Explore Whitefish: Fat Biking From The Whitefish Bike Retreat

Every day so far has followed kind of the same schedule. Wake up before sunrise, eat an apple, walk three miles into town, spend the next ten hours outside getting lost skiing or hiking or snow shoeing or something, find dinner somewhere, walk back to where I’m staying by 9 or 10pm, edit photos, write a blog post, answer tumblr messages and email, and then by midnight I would pass out.

And I’ve loved every minute of it.

But, by the end of day 3, my legs were pretty much dead, knotted lumps of slightly-dehydrated muscle (it’s easy to forget to drink enough water when any water you carry with you is frozen in about three hours). So, when Cricket of Whiteifsh Bike Retreat picked me up for a day of fat bike riding on local trails, I had to convince myself that enough of the cycling muscles in my legs hadn’t been used quite as hard as the walking ones.

Cricket just started the retreat last year. Nestled in the hills near Lake Beaver, this place has lodging and camping facilities, a full workshop open to folks passing by on the trails or on bike tours, and (for today’s rad purposes) a nice fleet of fat bikes to rent. Her execution is flawless, and did I mention it’s near the Great Divide? Seriously, it’s an amazing premise that I hope only becomes more common in the US.

Enough with the endorsement, though. After a brief tour around the retreat, Cricket’s boyfriend Dave took me on a loop through some packed snow roads out to Beaver Lake, where we met a guy having not so great of luck with ice fishing. Back up hill, we pulled off onto some tight single track that cut through the woods and back to the retreat. After warming up with some cider we were joined by Cailin and Brad, two Canadians who had ridden the Great Divide a few months earlier. That ride, which again goes from Canada to Mexico via off-road trails, was their first bike tour so they are pretty much the raddest couple imaginable.

We went out to a multi-use trail network called Round Meadows, where a quick downhill grade really let’s you open your legs up, which I was surprised to find I didn’t need that badly. My legs were doing just fine keeping the bike going forward, and as usual the only thing keeping me from getting really gnarly was the camera hanging from my neck. The trail took us through some logging areas filled with beautiful, stoic lodgepole pine, and between the views, the company, and the long grind back up at the end, we all had a good, sweaty time.

I finally put the camera away, and began testing out the Specialized Fatboy’s wheelie and stoppy capability. I’m really used to the kind of first generation fat bikes that, while you can still shred on them, they are definitely a much less lively ride. The fat bikes at the retreat ride like regular mountain bikes! But, everyone started to get cold and we headed back, where Brad and Cailin were nice enough to share their beer with me and us new friends made loose plans for them to take the train to Chicago. Hope y’all can make it out!

Once back in town, a logging truck passed by coming from where I had just spent the day, and as I finished up my errands and finally found a vegan refuge at the Whitefish Hostel, I’m not gonna lie I started to get a little bummed. It was my last night in town, my train left at 7:30am the next morning, and once again I had found a place I wasn’t ready to leave and couldn’t wait to come back to.