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  1. #1
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    Snowmobile Trail System Access

    To those of you that live in areas with large, statewide snowmobile trail systems - are you generally able to access those networks for fatbike usage during the winter? I ask for a few reasons: (1) I'm considering a move back to Maine and am drooling over the prospect of stringing together some long winter rides and (2) My brother in VT recently purchased a Pugs and is wondering the same.

    I would've asked in a regional forum, but I'm also curious how other states are "officially" handling this...

    thanks!

  2. #2
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    Tough question to answer here in Washington state. We have miles of snow mobile routes here that are groomed by different land management agencies. There's not enough fat bikers here yet for them to be used to the fact that bicycles can travel on snow. The groomed routes generally have signs that say "Tracked Vehicles Only". I've always taken that to be towards motorized vehicles as non-motorized travel (xc skis, snowshoes, foot travel,etc.) is still allowed. The Snow mobiler's I've crossed paths with generally think the bikes we ride are real cool and want the full story on them. They do warn us... they can move vary fast so we get off to the side of the road when we hear them coming. I also take a flashing red and a headlight to turn on when I hear them. This year, i'm going to mount the "dune flag" I bought for riding in the dunes too. I've been hesitant to call and "open a can of worms". Sometimes that doesn't work out so well these days. I figure I'll just go until they stop me then we'll try to negotiate something.

  3. #3
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    Here in Michigan, it's not an issue. Cross Country skiiers, walkers use the trails sometimes, I never had a problem with them using the trail. Just make sure you listen for the snowmobiles and move to the side before they get there, as they can be traveling 50mph+ down a tight trail

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    I've Nordic ski the Vermont VAST snowmobile trails for years. I just move to the side when I hear the sleds approaching. I've riden some trails last winter on my Moonlander, but it was all on state land. Not sure about trails that cross private land.

  5. #5
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    Pretty much a no for WI, most of our trails are on private land and the agreements with the landowners specify snowmobile use only. I do know of a few trails that are on State or County lands that are usable but those are few and far between.

  6. #6
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    Ride where ever you want in Maine. The hut to Hut trail system is now up to 40-45 miles of trails. Winter or summer...way to much fun!

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1spd1way View Post
    Ride where ever you want in Maine. The hut to Hut trail system is now up to 40-45 miles of trails. Winter or summer...way to much fun!
    yes, I've seen the Maine Hut and Trail system - looks great! Otherwise, it seems like public land would be the way to go...

    Back before I'd ever heard of a fatbike I would ride my mt bike on snowmachine trails during winter when conditions were right and never had a problem - just wondering if the popularity of fatbikes has changed the way that would be viewed. I guess sitting in my shoes 3000mi away right now I'm over analyzing the situation a bit. Local knowledge is always key

    My bro was gonna buy a VAST sticker in VT but looking at the bylaws I'm not sure that gesture of goodwill would help much - bikes are specifically prohibited.

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    In VT, VAST clubs groom the trails and negotiate with landowners for access, but they don't own the land or trails so they can't say yea or nay, they can only say the negotiated agreement does not cover anything but snowmachines. So it is up to the landowner, and in reality, 99.9% of the people who will allow snowmobiles to cross their land will not be concerned by non-motorized users. The numbered routes near me even have "watch for xc skiers signs", so use is pretty accepted. Nonetheless, the courtesies and safety measures others have noted make sense. I generally stop, wave, and smile, and get the same in return. For all most sledders know, it could be your land anyways. Also, you can't get a VAST sticker because that requires a snowmobile VIN #. If you are so inclined, you can send the local club a donation or purchase a map, there are links on the VAST page. I find that few snowmobilers tend to get going early in the day, so you may have less traffic to deal with in the a.m.

