New Fest in Valdez Puts a Different Spin on Fat Biking

Valdez, AK – Organizers of a new festival in Valdez is hoping to transform the way people think of fat biking competitions by putting an emphasis on adrenaline more than the more-common endurance-oriented races of the genre.

The headline feature of the three-day Chugach Fat Bike Bash, March 18 - 20 is what organizers are calling the world debut of a fat freeride competition. A vertical venue on Thompson Pass is luring riders like Anchorage downhill specialist Kevin Murphy to test their riding skill on some of the steepest terrain ever biked on snow. Like the World Extreme Skiing Championships of the 90’s that put Valdez on the map as the birthplace of big mountain skiing, the Fat Freeride competition will judge riders on a combination of time, creativity, and originality of line. A cash purse of up to $2,000 is at stake, provided primarily by Copper Valley Telecom.

 “It’s like the Red Bull Rampage, a test of skill and guts. On snow” said Lee Hart, Executive Director of Levitation 49, the non-profit sports commission producing the event. “As fat bike technology evolves we’re beginning to see riders experimenting with air and inverts on fatties. This event is intended to nurture this direction of fat biking, the fastest growing segment in bicycling.”

 Other festival events leading up to the freeride comp are designed to showcase the beauty of Valdez in a carnival-like atmosphere. Costumes are strongly encouraged and fat tires are recommended but not necessary especially for the criterium and bike rodeo.

The opening night Ursa Major Northern Lights Criterium will take place Friday night, March 18 from 9 – 10 p.m. along the Valdez harborfront. Light and reflector bedecked riders will run laps and have an opportunity to earn time credits by stopping at participating venues offering tasters of Ursa Major craft libations. Prizes for best costume and other fun categories will be awarded. The night concludes with a bonfire at Dock Point.

 Saturday’s events begin with a cross-country race that will begin and end at Kelsey Dock, on the harbor. The main route is a 10-mile circuit over the river and through the woods; a shorter and easier out and back beginner route will total about 4 miles. In the afternoon, balancing skills will be on display during a Fat Bike Rodeo held at Kelsey Dock. A Bunny hop limbo, wheelie drag races, foot-down demolition derby, gap jump, and a snowy BMX track highlight Rodeo events that will conclude with a thrilling finale (details TBA). Prizes will be awarded for each event; photos should be priceless. After-party sponsored by Hoodoo Brewing is at The Fat Mermaid, official festival headquarters.

The event will be photographed and filmed for distribution on traditional media and social channels. Participants and spectators are encouraged to share their pics and vids with the world by using the hashtag #fatbikebash.

Online registration is currently open for passes to the event. Same-day registration for Friday and Saturday events is $10 for the crit and xc race; $5 per rodeo event or $10 for the full rodeo. Entry to the freeride competition is for experienced riders comfortable with off-piste riding. For complete event details and online discounted registration visit

The Chugach Fat Bike Bash is a production of Levitation 49, a non-profit sports commission dedicated to promoting mountain sports culture in Valdez. Proceeds from the event support L49 projects.

Valdez Hosts Regional Fat Bike Summit March 18

Mountain Bike Hall of Famer Gary Sjoquist

Mountain Bike Hall of Famer Gary Sjoquist

VALDEZ, AK – Trends and best practices will be the focus of a Regional Fat Bike Summit here March 18 led by Mountain Bike Hall of Famer and leading national fat bike advocate Gary Sjoquist.

The Summit is designed to bring together retailers, manufacturers, non-profits, trail builders and state and local parks and land use managers to learn and share information and success stories about the fastest growing sector of the cycling industry.

The Summit will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Valdez Civic Center, 110 Clifton Court, overlooking Prince William Sound. Registration, which includes lunch, is just $25. UPDATE 3.5.16: THERE MAY BE A CHANGE OF VENUE AND LOWER PRICE. For the most update info visit

Levitation 49, the new non-profit sports commission in Valdez, organizes the Summit. The Summit is followed immediately by the opening night of the Inaugural Chugach Fat Bike Bash, a fun-filled weekend of races and competitions. The festival will mark the world debut of the Fat Freeride World Championships.

