By Estela Villaseñor Explorebigsky.com Contributor

ISLAND PARK – Down the road from West Yellowstone, scenic Island Park, Idaho hosted the second annual Fat Bike Winter Summit and Festival Jan. 26-27.

Coinciding with the first big snowfall of 2013, the rendezvous attracted fat bike visitors from eight states. The group of 60 attendees, some with young families, helped fill a number of nearby lodges to capacity – including the Sawtelle Mountain Resort, headquarters for the summit.

Fat bikers, the new kids on the block, frequented local businesses and swapped stories with snowmobilers and nordic skiers.

The atmosphere throughout the three-day summit was one of fun and camaraderie with clinics, guided rides, demos, a 25K race and evening festivities. Fat bike enthusiasts mingled with land access and bike advocacy organizations, industry leaders and retailers, state and federal public land administrators, a private nordic ski area executive from Grand Targhee Resort, the local chamber of commerce, and representatives from national and state legislators’ offices.

Fat bikes are gaining traction across the West, according to Scott Fitzgerald, owner of Fitzgerald Bicycles in Victor, Idaho, and the event’s co-host and organizer.

“These bicycles are flying out of shops,” Fitzgerald said. “It is appealing to all age groups with varying bicycle skills. They are fun and easy to ride.”

Public land managers from Idaho Parks and Recreation, Yellowstone National Park, Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service participated in roundtable discussions on land access, public education and shared-use issues. Representatives from International Mountain Bicycling Association, Missoula-based Adventure Cycling and Wyoming Pathways were on hand to talk advocacy efforts and gather information.

The highlight of the weekend, aside from exploring winter trails on fat bikes, was a spectacular slideshow of a winter fat bike expedition into the remote Alaskan wilderness by champion fat bike endurance riders Jay and Tracey Petervary.

What is a fat bike?
Fat bikes and mountain bikes share basic features and similar frame construct, but fat bikes have a wider, non-suspension fork system designed to receive the wheel axle for much wider tires. At 3.7-4.7 inches wide, they allow more surface-to-ground contact and a smoother ride over sand, silt, rock, or ice, and snow.