    I used to live in ME, but was not on the big numbered routes, but riding on local snowmobile trails was fine. Over there you could buy maps at most corner stores.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mtbxplorer View Post
    In VT, VAST clubs groom the trails and negotiate with landowners for access, but they don't own the land or trails so they can't say yea or nay, they can only say the negotiated agreement does not cover anything but snowmachines. So it is up to the landowner, and in reality, 99.9% of the people who will allow snowmobiles to cross their land will not be concerned by non-motorized users. The numbered routes near me even have "watch for xc skiers signs", so use is pretty accepted. Nonetheless, the courtesies and safety measures others have noted make sense. I generally stop, wave, and smile, and get the same in return. For all most sledders know, it could be your land anyways. Also, you can't get a VAST sticker because that requires a snowmobile VIN #. If you are so inclined, you can send the local club a donation or purchase a map, there are links on the VAST page. I find that few snowmobilers tend to get going early in the day, so you may have less traffic to deal with in the a.m.

    I used to live in ME, but was not on the big numbered routes, but riding on local snowmobile trails was fine. Over there you could buy maps at most corner stores.
    I'll pass this on to my brother, and thanks all for the info!

  10. #10
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    Dunno where bdundee is in WI, but here is the SW on the Mississippi, and over in IA, I've had no issued with riding anywhere on the Snowmobile trials. Public land or private. That being said, this area does have a history of allowing rec use on private lands. Statutes state that as long as nothing is charged for access to the land, the land owner cannot be held liable for any stupid sh!t the recreationalists may do to them selves.
    Just a regular guy.

  11. #11
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    [QUOTE=~martini~;9814541]Dunno where bdundee is in WI, but here is the SW on the Mississippi, and over in IA, I've had no issued with riding anywhere on the Snowmobile trials. Public land or private. That being said, this area does have a history of allowing rec use on private lands. Statutes state that as long as nothing is charged for access to the land, the land owner cannot be held liable for any stupid sh!t the recreationalists may do to them selves.[/QUOT]

    I wish it was the same here in Central Wi, but it's not even legal to walk on snowmobile trails on private land here. I did a bunch of checking a couple of years ago and at least up here people really guard their land. I read a contract between the snowmobile club and the landowners and it stated snowmobile use only. This is from Brown County:

    You can snowshoe in any of our County parks at no cost. You CANNOT WALK OR SNOWSHOE ON CROSS-COUNTRY OR SNOWMOBILE TRAILS. A citation may be issued for walking on cross-country or snowmobile trails.

    I would think if you can't walk you can't bike. But I do know of some state trails that do allow multi use. But like I said that's up here and I'm sure places vary.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by ~martini~ View Post
    Dunno where bdundee is in WI, but here is the SW on the Mississippi, and over in IA, I've had no issued with riding anywhere on the Snowmobile trials. Public land or private. That being said, this area does have a history of allowing rec use on private lands. Statutes state that as long as nothing is charged for access to the land, the land owner cannot be held liable for any stupid sh!t the recreationalists may do to them selves.
    Riding public trails during the day here in south-central WI is mostly fine, but I've been very reluctant to venture onto private trails for two reasons:

    First, because the snomo clubs charge dues and use that money to create and maintain the trails. Seeing no apparent mechanism for making a monetary contribution (could I join a snomo club without first owning a snomo?) it seems like it would be pretty easy for anybody to rightfully accuse me of being a mooch. Wiscos don't always like mooches.

    Second, there is a pretty apparent safety issue, owing to speed differential and a certain confusion among a small group of sledders between whether they are sledders who drink or drinkers who ride sleds. The rate at which they kill themselves by hitting fixed objects or each other is not encouraging. Riding even the public trails at night is a non-starter for me.

    When I do ride the public trails, I'm very cautious and always yield to the sleds. Being one of the first people out doing this, I try to be friendly without being creepy and engage in conversation whenever the opportunity arises. Snow has, after all, largely been their turf up to this point.

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    I'm kinda curious about this too. We have vintage sleds that use the trails which some don't go more than 20mph, so speed differential isn't much different than some sleds that use the trails. Granted, I've gone 95+mph on some strait trails on a sled, but many trail conditions and turns just don't allow for those speeds. As far as land ownership, I know alot of trails here in WI traverse private land.
    I think with proper trail etiquette and using lights to make sure you're visible, I don't believe you'd run into much issue with fat biking on snowmobile trails.
    As a side note, fat biking isn't going to tear up the trails like the damn ATVs that they allow on the snowmobile trails...

