Michigan Tech Says ‘Ya’ to Snow Bikes

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is tough country. The winters are long, cold and over 200-inches of snow can fall in a year. Not only are the winters long, but the days are short at a mere eight hours. The area was heavily settled by immigrants from Nordic countries so it is no surprise that residents of the Upper Peninsula (Yoopers) have a great affection for winter sports. The website is reporting that Michigan Tech is opening certain Nordic trails to snow bikes, those bikes that have tires wider than 3.5-inches and tire pressures of less than 10 psi.

Most people wouldn‘t think that snow trails are designed for certain activities. In theory if the trails get chewed up, more snow will fall or the snow will melt, but that is not always the case. Recently we tried to ride a few multi-use trails in Colorado that had eight inches of snow accumulation. This would not have been a problem except that the snow was a few days old and the trail had both been hiked and skied. Then the snow turned crusty. At best, we made it ¼-mile before having to put a foot down due to being thrown off-trail by a ski rut or boot craters. If was not too enjoyable.

Designating certain Nordic trails for bikes, skis, snowshoeing or all three will allow a more enjoyable use of the trails. Plus it is demonstrating that snow or fat bikes may not be a fad. At this point, permitting snow bikes on the trails is just an experiment by Michigan Tech and the number of trails are limited to 14 kilometers for the 2011/12 season. Depending on how well all of the trail users get along and the condition that it leaves the trails will determine if bikes will be allowed on the trails in the future.

It should be noted that these trails are not free to ride. A pass through Michigan Tech needs to be purchased before hitting the trails. Michigan Tech has some guidelines that also need to be followed:

- Purpose built snow bikes only! Tires must be wider than 3.5″ and tire pressure must be less than 10 psi, no exceptions! Don’t ride any old mountain bike out there.
– Stay out of the classic ski tracks.
– Bikes yield to all other users. Skiers don’t have brakes, so bikes are responsible for staying out of their way. And watch skiers’ poles. They can be fragile and expensive and unpredictable – the skiers too.
– Be a good trail citizen. If the conditions cause you to leave ruts that will impede skiing, leave the trail – don’t just keep riding because the rules say you can. Spread the word about snow biking, make it fun, keep it safe.
– Be an ambassador for the sport – stay polite, educate other bikers, discourage bad behavior, follow the rules, and we’ll all have a good time this winter.
– Buy a pass. All trail users must purchase a day or season pass.

Trails open to snow bikes are listed below. Snowshoe trails not listed below are off limits. The complete list:
– Isle Royale (20′ wide tilled)
– Superior (20′ wide tilled)
– Hairy Toad Loop west of Isle Royale Loop (ungroomed single track)
– Husky Trail (connects Isle Royale to Tolkien Trails, 8′ wide packed and tracked)
– Tolkien Trails (across Pilgrim Road, 8′ wide packed and tracked)
– Dragon Trail (across Pilgrim Road, ungroomed single track)
– Lookout Loop (Nara Animal Shelter trail, 8′ wide packed)
– River Trail (Nara Animal Shelter trail, 8′ wide packed)

Depending on the success of the Michigan Tech experiment, other Nordic ski centers around the country may see the snow bike as a way to diversify their customer base. This makes us wonder if the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) needs to have a separate winter Rules of the Trail.

Michigan Tech Official Website to Buy a Trail Pass

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