Crossing the Grenchenberg.
Crossing the Grenchenberg.

An Icy Fat-Bike Weekend

February has been a disappointing cycling month so far. Temperatures shot through the roof and it rained a lot. The wonderful snow disappeared at lower elevations and suffered greatly up higher. Thankfully, the mercury dropped last Friday to make Saturday the coldest day of the winter, yet. For the first time this winter I pulled my warm Smith Vantage helmet out of the armoire and strapped on my ski/fat-bike goggles. Thicker gloves were pulled out of the drawer and I put on a thicker long sleeve jersey under my winter jacket. Despite riding at temperatures of around -16°C, I felt very comfortable on Saturday's 4 1/2 hour fat-bike ride.

On Sunday, the mercury had climbed up again. While it stayed below zero, the Vantage helmet, the goggles, and thick gloves stayed at home this time.  I did the same loop as the day before with an extension to Plagne right at the start of the ride. And what an extension it was. Near the small hilltop village of Romont, I turned into a trail that was completely frozen for almost a mile. The rains and snowmelt created a large water reservoir at the end of the trail, and the trail had turned into a downright creek. When the temperatures dropped far below zero, that creek froze over entirely. I rode across it with my studded tires with a huge grin on my face.

By pure chance, I discovered a trail from the Stierenberg to the Grenchenberg that had been used by snowmobiles, and on Sunday observed multiple snowmobilers racing across the hills, which by the way is illegal in this country. I guess no one complains and no one checks because you can't hide snowmobile tracks crisscrossing the open hillsides in every direction. My feelings about that are somewhat mixed. As a fat-biker in a country where you just have to ride whatever is rideable in the winter, snowmobile tracks are super useful to travel through the winter world. On the other hand, these things burn fuel and with their speed and noise are problematic for the wildlife that needs to make it through the winter. There are ways to use them responsibly, but what I watched Sunday was anything but responsible.