Snow biking or Nordic skiing? Pick your path thanks to Marquette’s trail grooming ‘passion’

Snow biking or Nordic skiing? Pick your path thanks to Marquette’s trail grooming ‘passion’

Travel Marquette

It snows a lot in Marquette. Like, upwards of 200 inches a year! You might even say that Marquette makes snow better than anywhere else in the country.

Yet, what really makes this part of Michigan special is the way the community makes all that powder perfect for outdoor enthusiasts.

Take fat tire biking, for example. There are more than 60 miles of single-track snow bike trails in Marquette County faithfully groomed by volunteers from the Range Area Mountain Bike Association (RAMBA) and the Noquemanon Trail Network (NTN).

“There’s a passion for it here,” said Todd Poquette, director of adventure for the 906 Adventure Team, which runs the annual Polar Roll fat bike race. “The quality of the trails is, bar none, head and shoulders above other areas. The quality, and the number of miles.

“You can come here and ride your fat bike in the winter all weekend and not ride the same trail twice.”

RELATED: See how Marquette “Whack Jobs” continue to pioneer trail grooming for snow bikes

people making snow angels next to bicycle

Marquette County has become known as the fat biking capital of the Lower 48 states because of its extensive network of groomed snow bike trails and events such as the Polar Roll, which is taking on a different format during the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is not a virtual event and it’s not a time trial,” said Todd Poquette, race director. “This is an adventure. This is ‘Either you finished, or you didn’t.’”

Whether you’re new to fat biking or a seasoned veteran, you’ll find single-track trails in Marquette County to match your skill level. For experienced riders, there’s the epic 25-mile snow bike route featured in the movie “Cold Rolled.” For beginner fat bikers, the NTN North Trails in Marquette offers a dozen inviting miles of groomed single-track, and there are several more miles on the RAMBA trails starting out of “The Hob” in Ishpeming.

You can even find a fat bike race or two to join this winter:

  • While many winter events around Michigan are being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Polar Roll is moving forward with a new format. Riders will complete a course on their own any time during a 45- to 60-day window. (Check The Polar Roll Facebook page for updates.)

 

  • Another winter fat bike race in Marquette County, The Fat-Ish, is adopting a new format with a little different approach. The event will be held on a particular day – Saturday, Jan. 9 – but will be conducted as an individual time trial. Each rider will get an assigned time to depart on either a novice or an advanced course.

Whether you’ve been training all year, or you haven’t taken your fat bike out of the shed since last winter, you can enjoy challenging yourself at The Fat-Ish or the Polar Roll. Or you can come rent a fat bike and give snow biking a try by mapping your own route on some of the 60-plus miles of groomed single-track in Marquette County.

Of course, when it comes to winter recreation, Marquette is much more than a hub for fat biking. It’s an entire playground of outdoor activities.

person standing in front of a beautiful winter lake scene throwing snow into the airYou can ski and snowboard at Marquette Mountain, snowshoe at Presque Isle Park or go ice skating at Marquette Commons. You can go hiking, snowmobiling and ice fishing. If you’re really adventurous, you can give ski jumping a try at the Suicide Hill Ski Bowl, spend an afternoon with the Upper Peninsula Luge Club in Negaunee or go ice climbing up a frozen waterfall.

It’s no wonder that USA Today readers voted Marquette County the country’s “Best Small Town for Adventure.”

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Cross-country skiing is another way to get outside for some recreation in the beautiful Michigan winter. Perhaps as mentally and physically challenging as any outdoor winter activity is the Noquemanon Ski Marathon, another extraordinary event on the calendar this winter in Marquette. The country’s premier cross-country ski epic offers courses as long as 50 kilometers, with participants going off in several separate waves of no more than 30 skiers at a time this year to limit crowding.

Noquemanon Ski Marathon racersFifty kilometers is a long way, but it’s just a fraction of the 125-plus miles of cross-country ski trails in Marquette County. There’s over 30 miles of highly groomed point-to-point and loop trails for a variety of skills levels at Forestville Trails north of Marquette, for example, and side-by-side classic ski tracks at the Blueberry Ridge Trail south of the city. There are lighted ski loops at the Fit Strip right in Marquette, and trails with a wilderness feel through a giant old-growth forest at Saux Head near Big Bay north of town.

“All of the trails are clearly marked and mapped, so it’s easy to select a loop or loops to take you as far as you feel like skiing,” said Jeff Stasser, a part-owner of Down Wind Sports who has watched Marquette County’s trail systems develop and expand over the years.

“Each of the systems offers a good variety of beginner and advanced terrain. We are fortunate to have good, long winters to enjoy them.”

Whichever path you choose, don’t go into hibernation this winter. Make plans now to come out and enjoy Marquette’s winter playground!