Skiing and snowshoeing is great … but wouldn’t you like to try a new activity this winter? Be tempted by the fat bike and ski hok, two sports that will even warm up the most cold-sensitive people.
By Frédérique Sauvée, outdoor activities contributor
Let’s start with the fat bike, also called the winter bike. Increasingly popular in alpine ski and outdoor centers, these bike frames with the big tires are the equivalent of mountain bikes, just a bit beefier. Made of carbon or aluminum, the frame is sturdy and resistant to extreme cold and the wheels are fitted with large knobby tires to more or less keep control on snow and ice. Before getting started, here some tips for the equipment: use a traditional bike helmet or a padded ski helmet if you want to be more comfortable, small gloves to avoid blisters on your hands while keeping them warm and wind proofed, technical clothing that is not too insulated. You are better off to start with light clothing, we guarantee you, that you’ll be warm very quickly!
Once you are on the trails, the idea is to have fun without taking yourself too seriously. The first few minutes, even the best cyclists will not be able to control their bikes. The pedaling sensation on the snow is very different than the one on dirt and requires more effort because the bike itself is heavier. Avoid steering the handlebars and keep it as straight as possible. Once the first few minutes have past and you have adjusted to the different feeling, you can start going faster. This is the key when riding on the fat bike. The more we keep a constant speed, the better we are able to control the bike. Of course, the turns are delicate, but all these bumps on the trail will give you an adrenaline rush. It is an amazing feeling to hear the tires crunching in the snow and feel the cheeks warm up.
Many outdoor destinations have designed beautiful trails for fat biking; sometimes they have to be shared with snowshoers. In any case, the best days to fat bike are the cold and sunny ones, when the snow is already pressed down.
The opposite is the case for ski hok: here you want powder and ungroomed territories! Derived from ski touring, it is a great compromise between snowshoeing and backcountry skiing. One straps on large enough short skis with integrated skins. These allow us to climb the trails without slipping backwards and descend the slopes in a controlled slide. Used since ancient times by the Nepalese shepherds, ski hok has emerged in recent years in the woods of Quebec. After a short introduction, one climbs up valleys (or the little hill in the back yard) and is having fun racing down the slopes covered in fresh snow. Once again, avoid wearing too much clothing, since going up and skiing down will heat up the body quickly. The free heel technique is used to control the turns and to brake without skidding. Several destinations in Quebec are perfect to try this activity; for example the “Station touristique Duchesnay” near Quebec City, where you can rent ski hok equipment on site. The same thing is true for the regional park “Massif du Sud” in the Chaudière-Appalaches region, the National park “Monts-Valin” in the Saguenay region and also in the Montmorency forest, near Quebec City. Have fun sliding!
Frédérique Sauvée is never far from her suitcase or her walking boots. She travels through North America, her adopted continent, from the borders of Alaska to New Orleans and this, of course, by passing through Quebec in search of destinations and inspiring stories.