During the winter of 2013/14 a group of SW Montana fatbikers became aware that the local U.S. Forest Service district had written a special order banning bicycles from the network of ski and snowmobile trails in the Gallatin National Forest. These trails are open to skiers and snowmobilers and we felt that there was little to no reason they shouldn’t also be open to bikes – particularly with the absolute onslaught of fatbikes now hitting the market. The special order was more than likely put into place as a means of putting bikes on hold while the USFS had time to “think things through” but it was in our opinion a bit shortsighted considering numerous other Forests and forest managers throughout the nation were dealing with bikes in a very positive and successful way.
A group of us set about lobbying our local district and the team of FS employees were very easy to work with, were accommodating, and did an excellent job of balancing all forest user’s needs in the process. Although it took more than a year to make things happen, during the summer of 2015 the special order was rescinded and fatbikes were written into the travel plan as being allowed on the more than 400 miles of marked snowmobile trails in the Forest. Although ski-specific trails remain off limits we are considering partnering with local ski clubs to gauge interest/dislike for consideration for access to these in the future.
A friend was visiting from Seattle and we borrowed a fatty for him and we headed South to a long, groomed creek corridor and laid down eight miles of pedaling among trees heavy with snow, a creek slowly becoming choked with ice, and a sunny, warm sky overhead. It’s amazing what four to five inches of rubber running low pressure can allow you to pedal through.