Get Out! No powder to ski? Take your mountain bike to Moab
If you aren’t a skier, you might not understand how obsessed we become with snow.
Starting around the first of November (while we’re still out biking), we keep a careful eye on meteorologist Joel Gratz’s forecasts on OpenSnow.com. We think about past weather patterns and begin discussing what we’re “due” for as far as snow.
It just gets worse once the resorts open. Then we’re looking at powder forecasts every day to see what’s coming. Everything is hunky dory until the dreaded dry spell hits. Here’s a slightly dramatized scenario:
Week 1: Forecast calls for 12 inches of snow throughout the week. Wooo hooo! Powder day! Saturday will be awesome! We spend the weekend skiing our favorite runs and powder stashes at Powderhorn, playing in the trees and reveling in the wondrous fluffy pow.
Week 2: Forecast calls for three inches. Eh, there’s still enough from last week to have fun on the bump runs and in the trees. It’s all good. We spend the weekend on our favorite bumps, skiing the troughs of Mad Dog Glade and enjoying sunshine and beer on the deck.
Week 3: No snow is forecast. Well, at least it’s a nice sunny weekend. The groomers will be in great shape. Maybe Equalizer or Racer’s Edge will be groomed, too. We spend a weekend skiing groomers, dipping into the trees here and there and enjoying more beer and sunshine.
Week 4: An exact repeat of Week 3.
Week 5: Still. No. Snow. Whhhaaaaa! Why do the snow gods hate us? It’s never going to snow ever again! Stupid winter! What do we do? We go to Moab.
Moab is a great place to go in the winter, especially during a dry spell. Whether you like hiking at Arches or biking on one of the many trails there, you’ll find plenty of things to do in winter in eastern Utah. The final weekend in January, unable to take another weekend of sunny days and no snow at the ski resort, we packed up the bikes and turned the car west.
One of the best things about traveling to Moab in January is the hotel prices. You can find a good hotel room for around $40 per night this time of year. Some restaurants may have closed for the season, but you’ll find plenty of places to eat during your weekend stay.
Before we headed over, I called the Chile Pepper bike shop to get some information on which trails were suitable for riding. Just like our own trails, many of Moab’s were still muddy or snow-covered. Unlike us, Moab also has quite a few trails that are either all rock or a mix of rock and sandy jeep road. These are usually dried out and fine for riding in the winter. The guys at the bike shop mentioned Amasa Back and Captain Ahab, Slickrock, Poison Spider and a few others.
For our Saturday ride we chose Poison Spider. The trail head for this “extreme 4x4 road” is located down Utah Highway 279 (you’ll turn right off of Utah Highway 191 before getting into town).
Parts of Poison Spider really are just a jeep road — and a sandy one. That’s actually a blessing when you’re looking for a winter trail that isn’t muddy. The jeep road sections are interspersed with sections of technical rock riding. The trail ends at what can only be called a slickrock playground. Spend some time out here playing around on the rock before heading back. You’ll enjoy the return ride as you bomb down rock obstacles and switchbacks.
On Sunday we thought we’d ride the Slickrock trail, but there was still quite a bit of snow out there. Deciding that snow and ice on top of rock wasn’t for us, we took a chance and headed for Moab’s Brand Trails.
A few weeks earlier I attempted to ride here and found the jeep road out to the Bar M trail to be way too muddy. I was skeptical that we’d be able to ride here this time. Lucky for me, things had really dried out. The road out to the Bar M was dry, and that trail, along with the Circle O and Rockin’ A (both of which are rock trails), were in great shape.
We could see where folks had tried to ride other trails, like the Bar B; they had left plenty of nasty ruts in the trail. Still, it was a beautiful day, and there was no mud to be found. We enjoyed every moment of our ride, and I was very grateful for Moab’s dry trails.
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog piece for Singletracks.com about why you should take a break from biking in the winter. It was partly tongue-in-cheek and partly serious. We don’t often bike in the winter because we like to ski. That dry spell forced me to change my tune.
Though I ate my words while biking in Moab, I didn’t regret it a single bit. That bike trip was a great and much-needed getaway.
The next time you’re feeling trapped by muddy trails or a lack of snow, head west. Moab may be just what you need.