A duo of riders pauses for a photo at Arches National Park during a previous Skinny Tire Festival event. The festival is returning to Moab this weekend for its 15th year. [Photo courtesy of Beth Logan]

Many cyclists come to Moab for the chance to ride in slickrock country, but the area’s stunning scenery is just one of the main draws for participants in this year’s Skinny Tire Festival.

Hundreds of riders from across the country will be raising money for local cancer treatment programs and other charitable causes in honor of loved ones lost to cancer, according to Skinny Tire coordinator Beth Logan. This year’s event kicks off on Friday, March 13 and runs through Tuesday, March 17.

Event founder Mark Griffith started the road cycling festival 15 years ago to honor the memory of his cancer-stricken brother Duane. Over the years, donations from participants poured in, and eventually, event coordinators were able to contribute directly to a two-room infusion center at Moab Regional Hospital.

With their help, Logan said the hospital has been able to treat about 1,500 area residents who would otherwise have to travel long distances to find similar services.

“We are very grateful to our cyclists for doing that,” Logan said. “If not for that service, (local residents) would be driving to Salt Lake City or Grand Junction (Colorado) to get treatment,” she said.

A fair number of Skinny Tire participants may be cycling once again after they’ve recovered from treatment for cancer-related illnesses; all of them likely know people whose lives have been affected by the disease.

“If they’re not survivors themselves, they are related to someone who is, or they’re riding in honor of someone,” Logan said. “There’s just a communal feeling for those who have been in rough situations.”

While many participants contribute to the cancer treatment programs at Moab Regional Hospital, they also have the option of raising money for their own preferred causes.

One such group of participants – a contingent of 20 to 30 riders from Montrose, Colorado – will be raising money for the San Juan Cancer Center at Montrose Memorial Hospital, Logan said.

“Others are just coming out because it’s a great place to go riding in March,” she added.

The bulk of the 500 people that Logan expects to see will be coming from Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and other nearby states, but one in four cyclists typically arrive from other parts of the U.S. and Canada.

“We have a huge amount of returning cyclists year after year,” she said. “They say it’s a good way to jump start their spring cycling.”

The routes they’ll be riding were mapped out with recreational cyclists in mind, according to Logan.

“Some of the days have easier terrain than others,” she said.

The more difficult routes include a 64-mile trip to and from Dead Horse Point State Park, and a 47-mile trip to and from Arches National Park; easier routes wind along the Colorado River corridor, following State Route 128 and Potash Road.

All of the routes have one thing in common: They’re exceptionally scenic.

“It’s definitely an awe-inspiring landscape,” Logan said.

Aid stations will be set up along the way, so riders will have opportunities to relax and eat “real food,” Logan said.

They’ll also have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to celebrate Pi Day, which is held every March 14 to commemorate the mathematical constant.

This year’s Pi Day will be the first of its kind in a century, since it falls on 3.1415. Sweet Cravings will be serving complimentary pies at 4 p.m. that afternoon at the Aarchway Inn, 1551 N. U.S. Highway 191.

Skinny Tire Festival returns to Moab this weekend

“If they’re not survivors themselves, they are related to someone who is, or they’re riding in honor of someone … There’s just a communal feeling for those who have been in rough situations.”

When: Check-ins begin on Friday, March 13 at 2 p.m. Rides begin on Saturday, March 14 and continue through Tuesday, March 17

Where: All rides start at the Aarchway Inn, 1551 N. U.S. Highway 191; routes include trips to Dead Horse Point State Park and Arches National Park

Cost: Registration costs vary from $110 to $180 for all four days, depending on charitable contributions. Registration for weekend-only events varies from $90 to $140. Local residents will receive discounts; email beth@skinnytireevents.com for specific information.

For more information about Skinny Tire, go to skinnytireevents.com, or call 435-259-8889.