil, none at all…).
- Wil’s video from the ride around the nordic trails. (youtube).
- Video of some of the 6X race (youtube).
- Video from the single-track ride on vimeo.
- Tons of photos of the 6X race from Image North Photography.
- Another report on Infinitely Sustainable Pace.