Spearfish FAT Bike Trail Pass
My name is Jesse Hansen, owner operator of Rushmore Mountain Sports in Spearfish, SD.
The Black Hills have been my home since 1976, mostly due to the excellent community and the great recreation the area has to offer for freedom seekers like myself.
The Hansen family has been active in skiing over 40 years in the area. The last 25 of that I have been grooming snow to try bring a little "resort" skiing to the the Black Hills.
About 9 years ago we bought our first FAT Bike, it was a novelty for sure, but neat. About 4 years later I decided to give it a real try. Being a nordic skier I saw little use for a FAT bike, then something happened.....
I rode single track snow and it changed the way I looked at these contraptions. After grooming the XC ski trails early one morning, I took a Surly Moonlander down the snowmobile trail and took a turn into the woods on a snowmobiles "boondocking" track. Crap, I was hooked! I followed that track 500 vert ft down to Higgins Gulch jumping over logs on the firm snow ribbon that cut through the chest deep powder was eye opening.
After a couple seasons of experimenting on how to get a good snow single track, a snow grooming company,West Yellowstone Track systems who makes the world best snow grooming equipment started to manufacture a simple but effective drag to make snow much firmer than XC ski trails. A 30" groomer makes about a 20" wide path once the snow falls back into the trail. After we purchased their Compaction Drag and bought an old Ski Doo Skandic 550f SWT and began to clean out forest debris out of gulches just above Spearfish where the snow stays 6 months a year.
Also important is we DO NOT groom the summer single track trails. When snow is packed it lasts longer, and who wants the dirt single track to stay frozen and muddy longer in the spring time??? Our special use permit for grooming ends in March, by the time spring rolls around it is impossible to notice that the groomed FAT bike trails even existed.
Grooming takes place in the dark, a few reasons for that.... First is Black Hills snow is especially dry, unless you are from Casper, WY, or Red Lodge, MT you are not used to snow this dry. It needs to go through a warming and cooling cycle, so if you mix it up and pack it in the evening it will hit the coldest part of the day at sunrise and will "set up" well. Second is it keeps users from tearing up a new groom job. Certainly just after you groom people will ski or ride the trail when it is soft leaving the trail rutted up. Third is a snowmobile gets really hot in warmer temps like we have here in the Black Hills. Snowmobiles put out a lot of heat at near freezing temps, they can over heat easily when pulling a big load. Another reason grooming takes place at night for me is I have time at night, being a father of 4 small kids I am busy until 8:30 pm. After that I am free to freeze in the woods.
In 2015-16 we had our first season of consistently groomed trail, 12 miles. For 2017 we added a couple little sections bringing the trail lengths to 13 miles with some extra loops, and it turned out quite nice, great actually, but that is not enough. We are striving to make the Black Hills lead the way in trail prep and design. Do you want to ride them? We will get it done with your support.
For 2017-2018 season we have the go ahead to groom from Spearfish Canyons Iron Creek Trail up to Big Hill Parking lot, where the Robison Gulch loop FAT Trails are, bringing the total miles to around 18. This year we are changing some of the loops to have more manageable grades and avoid drifting areas as well.
It should also be said that the State Game Fish and Parks snowmobile association is not allowing FAT Bikes on the groomed snowmobile trails at this point. That is a touchy situation, the snowmobile association started that from the ground up decades ago. Fat bikes are very new to the scene and they are looking at options to see how it may work. I personally still skate ski on the snowmobile trails during the week when there is little or no motorized traffic and it is fantastic. However, when there is motorized traffic the trail surface is very poor for FAT Biking, and most users go out on weekends, both motorized and non motorized. I dont think the two mix very well no matter what the rules are. To have non motorized users on the snowmobile trails in the Black Hills where most snowmobiles stay on the groomed trail (unlike other Rocky Mountain trails where they use groomed trails to get to the powder riding) , needs to be looked at very carefully. Something can be worked out i am sure, but not yet....
So, for the time being...., XC skiers, snowshoers and DOGS can use the current FAT bike trails also since they only help add texture/that adds to traction. XC ski trails are not always the best for dogs and snowshoes, being that they are groomed to .5-2 psi. Fat Bike trails are groomed to 5+ psi and some think are more fun because they are narrow and twisty.
For starters we have new sled, more power, bigger lugs better dependability from the 900 ACE SWT from Ski Doo. Our local power sports shop offered us an excellent deal and has been very helpful with as well. That and a new groomer(we sold last years) we are looking at a skosh under $15k with taxes and Black Hills National Forest insurance is $550 annually when we partner up with the BLACK HILLS NORDIC SKI CLUB. There is also the "Go Fund me" fee in case you were using a calculator.
We decided to go new on the snowmobile due to used sleds in this category nearly non existant and not much less than new. Maintenance costs on the new Skandics is low to zero with a good operator. There are 3 sleds on the market capable of pulling a 500lbs of "drag" over the river and through the woods and this is the most dependable and cheapest..
So, there you have it. RMS has fronted the cost of the equipment, and as fun as it is to make this work we are still looking for an additional $10700 to pay off equipment and the annual BHNFS liability insurance. RMS will take care of the fuel, transportation, repairs, trailer, and trails to be groomed ASAP after snows, and the expansion of future trails this year again and to follow.
Join this fun operation!
As always, thanks for your support.
This was started and funded by RMS Bicycle shop in Spearfish and by people like you.
This season brings some additional trail added to the Big Hill system by connecting Iron Creek Trail Head in Spearfish Canyon to the Big Hill Trails. Adding another 5 miles and making Savoy a new place to ride to! There has also been some improvements to our equipment made to better compact our dry snow.
Keep in mind these groomed trails are the ideal place for snowshoeing, dogs and XC skiing. Please use them and your support is always welcome!
505 Main St
Spearfish, SD 57783
In conjunction with the Black Hills Nordic Ski Club under a Special Use Permit with the BHNF the trails have been groomed since Dec 15th and utilized by the community and its visitors.
The Big Hill area gets snow on average twice a week. After a snow of 3 inches or more it usually takes one night after the snow stops falling to be really firm for good fat biking. The Terry Peak snow report is another good place to go to see how much new snow has fallen at Big Hill as it is just across the canyon to the south east. Snowshoers are great for the trails and are welcome to bring their 4 legged friends.
Another project RMS is working on in tandem with the Black Hills Nordic ski club is a warming hut near the Big Hill Trail head. It will be transported in just befor ski season and transported out just after.
So until the snow flies keep the support coming and we will do our part.
Since we had positive support we went ahead and have all the stuff needed on order, will arrive before spook day. Spearfish Building Supply here in Spearfish is putting up the tracked ATV with blade to establish lines on side hills and for berm making. We will be contacting some of you for grooming class when the time comes. Jesse
Sweet. I'll be around if you need anything!
Great idea!! Is this under a special use permit? Will there be a Fatbike group organized? Will you want or need volunteers??