  14. #14
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    in Ontario it is very strict you must purchase a permit to use the trails and only with a snowmobile. They are managed by the OFSC but there is a provincial act that covers the use of them. Here is an overview of what is legal Get Legal and this is a link to who can and can't use the trails Motorized Snow Vehicles Act - O. Reg. 185/01 bikes are not allowed. That being said I have ridden on them before.
    I find when the trails have corn snow (small ice balls) on them the tire to surface contact is very noisy and it is difficult to hear a snow machine coming.
    Last edited by temporoad; 10-25-2012 at 01:53 PM.

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    I had this very discussion with the President of the Allegan County Snowmobile Club (Michigan) a couple weeks ago. I rode 30 miles of their trail from my house to their club (and we rode all of it last winter - there are 80+ miles of it in my county).

    He thought that each club/county might feel differently about it. He thought it was pretty cool - as long as we made sure we yielded to their traffic. He said that they are trying to inject some new blood into their club. He thought it would be cool if a bunch of us joined ($20/year) and helped with trail maintenance. He also thought it would be cool to have us come to their Sunday club breakfasts they they hold at their lodge and head out at the same time they do.

    My experience with their club members last winter was great. Most thought we were crazy and wanted to look at the bikes. I even sold a couple of Mukluks to guys who saw us out on them and wondered where they could get one. As a group they could not have been more accepting of us. Again - their main concern was that they are not necessarily looking for us and that we yield to them and move far off the trails. We have also said we would use red flashing lights on the front and rear of the bikes to help with visibility.

    One other cool thing is that this past Sunday when I was doing that same ride from their club, I found about 15 miles of horse trail singletrack that I am told goes unused in the winter. I have no plans on exploring that until there is 8-12 inches of snow on the ground... but can't wait till I can.

  16. #16
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    Here in the Wyoming/Idaho/Montana Greater Yellowstone area, it's a bit of a "yes," and a "no."

    Most of our land is public of one form or another. On the Forest Service and BLM parcels (which is where the majority of our land and trails occur), it's generally not a problem. When you get to Wilderness designated areas, mechanized travel of any kind is prohibited. This includes bikes, and that's understandable. So don't poach those areas, even though some snowmobilers do.

    The real strange thing though, is that the National Parks are NOT currently allowing snow bikes, even though snowmobiles and snow coaches and skiers ARE allowed. Go figure. Winter Use Plans are complicated and political documents, and I think the Park Service just didn't see this coming. It's something we're working locally to try to fix though.

    As someone noted, just listen and move to the side when you hear snowmobiles coming. There are always a few a__holes in any activity, but by far and away, most snowmobilers are courteous and friendly and will slow down when they see you. At this point in the game, people are still so curious about fat bikes that they'll often stop to talk to you. On the other hand, BIKES are the ones expected to stop and let dog sleds pass by. And, most important, stay off of ski tracks!!!!

    One of the things I find poetic about fat bikes is that they've allowed me to again use trails that I once cross country skied on, but had to abandon as snowmobile technology advanced. (It wasn't so much of a "confrontation" issue as it was the destruction of the hard-earned ski tracks by the snowmobiles, in areas that they previously couln't access, which made it too difficult and inefficient to ski.) The reality now is that you NEED snowmobiles to pack the trail for your bike. So I try to appreciate the motorheads these days. This is what they give you:
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Snowmobile Trail System Access-g-02.jpg  

    We still hang bike thieves in Wyoming [Pedal House]

  17. #17
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    Sounds like there are lots of different answers to this question but it's encouraging to see so many positive answers. Living in southern California, I'm a little hesitant to try the few mountain areas I know of that would have some snowmobile traffic to setup the trail as I'm assuming it would be pretty darn crowded - I don't want to put myself in harm's way. but we'll see this winter.

    And iamkeith, totally agree with you on the weird switch. when i ventured out onto sled trails in my past life it was because the skiing sucked. When I moved out west I started venturing into the backcountry on skis avoiding areas where I would encounter sleds, now I'm stuck looking for trails designated for them! Oh well, I've usually had nothing but good encounters wherever I've been.

