Girdwood Bike Tour

Adam and I have started an annual tradition of forgoing big Christmas gifts for each other, and instead booking a long weekend at The Hotel Alyeska for relaxing staycation. Last year we brought skis (an outing that infamously resulted in this “Do’s and Don’ts for Adventure Couples” post), this year we brought fat bikes for a Girdwood Bike Tour.

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The Watchman, from Advocate Cycles. The bike that launched a thousand rides.

Before checking in, we boomeranged down to Portage Valley to bike the frozen lake. Check it out on my “On the Trails” page for more information and pictures! Once we were in Gird, it was hot tub > sushi > bed, in that order and almost as fast as you read it.

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Rolling into Winner Creek Gorge, in the Chugach National Forest
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“Urban” Riding in Girdwood
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The couple that plays together, stays together!

Girdwood has some seriously fun winter trails for Nordic skiing and fat biking (not to mention an entire downhill mountain). After a slow morning we set off in search of the elusive Chugach Powder Guides‘ trail to the CPG Powder Hut.

Related Reading: The Powder Hut is Sweet, But Don’t Tell Anyone (outside link)

The snow was deep, quick and we didn’t make it more than 30 minutes out on trail one before we dropped and turned back. Instead we off through the Chugach National Forest Winner Creek Trail, back to the Winner Creek Gorge and cat bridge. Bummer for us, the hand tram (see linked info) is closed in the winter – we couldn’t make it a long loop. We did the ~ 3 miles RT in an hour/hour and a half on firm, well-packed trails.

What’s the carrot on a stick after a long day’s riding?

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Beer, obvi! From the delightful Girdwood Brewing Co.

One of the best parts about living in Alaska is that every town is “your town”, and despite the geographic mass – you actually know someone everywhere you go. It’s just luck of the draw, and the draw is stronger when there’s beer involved. We hadn’t been at brewery long when two friends popped in, and then two more, and another two more, and eventually there were 10 familiar, friendly faces gathered up around the fire pit outside. It was a good way to end the day.

The skies were grey when we woke up the next morning and I’m a totally fair-weather skier, so it was day 3 on bikes. Which, in all honesty, was just as much of a struggle as skiing would have been – I was tired! We didn’t feel like doing Winner Creek again or driving further south on the highway, so we biked up Crow Creek Road instead.

Adam and I have biked the Crow Creek Road before (The Best Saturday Ever, back when we were training for our French bike tour) – we only did 3 miles RT (of what could have been closer to 9-10) and it still totally kicked my ass this time.

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Big mountains peeking out on us… Heading up, up, up!
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I make this look good (and slow). Looking toward Girdwood Valley and Turnagain Arm from Crow Creek Road
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From the Crow Pass Trailhead (winter parking lot)
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There he goes! Beginning the descent from Crow Pass Trail (between winter and summer lots)
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That’s my nervous smile. Too bad you can’t hear the sound of cold brakes through a picture! Shred it, I did not.

Post-ride it was off to Chair 5 for a classic Bloody Mary. Do you even come off the trail, if you don’t stop for a Bloody Mary after, man? I was so hungry I successfully devoured 1/2 of a deep dish Chair 5 House pizza, wrapping up a fantastic weekend and kicking off a detox.

Ladies Just Wanna Ride Fat Bikes

One might think that if you can ride one bike, you can ride them all. One also might think, if there’s snow on the ground, why be out on a bike at all?

By ‘one’, I mean me. I had these thoughts before and during The Bicycle Shop’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Fat Bike Ride”.

 

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Surprise! Miriam was there!

 

Fat bikes are newer to the market and the next BIG thing (at least, on my gear list). Super light frames come equipped with large tires that are perfect for going over curbs, slough, sand and snow. I’d never been on one before and always wanted to try, so a guided ride seemed like the perfect place to dip my toes in the water.

Over a foot of snow fell in Anchorage the day before the ride and conditions were perfect for fat biking (maybe too perfect…). The ride began through parking lots, giving us an introduction to fat tire power through semi deep powder piles and unplowed parking lots. It could have been my loaner’s bigger frame, maybe it was the powder, or maybe I’m just spastic… I had my first fall pretty quickly.

Down the Spenard hill we went to Chester Creek Trail. The hill had only been packed out by feet and the fat tire trail of Christa in the lead, so the ride down was squirrely and slow going. Between my 29′ mountain bike (with studs) and the fat bike, I felt the most difference and benefit when cutting through small piles of powder (think what a snow plow has pushed over, or the tire ruts on the road). The trails had so much powder probably the only difference was that the fat tires rolled at all. Eventually, my front tire got away from me and into some deep snow and I gracefully landed under the bike in the powder.

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Around the Lagoon and up the hill, we were back to the Bicycle Shop! Just in time… the seat and handlebars were starting to get uncomfortable. If I wasn’t interested in getting my own fat bike already, I really was after this ride just so I could personalize the size and features.

 

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Me, Miriam, Danielle and Christa

If it wasn’t enough that the shop gave us bikes and a guided ride, when we returned the staff had made us Glühwein and put our a ton of cheese and crackers. Thanks, Bicycle Shop!