Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Fat Biking at Kananaskis Village with Kids

I had a dream. And yes, I have many dreams. This particular dream was a bit challenging though in that we didn't have the gear required to make it happen, and I wasn't sure how to get the necessary equipment.

How do you go fat biking if you don't have a fat bike?

The dream was to visit Troll Falls in Kananaskis this winter - on fat bikes. As a family. The challenge  however was that we don't own our own fat bikes, and hardly anybody rents youth fat bikes. Seriously, as of last winter, nobody was renting youth sized fat bikes in all of Calgary, Kananaskis, Canmore or Banff. (And I don't know too many people willing to lend theirs out for a day, though I suppose I never asked either.)

Enter Nomad Mobile Gear Rentals in Calgary for the win, and the problem solving solution! Nomad Gear rentals just purchased one 24" youth fat bike to add to their collection of rental bikes this winter, and they even deliver to your doorstep in Calgary!

Our fancy rental fat bikes, courtesy of Nomad Mobile Gear Rentals, Calgary


Renting Fat Bikes From Nomad Mobile Gear Rentals 


Nomad Mobile Gear Rentals delivers all of the equipment you could ever need for outdoor fun this winter, right to your door step. Heading out to go skiing, biking, or snowshoeing Saturday morning? No problem because they'll deliver the equipment Friday night at a time that is convenient for you. Then they'll come by your house again to pick up the gear Saturday night or Sunday morning, again at a mutually convenient time.

Sounds easy? Well it is. Just go to their website, choose the gear that you want to rent, put your order in online (without ever having to call anybody,) and everything is organized right from your computer. I received a few texts and calls to my cell phone as well as we chose times for drop off and pick up.

I found that renting from Mobile Gear Rentals was WAY easier than renting from one of the other stores in Calgary. I did not have to go downtown Friday during rush hour traffic to pick up the bikes, and my husband didn't have to figure out a way to get them on his way home from work. It was all so easy with the bikes showing up right at my house.

My beauty of a bike

And then I appreciated that we didn't have to rush home to ensure that we got the bikes back to a rental shop before closing hours Saturday (we've all been there, right?!)

Follow this link for a full list of winter gear rentals that you can get from Nomad Mobile Gear Rentals.

The only "challenge" still remaining is that Nomad Mobile Gear Rentals currently only has one youth fat bike, and it is a 24" bike. They don't have any 20" bikes (which is what my son needed last year,) and families wouldn't be able to order multiple bikes for each child in the family. It works if you only have one child though, or only have one kid who wants to try fat biking.

Other than that, a challenge for some folks would be that you'll need to be able to transport the bikes out to the trails in your own vehicle. (and these bikes are big!) Thank goodness we have a truck, so we could easily fit three bikes in the back of the truck for our drive out to the mountains.

Rental gear that will get you outside this winter


Fat Biking at Kananaskis Village 


We chose to go to Kananaskis Village to try fat biking as a family, because I know a couple of the groomed trails there are open to both cross country skiing and fat biking. And if you've ever tried fat biking, it's way easier on a groomed trail!!

We tried two different trails and discovered a few things about fat biking with kids in the process. (the day got better as we went on, and I'll put some general tips at the end of this story.)


You can't beat the scenery around Kananaskis Village


Fat Biking the Bill Milne Trail from the Kovach Day Use Area


The Bill Milne Trail is 9.7 km one way and there a variety of short sections that you can ski or bike. We first chose to bike from the Kovach Day Use Area towards the Golf Course, but didn't make it very far. We maybe biked a kilometre at the most before we had to turn around.

The trail was perfectly groomed, and had no tracks on it yet for skiing, so was ideal for fat biking. It was soft however (not that we were sinking in, but you could feel the resistance as you tried to pedal.) It was also slightly uphill (which on a fat bike, means "very" uphill.) 

I heard a joke the other day about how the trail is always uphill both ways when fat biking, and that was true for Bill Milne. We biked out (uphill,) and turned around to bike "what felt uphill" again. Somebody tell me how that works?!

