Fat And Skinny: Why A Fat Bike & Nordic Skis Are Essential In Winter Quiver

“The (Boot) Doctor is in the House” is a series from beloved retailer, BootDoctors, about mountain lore and stories where the good guys still win and ski powder. The big idea is to share the power of mountain life: style, gear, community and community outreach, and adventures. This week, regular Telluride Inside… and Out contributor and accomplished local skier and cyclist Jesse James McTigue writes about fat bikes and skinny Nordic skis. All photos by Jesse’s fellow accomplice in all things rad, the talented mountain life and sports photographer, Melissa Plantz.

bike wheel

Telluride is the quintessential ski town as chairlifts descending into town and skis lazily leaning up against house fronts attest. But arguably more important than its characterization as a ski town is that of Telluride being a mountain town. And, as any local can attest, the chairlift is only one of many vehicles to experience the majestic San Juans, and the ski area is only one of many points of access. Although, I encourage everyone to have a few pair of alpine skis, one cannot help but sense there are plenty more winter toys to envy.

From cruising down Main Street, to taking advantage of night rides under the stars, the ever-popular fat bike is one of the most obvious essential pieces of winter gear. These hard-tail mountain bikes have tires ranging from 3.8 to 5 inches in diameter, allowing them to hold traction on Telluride’s snow packed streets and cyclists to literally ride through the snow in any condition all winter long. The whole set up is bigger and slower than a traditional mountain bike – you could call them mountain biking’s Harleys—and like a Harley, they handle well and put a smile on the face of whoever is doing the riding.

biking on valley floor with bkgrd scenery

 

And, somehow, most fat bike rides find their way to the Brewery at the far west end of the Valley Floor (three miles west of the Town of Telluride) in the Lawson Hill Commercial District (156 Society Drive).

telluride brewing

Although these bikes will make you look cool riding down Main Street, they’re a whole lot cooler to ride on the trails. Popular routes include the groomed fat bike trail on the Valley Floor (look for a single track separate from the groomed Nordic Tracks), the snow-packed hiking trail from the south end of Pine Street to lower Bear Creek Falls, and the groomed track of the Telluride Golf course in the Mountain Village.

And just for the record, the Tuesday night Fat Bike ride led by BootDoctors’ one and only Max Cooper is the most popular free ride in town. (However, carpe diem: this ride is not for everyone and it is not sanctioned by BootDoctors.)

nordic yellow

However, no winter gear quiver is complete without a Nordic ski set up too.

Aerobic animals love the skate set up (skis meant to go side to side like the action of speed-skating); those who just want to cruise usually choose the classic set up (skis meant to slide forward). Upon entering the Town of Telluride, one cannot help but notice the meandering groomed track looping around and following the San Miguel River. Other groomed trails include those around Priest Lake and Trout Lake, below Lizard Head Pass.

Nordic skis and fat bikes are the toys we go to when we seek a little more solitude. Falling into the rhythm of the skate movement or the cadence of the pedal, we become witness to our surroundings – early morning fog rising from the San Miguel River; elk lazily meandering on the hillside; or the brightness of the stars under the winter night sky. If you look closely out on the Valley Floor, on any given night, you will see the slow and steady movement of headlamps as skiers and bikers get in a few night-time winter laps.

nordic couple

Sometimes, these toys allow us to slow down, or they can be our vehicle for a grueling winter aerobic workout. Tune into Strava for the fastest local times for Nordic or biking segments. But most importantly, these ultra-cool toys, are just another way to experience our spectacular surroundings – and all this mountain town has to offer.

To try out the latest winter gear and Nordic skiing or Fat Bike rentals, go see the experts at the Bootdoctors.

BootDoctors’ Mac Cooper, pictured here tuning Nordic skis.

BootDoctors’ Mac Cooper, pictured here tuning Nordic skis.

Local and Regional Nordic Skiing and Fat Bike Events and Organizations:

Silverton Whiteout Fat Bike Race. Sat., Feb. 4. Big deal 10-hour fat bike relay for the hardy. (Whiteout Facebook page here.)

Telluride Nordic Center: Located in the Town Park, the Telluride Nordic Center, run and operated by the Telluride Nordic Association offers rental gear, ski waxing, and clinics for all levels from beginners to those ready to race.

Butch Cassidy Ski Chase and Nordic Fun Day. Feb. 11 at Priest Lake. The event is a fun day of Nordic skiing and racing at Priest Lake. Events include a kids race, and a 5k and 15k adults race open to both classic and skate skiers. Picnic, awards and raffle following the race.

Fat and Skinny Nordic and Fat Bike Challenge or “Meet Me at the Intersection of Fat and Skinny.” Feb. 12 on the Valley Floor beginning at 3 p.m. This anything goes event is a celebration of Nordic skiing and fat biking. The team or individual with the most laps at the end of the two hours wins. Any combination of fat biking and Nordic skiing is allowed. Costumes are encouraged. Start at Shell Station one mile west of town. For more information about event and the San Miguel Bike Alliance: http://telluridesmba.org

biking on valley floor

 

More about BootDoctors Ski, Snowboard & Bike Shop (from the desk of Penelope Gleason):

It was the winter ski season of 1985. Bob Gleason looked up from the boot-fit bench at Taos Ski Valley and caught the glances of the folks lined up out the door. Anxious faces of skiers.

