The Moscow Area Mountain Bike Association started snow grooming Moscow Mountain trails about four years ago primarily for fat bike users, but the trails — especially the Headwaters Winter Loop which receives the most consistent grooming — are utilized by several others too, including hikers, skiers and snowshoers, said MAMBA board president John Wenz.

Fat bikes are off-road bicycles with oversized tires designed for low ground pressure to allow for riding in the snow and other soft, unstable terrain. MAMBA is made up of volunteers and landowners who work to provide a network of trails and recreational opportunities on Moscow Mountain.

Wenz said it is difficult to say for sure, but he believes the groomed, easier-to-traverse trails have led to more users.

“It probably has encouraged use just because it’s a little easier with it being packed (groomed) more,” Wenz said.

MAMBA board member Sandra Townsend said she has noticed more people on the trails than perhaps a couple of years ago, likely because of the grooming.

Wenz said the roughly five-mile Headwaters Winter Loop, including the one mile from the parking lot on Foothill Road northeast of Moscow to the start of the loop, is the top grooming priority but the association tries to groom other loops, too.

The grooming idea originated from former MAMBA board president Scott Metlen, who Wenz said had done grooming trials with a variety of equipment.

Wenz purchased a SnowDog in December 2017 to groom trails on the mountain. He said it is “like a big lawn mower” on a track and it uses a 13 horsepower engine to pull the operator, which is typically Wenz or other volunteers, on a sled.

In December 2018, Wenz said he and the MAMBA board wanted to find out the public’s interest in using the groomed trails and what mode of transportation they would utilize.

He said more than 200 people responded to a survey on MAMBA’s Facebook page. Respondents stated they would use the groomed trails for skiing, hiking, snowshoeing and running. Fat biking received the fifth-most votes.

Based on the results, Wenz said the board decided to purchase the SnowDog from him.

“I guess the important piece to that to me is that it’s truly a multi-use trail,” Wenz said. “So with that response, then we decided that, you know, that would be something that would benefit the community and there would be multiple trail users up there that are going to benefit from it.”

He said they groom after a fresh snowfall or when the snow gets slushy because of warm weather.

Townsend said they groom two or three times in a day sometimes.

Wenz said the trails are for nonmotorized use only. Moscow Mountain is privately owned and Wenz asked that users stay on trails and roads and to respect the property.

Townsend asked that if users sink more than an inch or two into the snow with their feet, bike tread, or whatever else, to not use the trail because the snow then freezes and leaves marks in the trails. She said users typically sink deeply into the snow after a fresh snowfall or during warm temperatures.

Townsend said she encourages users to download the free Trailforks application on their phone so they can keep up to date on what areas have been groomed.

Wenz said MAMBA relies on donations and membership dues to support the winter grooming, portable toilets at trailheads and trail building and maintenance work.

To donate to MAMBA, visit bikemoscow.org.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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