Duluth is the new epicenter of getting rad in the upper Midwest, and the upper Midwest is the epicenter of progressive fatbike use. So naturally, the first downhill/enduro specifically for fatbikes took place at the city-owned Spirit Mountain, side by side on the ski hill with the regular crowd of knee droppers and knuckle draggers.
Put on by the OG of the Lake Superior Enduro Series, Dave Cizmas, the race was three stages on Candyland, Calculated Risk and a combination of other trails for stage 3.
Starting out, we ripped down the 40+ berms of Candyland, all groomed very well, so the stage was full of high speeds and riding high berms. The starting line was full of discussion of tire pressure questions and “whoa, you got a Bluto…. Lucky!” discussion, but the trail was full of shredding, and the half-mile sprint out to the finish line after the downhill had heart rates cranked up.
Stage 2 was on the expert level “Calculated Risk”, which is hard enough in the summer time, but was insane when covered with soft sugary snow and high-speed corduroy groomed ski slopes. Almost as a prerequisite to finishing the stage, everyone crashed about 6 times on the way down, but caught some rad airtime in the process. I managed to go down on my knee early on, which hurt, but not too bad. Unfortunately, it found a rock underneath the snow, and tore it wide open, requiring 18 stitches. I didn’t know that, so I finished the stage, only to have a friend ask my why my pants were bloody at the bottom. I guess carnage can happen in the winter too!
I never rode stage 3 since I was busy with the Xylocain and fishing line, but I was told it was big and fast. A few timing snafus expected of a first year event kept the last finishers flying down in the dark, but the larger-than-expected crowd of riders all agreed it was a great way to put on the first lift-assisted fat bike enduro.
I think this event is just a glimpse into what winter fat biking can become once we have the right equipment and the large masses of people looking for a good reason to show off their 100mm rims.
Hopefully lift assisted fat bike races pick up, and if they do, invest in some knee pads.