The popularity of fatbikes has risen sharply in recent years with locals and tourists alike looking for alternative outdoor activities during poor snow conditions.
“They’re pretty much out every day, it’s been quite good,” said Rick Mackay, manager of Comor Sports. “My assistant manager rode one of them to the Pemberton Icecap the other day.”
Rentals for fatbikes — bikes with oversized tires for riding on snow — are currently available at Comor Sports and the Patagonia store in the Village, as well as at Whistler Olympic Park (WOP).
“We’re always looking for different opportunities in how we can attract people to (WOP),” said Lindsay Durno, “Last year we had a couple of people come here on fatbikes and ask if they could go fatbiking on our trails. We hadn’t really thought about it so we put them out on Porter’s Glide.”
After researching the activity over the summer and talking to other ski areas in B.C. and Washington State that allow fatbikes, WOP purchased four of them for use on designated trail loops. This season the fatbikes were kept to the Porter’s Glide area where people are free to cross-country ski with their dogs. Additional trails are available on Wednesday nights from 3 p.m. - 9 p.m., when WOP offers trail access and rentals for $5.
Starting on Monday, fatbike trails will be accessible directly from the day lodge. Each time a fatbike is rented out, WOP staff ask cross-country skiers how they feel about bikes being on the same trails.
“So far (the feedback) has been very good,” said Durno. “The conditions are so hard right now that there’s been negligible impact on any of the trails, as long as they stay out of the tracks or cross them at 90 degrees.”
One place fatbikes won’t be welcome this year is Lost Lake Park. Last week Roger Weetman, municipal manager of recreation services, told council that the carrying capacity of the trails would not be suited to allowing fatbikes. Walking, running, snowmobiling or fatbiking in the area will land infringers with a $100 fine if caught, according to a new bylaw amendment.
“We send our customers to Cut Yer Bars and places like that,” said Mackay. “(Our staff) have drawn up a map of places to go. If it was a normal winter and the snow was deep it would be tough to go where we’re sending them now, but we know better than to send them to Lost Lake.”
But Mackay believes that not allocating an area for fatbikes in Lost Lake is a missed opportunity to engage a new user group and contribute to rental and ticket revenue. “If the (RMOW) was smart, they would have a designated trail and charge entry,” he said. “Why not? It’s money in their pocket, there has to be enough trails out there for everyone to be happy.”