Disclaimer: The AB Parks website has been updated to mention that the intended reason for fat biking on this trail is for accessing the Troll Falls Trail from Kananaskis Village. (Something I just discovered.) AB Parks does not actually "support" biking beyond the Kovach Day Use Area junction towards Wedge Pond.

If you want to bike this trail, I'd suggest stopping by a Visitor Centre, or waiting until it is not track set for skiing (which it was not when we rode it)

Early season riding on the Bill Milne Trail, Kananaskis Village


Fat Biking the Bill Milne Trail from Kananaskis Village


I realized that if we were going to have any success, we needed a lot more downhill riding on our bikes, and this was the steepest trail I could think of in the area, where we could ride it one way (mostly all downhill.)

We drove up to the Village, had lunch inside the Delta Lodge, and then we biked DOWN to Ribbon Creek, in what was a gloriously fun ride. My husband grabbed a coffee and then drove down to meet us (sacrificing his ride to keep the boy happy.) 

This was a lot of fun and honestly, we could have just done laps of this trail all day, and called it a success. And this way both of us adults could have taken turns too. And bonus, this section of the Bill Milne Trail is only 2.5 km in distance one way to the junction with the Kovach Day Use Area (where my husband met us with the truck.)

This trail is also an official multi-use trail for fat biking and cross country skiing.

Downhill biking on the Bill Milne Trail from Kananaskis Village

Fat Biking the Troll Falls Trail from the Stoney Trailhead 


The Troll Falls Trail is approximately 3 km round trip and is another shared trail with cross country skiers, hikers, and fat bikers. We initially dismissed this trail for our day's ride because it wasn't groomed, and looked pretty rough. Turns out it was sufficiently hard packed from foot traffic, and quite easy on a bike. We enjoyed it much more than the initial ride on the Bill Milne Trail.

There are definitely a few steep hills on this trail, but just as you would with summer riding, hop off and walk anytime you can't make it up a hill. And nothing was challenging on the way down.

Biking down from Troll Falls on the easy wide trail

Unfortunately because we saved this ride for last, we were getting crunched for time, and so skipped seeing the actual falls. We did bike a nice loop though (following the power line on our way out, and returning on the official Troll Falls trail)

We returned a week later on foot to see the falls and now I'm convinced that we need to rent bikes again, and return later in the season (when the trail is groomed) so that we can bike the Hay Meadows/Troll Falls loop, and bike right up to the falls!

Spectacular Troll Falls, fully accessible by fat bike, skis, or on foot

A Few Tips for Family Fat Biking



We've tried fat biking 4 times now as a family, and have learned a few things along the way.


  • Choose a warm day! It's just not as much fun when it's -30. And, yes, it was close to that temperature the day we chose to go biking at Kananaskis Village.

  • Don't worry about proper clothing, shoes, and gloves. Just wear your normal winter outerwear. We wear our normal winter boots, the same ones we'd wear for hiking or snowshoeing, we wear our normal winter mitts or gloves, the same ones we'd wear for skiing, and we even used our downhill ski helmets and goggles. My son wears light ski pants, and I chose to double layer with two pairs of fleece pants. (thinner and less bulky than my ski pants)

  • Start off on groomed trails. Troll Falls is a great beginner trail when it's been groomed (or when it's been sufficiently packed down.)

  • Take the distance your child can bike in the summer and divide by 4. My son can easily bike 20 km in summer, but can only do around 5 km on a fat bike.

  • Start with the easiest trail you can find. My son was riding the Troll Falls Trail on a balance bike at the age of 3! That made for a perfect fat bike trail.


Following a maintenance road from the Stoney Trailhead towards Troll Falls

Resources and Recommended Reading 


My long term goal is to write a family guide to fat biking in Kananaskis, but we have a few more trails to ride first.

In the meantime, here is a great resource for those of you wanting to get out and explore local trails with the kids:  Fat Biking in Kananaskis Country - Alberta Parks 

Fat biking is a great way to stay active through the winter season


Thanks to Nomad Mobile Gear Rentals for providing us with rental bikes for a day. It won't be the last time that we use your services. 



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