In Idaho, Thin Snow Means Fat Tires
David Lingle for The New York Times
Snow has been so scant in Idaho this winter that bicycles started showing up in shop windows in the middle of January, and cyclists began booking ski huts during a season when it’s usually backcountry skiers who are seeking accommodations.
What may be bad news for skiers has turned out to be an irresistible opportunity for those who love to ride on mountain bikes with four- and five-inch-wide tires, which are designed to float over snow and sand and still provide substantial cushion for rough single track (even without the suspension common to many bikes with skinnier tires).
Where trails are too soft for regular mountain bikes, or too sparse to protect skiers from subsurface obstacles, fat bikes are filling a gap. Riders do well on mixed terrain, including on trails where the snow is too thin for skiing and on south-facing pitches where dirt is exposed during a low-snow winter. “It’s opening a new way to be outdoors,” Chris Estrem, a Ketchum physical therapist, backcountry skier and world bicycle traveler, said. “It’s made me a better mountain biker. I want to ride it all the time. I love it.”