Ride America's First Lift-Served Downhill Winter Bike Trail in Duluth

By Brian Fanelli

Fat Tire NE

Spirit Mountain has long been a Duluth-area staple for mountain bikers in the summer months, but still, it feels strange to bike down a snow-covered mountain in January. It feels like you’re getting away with something. Then again, Duluth has always been a bit quirky – that’s why we like it here – so it makes sense that Spirit Mountain would be the nation’s first lift-served fat biking trail center. Because here in Minnesota, we do winter differently.

Typically if winter fat biking is allowed at ski centers, it’s only allowed on relatively tame cross-country trails. You might get lucky and find a slope with after-hours downhill trail access – but only after the lifts (and the lights) are turned off. For the most part, though, if you’re fat biking at a ski center you’ll be riding cross country trails. Not that there’s anything wrong with cross-country trails (some of my best friends ride cross country trails). But there’s nothing like the adrenaline rush of gravity-style downhill mountain biking – and in Minnesota, you can shred down Spirit Mountain on your fat bike all year round.

Spirit Mountain Winter Fat Bike Hansi Johnson
Photo by Hansi Johnson and provided by Spirit Mountain

Fat bikes are allowed on two of the groomed downhill ski trails at Spirit Mountain, as well as some dedicated mountain bike trails that twist and turn through the woods. The lift-served downhill trails each run about a mile long, with 700-feet of vertical drop along the way. In the woods riders face-off against a variety of skill sections, including: snow-covered single track, berms, rock gardens, drop-offs and more.

Before tearing down the mountain you’ll need two things: a helmet, and a bike with tires at least 3.5-inches wide. Don’t own a fat bike? Rent one on-site at the Grand Avenue Chalet. Rentals are managed by the experts at Continental Ski & Bike, so each bike will be perfectly tuned and ready-to-rip.

Make It A Weekend

Dubbed the “Best Outdoor City in America” and the “Craft Beer Capital of Minnesota,” Duluth is the perfect base camp for your winter adventures. Sure – you could leave after just one night, but why limit yourself? There are endless reasons to stay another day.

Looking for more winter fat biking? Mission Creek offers seven miles of fast and flowing single-track through the woods, with spectacular views of the St. Louis River around every bend. Or for something less challenging Lester Park is perfect for beginners, featuring great views with only a few technical features. For a real insider’s take on the trails, sign up for a guided fat bike tour from The Duluth Experience or Day Tripper of Duluth.  

Bent Paddle Brewing Flight SmallAnd after a long day of biking, rest your tired legs on a bar stool as you explore Duluth’s thriving craft beer scene. Craft beer may be a new trend for some cities, but Duluthians have been brewing world-class craft beer since 1881. Grab a beer flight at the city’s oldest brewery, Fitger’s Brewhouse, or enjoy a pint at one of Duluth’s newer additions like Bent Paddle Brewing Co., Superior Brewing Co. and Canal Park Brewing. If drinking delicious Minnesota craft beers after a long day of biking is wrong, I don’t want to be right.  

So what are you waiting for? Start planning your winter fat biking vacation in Duluth today!