The event brings to life a two-year-old dream by Levitation 49 Executive Director Lee Hart. “The Fat Free Worlds is designed to shine a spotlight on the emerging gravity-fed adrenaline side of a sport that, until now, has mostly focused on endurance events.”

Complete information about the Summit, Fat Bike Bash, lodging in Valdez and online registration can be found on the Chugach Fat Bike Bash website.




Levitation 49 Set to Start New Year with New Partners


VALDEZ, AK - Non-profit sports commission Levitation 49 is set to start the new year with two new significant partnerships. The Valdez City Council has fully funded a grant request that Levitation 49 get off the ground and the International Mountain Bicycling Association welcomes Levitation 49 as its first chapter in Alaska.

The City of Valdez Community Sustaining Organization grant for $150,000 will support L49’s mission to diversify the local economy through events and projects that support the mountain sports lifestyle. 

“Beyond thankful, we are humbled to enjoy the unanimous support of a very forward-thinking City Council that supports this new direction for Valdez,” said L49 Executive Director Lee Hart. L49 Founder and President Nick Weicht added, “Now comes the good but hard work of bringing all our plans to life.”

A significant portion of the grant will pay to shine a media spotlight on these three L49 events next year: 

L49 is also leading the process of developing a community-driven master trail plan encompassing greater Valdez from Prince William Sound to 54 miles up the Richardson Highway. The highway is the only road that connects Valdez to the rest of Alaska. That effort is supported by a National Park Service Rivers Trails Conservation Assistance grant that was awarded this past fall.

On December 12, IMBA confirmed L49’s chapter status. Representatives of IMBA are planning to celebrate the chapter and host a membership drive during L49’s Chugach Fat Bike Bash in March.

ABOUT LEVITATION 49. Levitation 49 is a non-profit sports co,,is soon dedicated to economic diversification through the development and promotion of events and projects that enhance the mountain sports lifestyle in Valdez, AK. For more information about Levitation 49, it's projects and events, visit the website Http://












Levitation 49 Brings New Perspectives on Fat Biking to Valdez March 18 - 20

Valdez, AK - A statewide summit on fat bike trends, issues and best practices as well as the debut of a Vertical World Championship for Fat Bikes debuts this spring in Valdez as part of the effort by Levitation 49, a new non-profit sports commission, to use mountain sports events as an approach to economic diversification in this small mountain town on Prince William Sound. 

The Inaugural Chugach Bike Bash will be held March 18 - 20, offering a wide spectrum of all things fat. The event opens with a Fat Bike Summit on March 18, co-hosted by the nation’s leading fat bike advocacy brand Quality Bike Parts. The Valdez event is one of just four regional summits QBP will host hoping to create more locally relevant conservations about the fastest growing segment in the bike industry. Other regional Fat Bike Summits in 2016 will be held in Crested Butte, CO, Marquette, MI and Ogden, UT. Other bike manufacturers, retailers, public land managers, parks and recreation directors, trail advocates and riders are invited to the event.

“With variations in who owns public lands, and differences in snow textures and compaction rates, we think it makes sense to partner with existing fat bike races or festivals to host smaller, regionally focused Summits,” explains QBP’s Advocacy Director Gary Sjoquist. “We want to continue to drive fat bike access on behalf of the industry. Summit content will focus on introducing public land managers to fat bikes (including demo rides), quantifying sales and demographic info of riders, and providing an overview of best practices for fat bike singletrack grooming techniques.” 

While the Summit will appeal to the core fat bike industry and advocates, the Vertical World Championships will have broad spectator appeal beyond fat bike enthusiasts. The first of its kind event is scheduled to be held on Thompson pass on March 20. Levitation 49 leaders hope the event puts Valdez on the map for fat biking in much the same way the World Extreme Skiing Championships did for Valdez in the 90’s.

