Snowshoers and fat-bikers rejoice this winter

The main event in the Northland Fat Bike Rally begins with a mass start on Lake Bemidji and then heads into Lake Bemidji State Park. (exploreminnesota.com)

The beauty of snowshoeing is you don’t need groomed trails to ‘shoe in what has become a snowy winter of record proportions in parts of the North Country. In fact, breaking your own trail in knee-high snow is half the fun. And all the better if you’re in it for the exercise.

Fat-tire biking isn’t quite as off-the-beaten-path, and this winter, fat bikes won’t take you where snowshoes can. While two feet of fresh powder is snowshoeing nirvana, that doesn’t bode well for fat-bikers. Still, depending on the depth and type of snow, fat bikes, like snowshoes, can offer a unique winter experience. And the bikes shine in icy conditions, too.

Recent winters haven’t afforded great conditions for either activity, however: A host of events surrounding both have been cancelled or at the very least modified due to poor conditions (mostly too little snow or too much ice) the last few winters.

The Northland Fat Bike Rally, held annually at Lake Bemidji and Lake Bemidji State Park, has become more popular each year. And while the fifth annual event, originally scheduled Saturday, March 2, was canceled, it had nothing to do with snow condition, which are stellar at the park, ideal for fat-biking. Rather, forecasted cold weather and dangerous windchills forced the cancellation. This year’s event will not be rescheduled. For more information, contact the park at 218-308-2300, or visit the Bemidji Area Mountain Bikers Facebook page. For more information about fat-bike opportunities at Minnesota state parks and trails, visit mndnr.gov/fatbike.

Minnesota state parks have hosted numerous outings for snowshoers, hikers and cross-country skiers – depending on conditions – as well, with candlelight events becoming especially popular. Several still remain yet this winter, including a ski/snowshoe/hike Saturday, Feb. 23 at Maplewood State Park near Pelican Rapids (6-8:30 p.m.); a skiing outing that same day at Glendalough State Park near Battle Lake (6:30-9 p.m.); and a ski/snowshoe at Zippel Bay State Park on Lake of the Woods near Baudette and Williams on March 2 (5-8 p.m.).

Numerous other snowshoe-related events (skiing and hiking, too) are scheduled yet this winter. For a list, click here. But as was the case with snowhoeing events when snow was lacking in past years, call ahead regarding hiking and cross-country skiing events this winter – unless trails are groomed, there might be too much snow for either activity.

Snowshoeing events abound in Wisconsin, too, yet this winter. (Wisconsin DNR)

Across the border in neighboring Wisconsin, the DNR there also has several snowshoeing events remaining, headlined by a winter wildlife snowshoe Saturday, Feb. 23 at Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area. The free event is open to all ages and skill levels; pre-registration is required. Snowshoes will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis and attendees also are welcome to bring their own.

The snowshoe/search for winter wildlife will begin at the Crex Meadows Visitor Center at 9:30 a.m. and conclude by 11 a.m. For more information and to register, contact Lauren Finch, DNR natural resources educator, at 715-463-2739. Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area is located at 102 East Crex Ave., Grantsburg, Wis.

Wildlife conservation education programs are supported by the Friends of Crex. Participants are asked to report their Crex wildlife observations via email to information@crexmeadows.org.

For a list of similar outdoors activities, click here. And note that, because of severe winter weather forecasted in parts of Wisconsin for Feb. 23, some events have been either cancelled or postponed.

Yup, it’s been that kind of winter.

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