Shredding through the snow

An introduction to fat-tire biking

'Tis the season for floating snowflakes, warm hot chocolate, new boots, wool socks and thrilling outdoor activities like skiing, snowmobiling, and—biking?

Oh yeah, you can mountain bike along snow-covered trails.

“The views, atmosphere and backcountry [you see while fat-tire biking] is amazing,” said Ken Long, co-owner of Tahoe Mountain Guides. “It’s also athletic and fun.”

Tahoe Mountain Guides, which celebrated its sixth season this fall, is one of several local businesses that rents fat-tire bikes that are perfect for trekking through the fluffy white stuff. And staff members can take customers on guided tours through Lake Tahoe and Truckee’s backcountry so they can learn properly—making the most of their fat-tire biking experience.

So what allows you to bike through terrain you wouldn’t normally? Wider, oversized and softer tires allow you to ride through snow or sand. The tires are more flexible and are often filled to a lower pressure to handle the rough surface.

A couple of things you should know before putting the pedal to the metal:

The best conditions include plenty of firm and packed snow. Slushy snow or any sort of ice is extremely difficult to pedal through. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be a lot of snow—but it does have to be the right snow,” Long said.

Book a tour or know exactly where you’re going to avoid getting lost and ensure a pleasant trek. Tahoe Mountain Guides hosts fat-tire biking tours at Martis Camp so guests can venture through the property, as well as different areas around Truckee. It’s easiest to bike anywhere snowmobiles have gone through or in areas that have been groomed.

When booking a private tour, Long encourages people to come in groups six or more. Tours can range from about an hour to an hour and a half, but Long says they go as far as their guests require.

Wear Nordic ski apparel and something you can move in. Remember how the brother in A Christmas Story can’t put his arms down because he has too many layers of clothing on? Don’t do that.

The Sierra Nevada offers exceptional access to seasonal outdoor activities. Fat-tire biking can be either a great alternative to or addition to skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing.

“We teach everyone,” Long said. “If you can ride a bike, you’re in.”

The Lake Tahoe area has several rental and tour companies to help newbies with fat-biking excursions. Here’s a roundup of several local companies and their offerings. Ask your guide or rental company about the best seasonal trail locations.

Sierra Ski & Cycle Works, 530-541-7505

3430 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, California

Sales, rentals and repairs

South Shore Bikes, 530-544-7433

871 Emerald Bay Road, South Lake Tahoe, California

Sales, rentals and repairs

Tahoe Mountain Guides, 530-686-5895

10095 W. River St., Truckee, California

Rentals and tours—$90 per person, includes snacks, bike rental and tour