10 Reasons to Start Fatbiking in Stowe

February 14, 2024


Guest authored by Ranch Camp, Stowe’s full-service mountain bike shop, fast-casual eatery and tap room.

Fatbiking is baked into our DNA here at Ranch Camp, and since ~2010, we’ve been on a mission to bring fatbiking to the masses through events, reviews and impromptu fatbike parties. For a lot of riders, winter is a time to take a break from the bike, reset and focus on non-bike activities, but here in Vermont, it’s always bike season. Fatbiking is much like mountain biking, but on a bicycle with wide tires made to easily pedal across snow. The Stowe area offers a wide range of terrain that caters to all levels and abilities. We’re of the opinion that riding in the winter should be high atop your list of priorities for the winter. So we’re here to provide you with a comprehensive list of reasons why now is the time to give fatbiking a try.

1. Fatbiking is the perfect complement to skiing and snowboarding.

Fatbiking and snow sliding are not mutually exclusive. The reality is, when the ski conditions are not ideal, the fatbike conditions are generally really good; loud, icy ski trails equate to smooth and fast singletrack…the perfect conditions for fatbiking.  

2. You probably have most of what you need already.

Fatbiking doesn’t require a bunch of highly specialized gear; a beanie under your summer helmet, maybe an old set of ski pants, and you’re ready to roll. Wanna get kitted? There’s a ton of super cool gear specific to fatbiking, but you can comfortably break into fatbiking with what you’ve already got in your winter gear closet. 

3. Fatbikes are good for more than just fatbiking.

Fatbikes have developed over the past few years, finding a nice balance between capable climbing and confident descending. As a result, fatbikes have evolved into all-terrain, four-season bikes for a lot of riders. With the addition of a set of 29+ wheels and tires (i.e. wheels and tires that measure 29” in diameter and ~3” wide), fatbikes make great bikepacking rigs. Many fatbikes come with all of the braze-ons and mounts needed for affixing bags. Headed to the beach this summer? Air those tires down and take advantage of miles of uninterrupted coast for an epic ocean-front ride.


4. Now available in pedal-assist.

Fatbiking can be challenging when conditions aren’t perfect and for many people, that’s a dealbreaker. However, electric bikes like the Norco Bigfoot VLT are readily available and provide the boost that many of us need to make fatbiking that much more accessible. Pedal-assist fatbiking is virtually guaranteed to put a smile on your face, regardless of conditions. 

5. Fatbikes are easy and more affordable than you think.

For many of us, the reluctance to buy a fatbike is just a simple dollars and cents issue. Thankfully, modern fatbikes are more affordable and of higher quality than ever. A fully rigid fatbike, which is all the bike many of us will ever need, will run you between $1000 and $1500. Even with the addition of a dropper post and studded tires, you’re still likely spending less than $2k. Fatbikes are also refreshingly simple by comparison to a full suspension mountain bike. Without all of the pivots, bearings, seals, dust wipers, and air cans, fatbikes literally and figuratively have fewer moving parts. Sure, they still need some love like any other bike, but assuming you’re riding in decent conditions (i.e. snow, not mud), drivetrains are just less subject to wear than riding in summer dust and the components, when cared for, will treat you to many years of happy fat-tire shredding.

6. What’s old becomes new again.

If you want to see your local trail network in a whole new light, saddle up your fatbike. One of the things we love about fatbiking is that it forces us to slow down and see things we might otherwise miss during a summer ride. For example, Stowe’s Cady Hill Forest is quite literally out our backdoor here at Ranch Camp. We ride the trails almost daily during the summer, but come winter, these uber-familiar trails take on a whole new aesthetic. Winter riding affords long line of sight, mandates slower speeds and by default, yields more time to relish in our surroundings. We guarantee you’ll see something you’ve never seen on your local trails from aboard your fatbike.


7. Build those bike handling skills.

Fatbiking is as different from mountain biking as nordic skiing is from downhill skiing, but that’s a good thing. Sure there’s some overlap, but at the end of the day, these two styles of bikes behave VERY differently. Spending time on a bike with 5” wide tires, pedaling through snow and ice, invariably leads to a sharpening of skills and a feeling of increased confidence when you get back on the MTB come spring. 

8. Night riding during the winter is utterly sublime.

We all know night-riding is a super fun way to cap off the summer riding season when the days get short and temps get cold. However, when the snow starts falling, that’s when night riding is at its best. Modern bike lights pack a ton of lumens and won’t break the bank. With a few riders in a line casting a few thousand lumens on some freshly fallen snow, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better way to spend your evenings this winter. 

9. We’re in the golden age of grooming.

Thanks to the advent of a handy little product called the Snow Dog, fatbike trail grooming is better than ever. Pair that with increased support from municipalities, nordic ski areas, and many of the mountain biking associations across New England, fatbiking opportunities have never been greater. If your local trail network is not yet grooming, this is a great time to get involved. Check out Vermont Mountain Bike Association’s trail conditions page to stay up to date with winter trail statuses.

10. Last but certainly not least: it’s wicked fun!

While cycling, despite its reputation for being a free-spirited endeavor, has maintained an undertone of seriousness and competitiveness, fatbiking is the complete opposite. Nobody’s taking themselves too seriously when they are on something called a “fatbike,” which makes it the perfect activity for newcomers. Fatbiking events are the perfect setting to introduce yourself to this fun-loving community.

The list could go on and on, but that’s 10 good reasons to give fatbiking a try next time you’re in the Stowe area. Not ready to take the plunge? That’s okay. Give Ranch Camp a call (802) 253-2753 to line up a demo, take one for a spin, or learn more about upcoming fatbiking events.

Images courtesy of Ranch Camp.