“We are really hoping to show the world the freshest and boldest new faces of fat biking. We know riders are getting air and launching big tricks on snow. This event is designed to help propel the visibility of the emerging athletes driving this new direction,” said Levitation 49 Executive Director Lee Hart. Prize money will help attract riders too, as local Valdez businesses and sponsors are contributing to creating a purse designed to attract riders from Alaska, the lower 48 and fat bike hotbeds around the world.

Other events during the Chugach Bike Bash include a Northern Lights Criterium, a night event the follows the conclusion of the Summit. Saturday will feature a cross country race in the morning followed by  the family- and spectator-friendly Fat Bike Rodeo on the harbor in the afternoon. The Summit agenda, Bike Bash agenda, as well as other L49 projects and events can be found on the organization’s website,

About Levitation 49. Levitation 49 is a non-profit sports commission dedicated to economic diversification through the development and promotion of events and projects that support the mountain sports lifestyle. For further information about the Chugach Bike Bash and other Levitation 49 events and projects, visit the Levitation 49 website or call Executive Director Lee Hart, 303.898.4141

About Quality Bike Parts. With distribution centers in Minnesota, Utah, and Pennsylvania, Quality Bike Parts serves a network of more than 5,000 independent retailers. From extensive advocacy efforts to energy efficient facilities, everything QBP does is aimed at making the world a better place and getting more butts on bikes. For more information about QBP, visit our website or contact Director of Marketing Ryan Johnson at 952-941-9391, ext. 1236 or 

Action Alert: City Council CSO Grant Applicant Public Hearing

The board of Levitation 49 is calling on supporters to show up and stand up at City Council Chambers Tuesday night, Oct. 27 . On that night, Council is hosting a public hearing during which L49, along with other leading Valdez non-profits will request funds from the city's Community Supporting Organization grant pool.

L49 is asking everyone who supports trails and more mountain sports recreation to attend this hearing to show support for L49. Executive Director Lee Hart is scheduled to present L49's pitch to City council at 9:15 p.m. Each CSO will have 15 minutes to present an overview of their organization and answer questions from Council about their grant application. The public hearing is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in City Council Chambers at 212 Chenega St. 

At the end of her presentation, Hart will ask for a show of hands, cheers or applause from supporters.  "This is the most important 15 minutes of Levitation 49's first year," Hart said. "We are the only first-year applicant on the roster so I cannot emphasize enough how valuable it will be for council to see a show of support for L49 and the mountain sports lifestyle."

L49 is asking the City for a grant to help get the organization off the ground and raise the bar on the production of three key events. Those three events are the American Alpine Club Valdez Ice Climbing Festival, Feb. 12 - 15; an Inaugural Fat Bike Bash and Vertical Worlds March 18 - 20 and the American Alpine Club Valdez Rock Climbing Fest May 27 - 30. 

The City's CSO grant program helps support organizations that give so much and bring so much value to Valdez, said L49 President Nick Weicht. He explained L49 has already been in discussion with several CSOs to "explore ways to collaborate to leverage everyone's resources for better success for the organizations and the community we all love." 

L49 also seeks grants from outside the community to fund development of recreation resources that benefit residents but also invite visitors to stay longer and come back more often. L49 has already received grants from the National Park Service and American Alpine Club. It is Alaska's first Access Fund affiliate and is in the process of becoming the state's first International Mountain Bicycling Association chapter. 

The full schedule of CSO presentations is as follows:

6:15, Valdez City School District, Jim Nygard.

6:30 Prince William Sound College, Dan O'Connor.

6:45 Providence Valdez Medical Center, Jeremy O'Neil.