    Incidentally, my first snow "race" was in your neck of the woods up on Togwotee Pass a few yrs back. Had a Karate Monkey setup with Kris Holm rims - combined with a few inches of fresh I pushed that thing almost the entire 25 miles

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    Quote Originally Posted by iamkeith View Post
    There are always a few a__holes in any activity, but by far and away, most snowmobilers are courteous and friendly and will slow down when they see you. At this point in the game, people are still so curious about fat bikes that they'll often stop to talk to you.
    Good point that I had neglected to make in my post. All of the sledders I've engaged in conversation so far really liked my bike and were very friendly. A couple have even brought up the safety issue.

    Should also mention that the organizer of the Triple D winter race in Iowa has a close relationship with the local club, and they allow us to use a few of their private trails on race day. They're a blast!

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    Education, education, education....

    We here in the Idaho/Wyoming area have been addressing these issues for years. Some agencies say yes, some say no, some ignore but others do not.

    We have the first ski resort in the nation, Grand Targhee, allowing snow bikes on there nordic trails. There are a set of rules and guidelines that were created as well as a yes/no on the grooming report.

    There was a MOU created with our local snowmobile agency where we created a sticker system to help pay back a little. We follow some of the same rules - using hand signals, frant and rear lights, pulling over etc.

    There is a constant education going on cause it is a fairly new activity that we want to be officially allowed, not in a gray area where it is in question. The rules and language are different state to state, we are dealing with the "no wheeled vehicle" language that was written way back when to keep the motos off the groomed trails and people put bike in that category.

    Last year was the first Fat Bike Summit and we are creating the second annual Fat
    Bike Festival with the first day concentrating on education to land managers etc. It is at the beginning stages but it is happening big time. Date is January 25-27th in Island Park, ID.

    Stay abreast and stay tuned - just keep working with all your local agencies - help educate!!

    Thanks.

    I was kicked out of Yellowstone National Park several years ago in the winter. I am still very peeved by that, it can be one of the best places ever to ride in the winter but no wheeled vehicles are allowed! Seriously...

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay P View Post
    Education, education, education....

    We here in the Idaho/Wyoming area have been addressing these issues for years. Some agencies say yes, some say no, some ignore but others do not.

    We have the first ski resort in the nation, Grand Targhee, allowing snow bikes on there nordic trails. There are a set of rules and guidelines that were created as well as a yes/no on the grooming report.

    There was a MOU created with our local snowmobile agency where we created a sticker system to help pay back a little. We follow some of the same rules - using hand signals, frant and rear lights, pulling over etc.

    There is a constant education going on cause it is a fairly new activity that we want to be officially allowed, not in a gray area where it is in question. The rules and language are different state to state, we are dealing with the "no wheeled vehicle" language that was written way back when to keep the motos off the groomed trails and people put bike in that category.

    Last year was the first Fat Bike Summit and we are creating the second annual Fat
    Bike Festival with the first day concentrating on education to land managers etc. It is at the beginning stages but it is happening big time. Date is January 25-27th in Island Park, ID.

    Stay abreast and stay tuned - just keep working with all your local agencies - help educate!!

    Thanks.

    I was kicked out of Yellowstone National Park several years ago in the winter. I am still very peeved by that, it can be one of the best places ever to ride in the winter but no wheeled vehicles are allowed! Seriously...
    thanks JayP, well said and thanks for your input. Kind of what I'm hoping to be able to do if/when I move back East

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by MiniTrail View Post
    Only problem I've had in NY is joining a snowmobile club. My letters go unanswered. Not sure how to take that lack of response

    When out riding I've never been instructed to get off of the trails. The snow machine drivers and groomers seem OK with me. I should also say that I've never seen another fat bike in my area and that lack of other bikes on the trails probably doesn't hurt.
    Where in NY? I've been thinking about hitting the trails close to Lake George this winter.

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    "No wheeled vehicle"

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay P View Post
    Education, education, education....

    ... The rules and language are different state to state, we are dealing with the "no wheeled vehicle" language that was written way back when to keep the motos off the groomed trails and people put bike in that category.