“Bring us your sore, cold, numb, battered feet…and we will make them able to ski again,” thought the grinning Irishman as he labored to bend the stiff plastic of a ski boot to his bidding.

Ski boots in the eighties were only slightly better than torture devices. They had, in fact, improved substantially from the old days of leather, but hard plastics and packed-out liners more often than not tamped down a skier’s enthusiasm.

Bob Gleason had dedicated his professional life to making ski boots more comfortable and better performing.

After a stint at Hanson boots, where he addressed a number of key problems presented by skiers and many pro athletes, Bob was drawn to the emerging ski mecca of Taos Ski Valley by the famous ski pioneer Ernie Blake.

Now Bob Gleason and his partner Bob Remiger were struggling to keep up with demand for their boot-fitting skills. The need for a new ski shop with a focus on boot-fitting became glaringly obvious.

In 1986, the two Bobs started their own shop in Taos Ski Valley, with a central focus on the highest quality ski boot-fitting. They were joined by Linda Gleason and, later, by Kyle Remiger in the shop, where they added ski clothing and accessories into the mix. It was a smart business model: once skier’s boots came off, shoeless individuals were confined to the store for the better part of an hour. Why not pass the time browsing all the cool gear while waiting for your boots to be altered?

The original shop and the newer Telluride stores stand on a foundation built on the combined values of deep knowledge, quality workmanship and products, customer service, and personal passion for skiing and other mountain, trails, and river-based sports. All the folks who work at BootDoctors live in and love the outdoors and are always ready, willing, and able to share their expertise to help others have great outdoors experiences too.

The TSV BootDoctors store was at first inconveniently located, away from the Main Street traffic stream and across a river. Some devotees scrambled through the frozen river bed to reach the shop rather than hike around. That was remedied in the darkness of one night, when the landlord, JB Cottam, snuck in a new bridge, much to the surprise of the ski area owners and competitors.

The rest is history…

It is history that stretches over 30 years of world-renowned boot-fitting done on site at the highest quality ski shop, still owned and run by two families, the Gleasons and the Remigers. Many awards decorate the walls for “top boot-fitting” and “most knowledgeable staff” – many of whom have been with the business for more than 20 years.

Loyalty is the key element to survival. Loyalty has taken BootDoctors through droughts and fierce local competition, as well as competition from big sporting goods chains and the rapid growth of on-line shopping. Loyalty of the staff and loyalty of the customers, who return generation after generation, bringing children and grandchildren for gear and services.

In 1996, Bob Gleason, who had been exploring the landscape of ski area retail as he traveled teaching Master Ski Tech and Masterfit Bootfitting clinics all over North America, became enamored of the rustic town of Telluride, which was on the verge of a major revival with a new owner of the ski area. Gleason moved to Telluride and one year later decided to open a BootDoctors store in the quickly growing Mountain Village. The need for quality boot-fitting and a homegrown, old fashioned, owner-operated ski store fit his skills well.

Over 20 years in Telluride, the BootDoctors grew to encompass a large storefront in Mountain Village and take over the Paragon Sports stores, another locally owned sporting goods outfit. The expansion allowed BootDoctors’ customers to benefit from the master boot-fitting and high-quality products on both sides of the mountain.

In 1998, Penelope Gleason joined the crew as marketing director after a stint in retail and inventory control. The Gleasons’ daughters, Kelli and Galena, joined the business after college and rose to the ranks of management and top buyers.

Purchase of the Paragon stores allowed the merchandise mix to reflect another of the family’s passions: cycling. Biking had been one of Gleason’s summer recreational passions – along with river-guiding since the 1970s.

BootDoctors also grew their summer offerings in Telluride to include rafting, paddle boarding, mountain bike rentals, retail, repair, and tours. In Taos, they added a store in the downtown in collaboration with the area’s top fly fishing outfitter, Solitary Angler.

The same quality and passion found in the boot-fitting department permeates the other departments, from ski rentals to outdoor clothing, bikes and guided adventure tours.

Never known to rest on its laurels, BootDoctors became the first entity in Telluride to offer Fat Tire Bikes for rent, sale, and tours.

Quality, knowledge, passion for sport and personal service are values being carried forward by the awesome staff at all five BootDoctors stores today.

The same big grin that sparkles on the ski slope, under his bike helmet, or in the boot-fit room shines as Bob watches his daughters Kelli and Galena continue the traditions while buying hard and soft goods, managing different departments in the business, and excelling in skiing, biking, and river-running.

Bob knows the future looks good for the next generation of BootDoctors and their loyal customers.

 

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Jesse James McTigue

Jesse James McTigue

Jesse James McTigue moved to Telluride when she was eleven. She has left many times –to attend a ski academy and college on the East Coast, to travel in South America, and to teach middle school in Oakland, CA –but she always seems to return. She returned (again) in 2008, married with kids, and thinks this time it may be for real. When she’s not chasing her kids, she’s searching for sanity on her skis or bike and makes her living freelance writing, grant writing and tutoring.

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