7:00 Valdez Arts Council, Mo Radotich

7:15 Valdez Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Laurine Regan

7:30 Valdez Senior Center

7:45 Advocates for Victims of Violence, Rowena Palomar

8:00 Connecting Ties, Tim James

8:15 Food Bank

8:30 Alaska Avalanche Information Center, Peter Carter

8:45 Weather Station, Todd Wegner

9:00 Valdez Imagination Library, Barb Bryson

9:15 Levitation 49, Lee Hart

9:30 Valdez Fisheries Development Association, Mike Wells

9:45 Valdez Museum, Patricia Relay

10:00 Adjourn

Levitation 49 is a non-profit sports commission dedicated to economic development through the development and promotion of events and projects that support the mountain sports lifestyle. In all it does, L49 is dedicated to conservation, preservation and stewardship of the natural resources that make Valdez so amazing. 

American Alpine Club Grant Will Bring Improvements to Keystone Canyon

This year's American Alpine Club Valdez Ice Climbing Festival will be held Feb. 12 - 15. 

This year's American Alpine Club Valdez Ice Climbing Festival will be held Feb. 12 - 15. 

The American Alpine Club has awarded Levitation 49 a Cornerstone Conservation Grant to provide informational signage and temporary toilets in Keystone Canyon.

The signage will be a permanent sign providing climbing and safety information for visitors to Keystone Canyon. The toilets will be used primarily for Levitation 49's ice and rock climbing events. 

"Levitation 49 is committed to responsible stewardship of the lands we play on," said L49 President Nick Weicht. "The signage is a first, small step supporting L49's goal to make our abundant natural resources more user friendly."

Take the Trails Planning Survey

Levitation 49 has partnered with the National Park Service Rivers Trails Conservation Assistance program to undertake creating a master trail/rec plan for Valdez from the the City to 50-mile (Billy Mitchell) on the Richardson Highway. Levitation 49 seeks your input as we begin this community-driven master trails planning process. Please take a few moments to click on this link to fill out the first survey of this project.  

American Alpine Club partners with Levitation 49 to Host Valdez, AK Climbing Events

Valdez, AK – Local efforts to establish this rural Alaska community as a hub of ice and rock climbing have gotten a boost from the American Alpine Club. The AAC, this country’s leading authority and respected resource for all things climbing, is partnering with Valdez non-profit Levitation 49 to host events that both celebrate the ice climbing history and look toward the future of climbing development in Valdez.

The American Alpine Club is the new title sponsor of the venerable Valdez Ice Climbing Festival and the newly founded and fast-growing Valdez Rock Climbing Festival. Both events are productions of Levitation 49, a non-profit sports commission serving Valdez and the surrounding area. 

“Denali, the Alaksa Range and Wrangells have long been pivotal springboards for cutting edge alpinism around the world. Levitation 49’s commitment to conservation and sustainable development as it builds the climbing reputation oaf Valdez aligns with American Alpine Club values,” said AAC Western States Manager Eddie Espinosa. “I’m sure other climbers, especially in the Northwest Region, will be as eager as I am to check out these events.”

The AAC Valdez Ice Climbing Festival is scheduled Feb. 12 – 15. Since it’s inception in 1983, the festival has attracted world-class ice climbers from around the globe. The legendary multi-pitch ice pillars of Keystone Canyon are the focal point of this four-day President’s Day weekend festival that features clinics, competitions, films, an epic bonfire and more. 

Festival co-founder and Valdez climbing pioneer Brian Teale is pleased about the renewed interest in ice climbing in Valdez. “The rebirth of the ice festival is a welcome evolution that will help set the stage for greater visibility, awareness and success for climbing in and around Valdez,” Teale said. “It’s an honor to have the American Alpine Club shine a spotlight on the largely undiscovered gem that is Valdez.”

