17 February 2018 - Silver Lake Park - Salem, WI
“Dude, where's your sled? Want one? I've got an extra.”
Definitely not the question I was expecting to be asked at the start line of race. However, when it’s the Fat Abominable Snowbike Scramble, and beer and waffles have been flowing for (at least) 90 minutes before the start, it seemed more than appropriate. The only thing missing was an overcoat with a wide selection of shiny sleds handing on the inside a’la the stereotypical street watch salesperson … and it would have been perfect.
So what is the Fat Abominable Snowbike Scramble?
The FAT ASS, as it is affectionately known, is not to be missed. The event is an annual fundraiser for the Silver Lake Trail Club of SEWTA. SLTC is an IMBA Chapter and the non-profit responsible for the fantastic all-season trail network at Silver Lake Park. Really good people doing fantastic work to bring cycling to our communities. All of the donations received from the event go back into the trails. The beer, coffee, soda, waffles, raffle prizes, meticulous trail maintenance and grooming, - everything - are donations from sponsors and the community to give back to this trail network.
How does it work?
From the rally start down the sled hill (yes, on sleds if you brought one or were lucky enough to be gifted one) to 3 miles of perfectly groomed single track, the FAT ASS is exactly that, a fat bike scramble.
There are four ways to participate:
- If you want to bring a team and race the relay, there is an incredibly competitive wave of teams up front and 4x more teams there just having fun and making the most of their pit stops between laps.
- If you want to be on a team but don’t have one - or your friends stayed inside instead of playing in the snow with you - show up a bit early, participate in the rally, and get matched up with a brand new group of friends to relay. Even if you don’t have a fat bike, someone on the team will and you’ll be racing. Just bring a helmet!
- If you want to race by yourself, there is an incredibly competitive wave of individuals and, again, 4x-5x more people there just to have fun - also making the most of their pit stops between laps.
- If you just want to hang out w/ some really fun people, simply show up, make a donation you feel comfortable making and settle in to enjoy waffles, beer, the chili cookout/pot luck, warm up by roaring fire pits and cheer on the racers as they come through each lap.
No matter which path you select, a good time will definitely be had. Whether you’re racing for the coveted skull (relay race) or for beautifully etched pint glasses (solo racers), the emphasis is on fun across the board.
Over the course of 3 hours it’s simply a matter of how many laps can you turn v. the individuals or teams you’re racing against / having fun with.
Judging by the laughter (and Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight lyrics) roaring from the pavilion when I finished the solo race, there was no shortage of fun (or beer) to go around.
While the race, itself, is very laid back, the first mile or so of the opening lap is a bit tight. Everyone is figuring out just how solid the snow, where the ice patches are, and just how hard they can rail the single track while keeping the rubber side down. Once the field spaces out a bit, it really is about a third of the first lap, there are plenty of opportunities to ride by yourself. No matter how fast or not fast you’re going, you will be able to enjoy the beautifully cut and maintained trails while hearing the occasional woots and camaraderie from fellow racers echo through the forest.
This year’s course was just over 3 miles in length with just under 200’ of climbing per lap. Over the course of 7 laps this meant 21.75 miles and 1,356’ of climbing for me. That was good enough for 4th place in the solo category in this year.
There are ample passing opportunities and everyone is more than gracious in their willingness to let you pass. All you have to do is ask.
Next February, when you’re wondering what to do on a cold, snowy winter weekend, remember FAT ASS. You won’t be disappointed.