While Aspen's trails may be covered with snow, you can still enjoy your favorite summer pastime on your ski vacation. Jump on a fat bike and set out on an adventure during your next winter trip to Aspen. Unlike skis, snowshoes and snowmobiles, fat biking in Aspen gives you the flexibility to explore a diverse mix of roads, trails, and terrain all in one outing. Moreover, this non-traditional mode of winter transportation allows you to experience Aspen in an entirely different way!
Follow this guide to learn how you can get rolling with a fat bike during Aspen's winter months.
What You Need for Fat Biking in Aspen
Fat Bike Rental
First things first, you need a fat bike before you can start your adventure. With tires that are fatter and nubbier than those on a traditional mountain bike, fat bikes allow for a comfortable -- and very stable -- ride on packed snow and variable terrain. Ute City Mountaineer offers rentals at the Aspen Cross Country Center, where you can also ride groomed trails, conditions permitting. Stapleton Ski is another great option for fat bike rentals in downtown Aspen. They even have fat e-bikes with full suspension.
The easiest way to dress for a winter fat biking adventure is by putting on what you would wear to go skiing or play in the snow. Breathable layers are key. You don't want to underdress and freeze. And, you also need to remember that you are going to heat up as soon as your start pedaling.
Make sure that your pants have a tapered leg. You don't want baggy ski pants getting stuck in your gears. If baggy pants are all you have you can roll up your pant leg or wear gaiters. If it's a nice day, you can just wear warm tights.
Warm winter boots and gloves are also key to ensure your extremities don't get too chilly.
Head, Face & Eye protection
In cold conditions, a ski helmet and ski goggles will be effective in protecting your head and eyes. A Buff or neck warmer will also come in handy. If you are going in the middle of a warm winter day, a bike helmet and sunglasses may suffice. When riding on a sunny day, don't forget to apply sunscreen to your face, under your chin and on your neck. The light reflecting off the snow is intense.
Hydration & Snacks
You will be riding your fat bike at high elevation when in Aspen, making it crucial to stay well hydrated. However, your water bottle can freeze if you put it in a water bottle cage. Use an insulated bottle if you have one, or keep your bottle in your backpack.
Also pack some snacks or energy bars to ensure you don't "bonk" or totally exhaust yourself part way through your ride.
If you layered correctly, there's a good chance you will be taking clothes off and putting them back on during your ride. Bring a backpack to store them while you ride, and it can't hurt to carry a dry base-layer to change into. Plus, this is a good place to keep your water bottle, snacks and anything else you might want to bring with you.
Aspen Fat Bike Trails
Once you have your bike and are properly dressed and prepared for an adventure, there are several places you can ride. Keep in mind that all these trails depend on the snow conditions and that some of them might melt out in the spring. That doesn't mean you can't still ride them, but you should expect variable conditions before December and after February.
Rio Grande Trail
The ride in Aspen is the Rio Grande Trail. With the exception of a section between Rock Bottom Ranch in Basalt and the Catherine Store Road in Carbondale that closes during the winter, you can ride the trail all the way to Glenwood Springs. Expect a mix of conditions from groomed and packed snow to asphalt.
Explore stunning views up Independence Pass and get a great workout at the same time. The gradual incline of snow-covered Highway 82 just beyond the road-closure gate is sure to get your heart pumping. While you could ride all the way to the top of Independence Pass, we recommend you turn around once you start seeing avalanche slide paths above Weller Lake. The descent is sure to be adrenaline filled.
Aspen Fat Bike Loop
Great for all skill levels, the 4.5 miles of the Aspen Fat Bike Loop takes riders on an adventure through the Marolt Open Space and the Aspen Golf Course. You can rent a bike at the Aspen Cross Country Center located in the Aspen Golf Course Pro Shop. Avoid upsetting nordic skiers by sticking to the trail designated by green bike signs.
Drive or ride from Aspen up Maroon Creek Road to the T Lazy 7 Ranch where the road closes for the winter. From there, you can go around the gate and ride up toward the Maroon Bells. Conditions are likely to be variable, and you will want to watch out for snowmobiles and nordic skiers. We also recommend you not ride Maroon Creek Road when avalanche conditions are high.
Smuggler Mountain Road
A cardio-intensive ride great for experienced fat bikers, Smuggler Mountain Road is sure to make your legs and lungs burn all the way to the top. The view once you get there is completely worth it, especially in the winter. The descent is less strenuous and far more exciting. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for hikers and dogs on the way down.
You now have all the information you need to go fat biking in Aspen. Mix it up and try connecting some of these recommended trails. Maybe ride Independence pass in the morning and the Aspen Fat Bike Loop in the afternoon. No matter how you decide to play it, have fun and don't forget to wear your helmet.
When you're ready to book your next trip to Aspen, browse our vast selection of centrally located vacation rentals that can serve as a basecamp for all your adventures. If you need more information about vacation rentals, please contact our reservation specialists to get recommendations.
Photo: Jeremy Rauckman