The Yukon enjoys a growing reputation as a world-class mecca for mountain bikers who come to sample the incredible single-track trails around Whitehorse and Carcross.
In the past, the biking season usually ended when the first snow of winter fell, but not anymore – now cyclists simply switch to “big bikes” to ride the snowy trails. And a travel agency in the Yukon is hoping to capitalize on it.
Big bikes are similar to mountain bikes, but with oversized tires to make it easier to move on soft surfaces such as snow and sand.
This winter, for the first time ever, Skookum Backcountry Adventures uses fat bikes to take adventurous tourists on a multi-day excursion, through pristine and remote parts of the land.
“It’s a huge thing now, the fat bike,” said James Minifie, owner / operator of the company. “I have yet to find a fat bike guided by a multi-day expedition. There is stuff in Norway and a little bit in Iceland, but nothing like it.”
Minifie’s past goal has been to guide skiers through the backcountry of the Yukon. He turns to fat bikes with the help of guide Derek Crowe, who competed in the Arctic Ultra race on a fat bike.
Minifie says he and Crowe hiked part of the trail a few years ago.
“I was so blown away by the scenery and the experience that I decided it could be a great trip,” said Minifie.
A hot tent and a hot meal
In March, the two will drive five people along part of the Yukon Quest dog sled course. They will start on March 9 just outside Carmacks and end three days and about 200 kilometers later in Takhini Hot Springs (about 20 kilometers outside of Whitehorse) – a great place to thaw out and rest tired muscles.
“The speed at which you can go depends in a way on the quality of the track. We leave about three weeks after the [Yukon] Quest, so we’ll probably have some handling issues, but I have a groomer and we have snowmobile support. So the plan is to make the trail completely passable again, ”said Minifie.
Temperatures in early March in the Yukon can fluctuate wildly, with the mercury easily dropping to -30 ° C at night. Mais Minifie will provide riders with a hot tent and a hot meal at the end of each day’s ride.
“I have these pretty, chic tents – ‘Arctic Oven’ tents, we call them – and they’re wood-fired or diesel-fired and they’re hot enough. So we set them up. And we have a team going forward. on snowmobiles and set up camp, and all food is taken care of.
“The idea is that you don’t have to carry a bunch of stuff if you’re a customer. You can have a light bike, and all of your stuff is carried for you, and you really just have to carry your survival gear for the day. “
Minify says guests can relax, too, knowing they’ll be safe in the backcountry, although he adds that this year is geared “toward more experienced customers, who knows what they’re getting into” .
Spread the word
Minifie says that so far most of his marketing has been done via social media, but he also attended the Banff Mountain Film Festival this year with Kelly Milner, who made an award-winning film about the bike trails of Yukon mountain.
“They have a trade fair that goes with the festival, so I packed all my stuff and went there,” Minifie said. “I had a big bike on display there, and the entire nine meters.
“It really paid off because the group coming this year is made up of Calgarians and Edmontonians who signed up.”
He also advertised on a European website for fat bike enthusiasts and says he now has two tours already booked for 2018.
“There really isn’t much like it, even in the world,” he said.