Third annual Aspen Fat Bike Race returns to Nordic Center on Saturday morning

If you go...

What: Aspen Fat Bike Race

When: Saturday, 9 a.m.

Where: Aspen Nordic Center

Cost: $20

How: Day-of registration onsite at 8 a.m.

Not many people have a passion for fat bikes like Aspen’s Erik Skarvan. The owner of Sun Dog Athletics, a local adventure sports school in the Roaring Fork Valley, Skarvan is always up for spreading the stoke of the growing sport.

“You feel like a kid on a bike again, and that’s really at the core of the fun of fat biking. It’s truly release-your-inner-child-type biking, because it’s so ridiculous,” Skarvan said. “That’s really at the heart of it, that childlike fun with fat biking that I really love to share. And this race will obviously be an example and an opportunity to experience that on Saturday.”

The niche winter sport will take center stage Saturday with the annual Aspen Fat Bike Race, put on by the Special Events department through the city of Aspen. Fat bikes, which have a wider tire that allows them to be ridden on snow and sand, have been found here in Aspen for a few decades, although they’ve only become somewhat mainstream over the past decade.

Various entities have held fat bike races here in Aspen over the years, but Saturday’s race at the Aspen Golf Course/Aspen Nordic Center is only in its third winter.

“From what I’ve experienced, it’s a tangible way to create the buzz and create the vibe. That’s a big part of the culture,” Brian Long, the trail system manager for the city of Aspen, said about hosting a fat bike race. “I try to keep my finger on the pulse of fat bike racing, and they are popping up all over.”

Skarvan, whose company offers fat bike tours in the winter, has competed in many of the local fat bike races, including in last year’s Aspen Fat Bike Race. It’s a different sort of race compared to a mountain bike race in the summer, as the pace is much slower and the spectating much more “comical,” Skarvan claims.

“You see some of the top riders in our area flipping over their bikes, and it’s just hilarious,” Skarvan said. “Even if you do a forward Superman fall, you are falling in snow and you just kind of get up and watch a bunch of guys pass you and you are frustrated, but you get up and you know they are probably going to crash in five minutes and you’ll pass them. It’s almost comedy-type of racing. Guys still take it seriously, but it’s a little more lighthearted and fun because it is such a ridiculous sport by its nature.”

Racing gets underway Saturday at 9 a.m. with the men’s and women’s open division, followed by the men’s and women’s recreational division at 10 a.m. The open division has riders complete as many laps as they can in 50 minutes, while the recreational division is limited to only 30 minutes.

Long said the course is similar to the past two years, but will feature more of a mix of wide and single track.

“The first year I had it just pretty narrow single track and then the second year I tried to use a wider groomer,” he said. “Now this year I’m doing a mix of those two, where there will be portions of the loop that are wider and portions that are narrow.”

Cost to race is $20, and that includes a race T-shirt and lunch from the Red Mountain Grill, which will host the post-race social. There is a $150 prize for the top male and female finisher in the open division.

Ute City Cycles in Aspen will also offer up free fat bikes to demo from 8:45 to 11:15 a.m. on Saturday at the course. Demo bikes can’t be used for racing, although race bikes are available for rent through the Aspen Nordic Center.

“This is a little more festive, it’s a little more fun-spirited,” Skarvan said. “The sport is still being discovered. It’s a perfect compliment to the powder sports.”

Pre-registration is available at Day-of registration will be available at the Aspen Nordic Center beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday.

Darron Cheek won the men’s open division last year, finishing eight laps in 50 minutes, while Colleen Farnum won the women’s open division, completing seven laps. Cheek also won the inaugural race in 2018, while Courtney Boyd took the women’s crown that year.

“It’s growing,” Long said of fat biking. “I think it was growing a little faster four years ago, but you still feel the growth and you see a lot of new people on the bikes. And there are so many places to ride in the winter that it’s an attractive thing to do here, and it’s only going to expand.”