As the seasons turn, the AAC Valdez Rock Climbing Festival is a harbinger of summer. Thanks in large part to prolific route development by Levitation 49 founder and President Nick Weicht, Valdez is now the third most developed rock climbing destination in Alaska. Scheduled May 27 – 30, over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the event showcases more than 70 new routes and the incredible opportunity for future development around Valdez’s glacier-cut valleys. Camping and slacklining under the midnight sun on Thompson Pass kicks off the first night’s festivities followed by a weekend full of clinics, comps, climbing, music, L49’s signature bonfire celebration and more.

“I am completely humbled by the trust Eddie [Espinosa] and the American Alpine Club has put in Levitation 49,” Weicht said. “I can’t thank the AAC family enough for believing in us and sharing in our vision for making Valdez a five-star year-round climbing destination.”   

About Levitation 49

Levitation 49 is dedicated to economic diversification through the promotion and development of events and projects that support the mountain sports lifestlye in Valdez, AK. In all its endeavors, the organization is committed to conservation, sustainability and responsible stewardship.

About The American Alpine Club
Founded in 1902, the American Alpine Club is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that provides knowledge and inspiration, conservation and advocacy, and logistical support for the climbing community. The AAC advocates for American climbers domestically and around the world; provides grants and volunteer opportunities to protect and conserve the places we climb; hosts local and national climbing festivals and events and much more. The Club’s Northwest Region attracts climbing supporters from Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Montana, and most of Idaho. Learn about all the Club’s programs and become a member at Join the AAC’s online community at


Levitation 49 Partners with National Park Service to Develop Master Trails/Recreation Plan for Valdez

Valdez, AK – Dreams of turning Valdez into one of the world’s premier year-round mountain sports destinations took a positive step forward with the recent announcement by the National Park Service that Valdez-based Levitation 49 (L49) was awarded a Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program grant.

The grant means the National Park Service will partner with Levitation 49 (L49), a new non-profit sports commission, to guide the community through a process that will result in a master trails and recreation plan from Valdez to 50-mile on the Richardson Highway.

“We are extremely honored that the National Park Service sees the value of helping Valdez plan its recreation portfolio into the future and has put its trust in Levitation 49,” said Lee Hart, Executive Director of L49.

The RTCA program supports community-led natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation projects across the nation. The renowned Chugach Mountains and Prince William Sound create an amazingly rich blank canvas for master planning the future of recreation around Valdez. 

“Thanks to the support of the National Park Service, we have a golden opportunity to work with the community, public land managers and key stakeholders to develop a plan that will bring together all the best thoughts and practices for recreation planning, management and sustainability for the future,” said Nick Weicht, founder and President of Levitation 49.

Stakeholders who will be vital to Valdez’ recreation planning process include, but are not limited to, Alaska State Parks, the United States Forest Service Chugach National Forest, Prince William Sound College, the City of Valdez elected and appointed bodies and departments, local and state non-profits, niche outdoor enthusiast clubs and private citizens.

As it strives to unite partners at the local and state levels, L49 continues to build a strong network of support among key national non-profits including the Outdoor Industry Association, American Alpine Club, Access Fund and the International Mountain Bicycling Association. L49 is the Access Fund’s first Alaska affiliate and is on track to becoming IMBA’s first Alaska chapter.

“Partnering with select national non-profits and leading outdoor and bike industry companies that truly resonate with our mission is the best way forward for L49 and Valdez,” Hart said.

ABOUT LEVITATION 49. L49 is dedicated to economic diversification through the development and promotion of events and projects that support the mountain sports lifestyle in Valdez, AK. In all we do, L49 will engage in best practices for conservation, protection and stewardship of the natural resources that define Valdez.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE RIVERS, TRAILS AND CONSERVATION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM. The Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program extends and expands the benefits of the National Park Service throughout the nation to connect all Americans to their parks, trails, rivers, and other special places. NPS staff help community groups, National Parks, nonprofits, state and local governments, and tribes plan parks and trails, conserve and improve access to rivers and natural areas, and create recreation opportunities through locally led partnerships.