    ...
    Is there a written definition of what a "wheeled vehicle" is? I'd like to actually see it if someone has an example.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SeaBass_ View Post
    Where in NY? I've been thinking about hitting the trails close to Lake George this winter.
    Seabass,
    I ride in the southern Adks, Piseco/Speculator area. Mostly state lands.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MiniTrail View Post
    Miles away from you there guy. I'm way over in Wayne County flatland. I really have no idea what you could expect over there but share pictures when you do
    MiniTrail,
    Here is one from Arietta, NY... Where abouts in Wayne County? Any pics from out there?
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Snowmobile Trail System Access-lakepugs.jpg  


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    Doughboy,
    No problems in NY, that I know of. I stay off the main corridors as much as possible and ride the secondary trails (it's where I prefer to go).

  26. #26
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    Jay P, what happened when you were kicked out of Yellowstone? I'd like to ride in the park as well. I just don't see how they could say anything or why they would want to.

  27. #27
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    I am also in S-Central WI, Madison to be precise. I ride the public rails to trails quite regularly, but being the adventerous type I often go off on loops on some of the snowmobile trails on private land. I am acting on a "don't ask, don't tell" approach, I figure technically I am not allowed, but no one has complained yet. I've got the lights on front and rear, even in daylight, and I get the he11 out of the way when they come by... I just assume they are going 60mph and completely loaded.
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    Remember when trying to change/have impact on policies rules like this it easiest to work with your local government - you actually might get some where. Then they can help pressure the state government and ultimately many states can maybe impact the federal government.

    So pay attention to whom you wan to bring awareness to and who you actually can work with. Work with them and show how we can be responsible and how we are a justifiable user group, they just don't know yet and you will have to do some hand holding. Put them on bikes, invite them out for a real experience.

    Steve B - the definitions has been dug into at different levels and it's definition is different in among the agencies. I can't recall fully and am not digging right now but I beleave there was not enough definition locally but on the federal level it was spelled out not allowing the cyclist.

    When I was escorted out of Yellowstone 6 years ago I was a half day into my 3 day planned trip. He didn't crack a smile or think what I was doing was cool in anyway. Just said do you want to take it with the judge? Looking back I should have been that guy that went to court. Scheming on going up with a skier and a person on snowshoes and get a video of being pulled over and kicked out...

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by FishMan473 View Post
    I just assume they are going 60mph and completely loaded.
    Good Assumption!!

  30. #30
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    "Vehicle"

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay P View Post
    ....

    Steve B - the definitions has been dug into at different levels and it's definition is different in among the agencies. I can't recall fully and am not digging right now but I beleave there was not enough definition locally but on the federal level it was spelled out not allowing the cyclist.

    When I was escorted out of Yellowstone 6 years ago I was a half day into my 3 day planned trip. He didn't crack a smile or think what I was doing was cool in anyway. Just said do you want to take it with the judge? Looking back I should have been that guy that went to court. Scheming on going up with a skier and a person on snowshoes and get a video of being pulled over and kicked out...
    Found out the hard way this morning with a written warning riding a beach in a park I was allowed to ride last year by a different ranger. "Vehicle" per the federal definition is any device used to transport people across land. Problem I find is not every ranger in various park systems is equally knowledgeable about laws and rules, and fatbikes are completely alien to them - except for the experienced ones who realize a fatbike is still a bicycle regardless of tire size, and riding the waterline is no exception either. So if any park system puts up a sign that says "No Vehicles" they can use that federal definition against bikes, as well as any "not riding a bicycle in a designated area".

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay P View Post
    Remember when trying to change/have impact on policies rules like this it easiest to work with your local government - you actually might get some where. Then they can help pressure the state government and ultimately many states can maybe impact the federal government.

    So pay attention to whom you wan to bring awareness to and who you actually can work with. Work with them and show how we can be responsible and how we are a justifiable user group, they just don't know yet and you will have to do some hand holding. Put them on bikes, invite them out for a real experience.

    Steve B - the definitions has been dug into at different levels and it's definition is different in among the agencies. I can't recall fully and am not digging right now but I beleave there was not enough definition locally but on the federal level it was spelled out not allowing the cyclist.

