Northern Michigan enters its first winter with the Winter Sports Singletrack, a newly developed trail system that came about this past summer. After months of talk, Traverse City's winter sports community came together to great not alternative, but a valuable and enjoyable option for skiers, fat bikers and everyone looking to make the most of the long, cold snowy months.
Heading into winter a year ago, the picture was murky. While DNR and Traverse Area Recreational Trails both allowed all non-motorized use of the Vasa 25km Pathways. The trail system, a hub for cyclists in spring, summer and fall months, and its grooming program, funded through donations and grants, has long been used almost exclusively by skiers since its construction more than two decades ago.
That exclusivity was as much by lack of option than by force of will. When fat bikes started to use the trail, some tension arose by the newcomer. While the fat bikers had every right to use the trail, TART and area bikers decided to restrict their use to Fridays. Fat Bike Fridays became a fixture in the area, with our own Friday Night Lights being born of that situation. Unequal access, different grooming donations, and self-imposed restrictions were never meant to last, and it wasn't long until a number of people began to meet and hammer out a solution.
Nothing was concrete until a late April meeting hosted by the Department of Natural Resources helped to form a committee that included members from groups like the Vasa Ski Club, Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association, and individuals dedicated to a long-term solution.
The plan was to increase attention on the existing Vasa Singletrack, with its trailhead off Supply Road. By using existing trail, work was much quicker, with teams of volunteers widening certain areas to allow for consistent grooming via snowmobile. Earlier attempts to groom and maintain the singletrack were frustrated by some regulations on motorized use. Folks would spend hours snowshoeing in the trail, only to have to start from scratch the next day after more snow fell. Even with permission to use a snowmobile, the tight turns and trees made it nearly impossible to groom sections even close to the parking lot.
After many meetings, talks and workbees, the trail finally culminated in a workable system that includes marked support from NNMBA, Einstein Cycles, Timber Ridge, the Vasa Ski Club, and perhaps most of all, Dave Mann. Mann alone has developed a half dozen groomers and donated a snowmobile to the grooming efforts. His time has put the committee in position to make the trail happen this winter.
To support those efforts, fat bikers and skiers are asked to purchase grooming badges. A badge for the 25km Pathways is $100, while a Winter Sports Singletrack specific badge is also $100. For access to both, trail users can purchase a combined badge for $165. All badges and further donations are handled by the stewards of the greater Vasa, TART. You can purchase or donate here.
All trail users are encouraged to respect the trail and limit their impact on snow conditions. Check grooming reports or with other users for ideal tire pressures, when to ride, and other important information to ensure the trail is pristine for everyone. TART has a great etiquette resource here. The guys at Ec are also a great resource to all things fat bike, so give us a call if you're unsure of the proper order of things in the snow.