    When I was escorted out of Yellowstone 6 years ago I was a half day into my 3 day planned trip. He didn't crack a smile or think what I was doing was cool in anyway. Just said do you want to take it with the judge? Looking back I should have been that guy that went to court. Scheming on going up with a skier and a person on snowshoes and get a video of being pulled over and kicked out...
    Thanks for advise Jay P. I emailed the MN DNR last week to inquire about our Snowmobile trails. Apparently the entire 22,000 mile Grant in Aid trail system is off limits to everything except snowmobiles. Also, the rest of the "state trails" are not "recommended" for anything but snowmobiles. So I told him that I'd like some local contacts which he happily provided me(he sent me 3 replies and was very helpful). I'm thinking it might also be best to get my friends with COGGS involved since we have had a substantial amount of publicity lately, which should help with legitimacy. Perhaps IMBA too. I ride fat bikes with the Midwest Regional Director who happens to live here.

    Fat Bikes are becoming very popular in the Duluth area and I look forward to working with the local governing bodies and snowmobile clubs together. Starting small and local is definitely the way to go since trail access seems to be a very localized issue.

  32. #32
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    It's really cool to see so many of you, from all over the country, talking about trail access issues. I have great admiration for those who actually take the time to advocate for bike use and to educate other user groups - especially since I always seem to be the guy who's too busy or lazy, and am willing to let others do the work. So, obviously, I don't spend much time in the Trail Building and Advocacy Forum.

    But, since the issues surrounding fat bikes are so different than those that suround normal bikes (12 month use / sharing of multi-modal trails / ability to ride where there is NO trail ) and there's so much more room for misconceptions, I almost think there should be a sticky thread in this forum, with resources specifically for fat bike advocates!

    Also cool that Jay P has chimed in here. He is obviously one of the best resources you could ever find, so use his experience and advice.

    Anyway, this doesn't relate directly to his Yellowstone encounter, but here's a link to a threadI started a couple of winters ago, after some other fat bikers were denied access to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Re-reading the attached newspaper article again, it does sound like the motivating issue for managers is fear of safety conflicts between bikes and snowmobiles. So perhaps that's the issue we need to foucus on: Lights and reflectors for bikers, awareness for snowmobilers, camaraderie and common investment for both.

    (On the other hand, I think that "safety concerns" might be a bit of an excuse or red herring, too - since snowmobiles in Yellowstone are only allowed to travel at 45 mph anyway, and skiers are already allowed. So I think there are also some basic ignorance and prejudice issues at work, and the only way to change those is to get out there and be a good ambassador.)
    We still hang bike thieves in Wyoming [Pedal House]

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sac29 View Post
    Seabass,
    I ride in the southern Adks, Piseco/Speculator area. Mostly state lands.
    I love that area. Closer than Wayne Co but still 75 miles away!

  34. #34
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    The answer for Vermont is NO BIKES! (at this time) VAST stands for Vermont Associationof Snow Travelers and they welcome other uses of their trail system. You can buy a trail pass without a snow machine (unlike VASA) but they are not required for non-motorized use. The only problem with bikes is that they fall under the "no wheeled vehicles" ban. This is really to keep the ATVs from wrecking the trail - so in reality - I don't think anyone cares about bikes. Perhaps VAST will redefine this policy with the increasing popularity of Fat Bikes. I have never had a bad snow machine trail encounter - but I do try to avoid busy trails and busy times. Really not fun to share narrow trail with noisy fast machines whether on bike or skis or snowshoes. Learn the international hand signals if you plan on riding snow machine trails.

  35. #35
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    Opportunity in the Midwest!

    For all you guys in the midwest, particularly in Michigan, here's a great opportunity to help people start thinking of snowmobiles and fat bikes as equals!. Could be a model for educating the rest of the country. The governor is proposing a bike route across the entire state that would, as a "side benefit," be open to snowmobiles in the winter. Sounds like a great idea, but someone should remind them that while bikers don't mind sharing, they don't necessarily go away in the winter, either.

    Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder proposes statewide bike trail | News - Home
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Snowmobile Trail System Access-michigan2.jpg  

    Snowmobile Trail System Access-michigan.jpg  

    Last edited by iamkeith; 11-30-2012 at 08:35 AM. Reason: added maps
    We still hang bike thieves in Wyoming [Pedal House]

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