Embracing Winter: How Do You Do It?

Last week I foolishly opened my mouth about the Winter That Never Was here in the Wasatch. Fittingly, I woke up yesterday to half a foot of snow with the white stuff falling fast. Fast forward a couple hours and a foot of fresh festooned the foothills of the Wasatch Back. With more snow on the way in the coming days, my trail running (at least from home) is done for the next month or two. What to do?

No, seriously, what do you do when winter intrudes up your trail running turf?

If you keep running, do you live in an area where you can keep the trails open by running through the snow or do you rely on machine grooming, whether for Nordic skiing tracks or by snowmobiles? How about giving in and heading onto *gasp* the roads for your runs for a couple months?

Do you add in or switch over to another outdoor endurance sport? If so, what’s your pick: Nordic skiing (classic or skate?), snowshoeing (trekking or running?), backcountry skiing/skimo, snowbiking, or maybe something else entirely?

Perhaps you end up spending time indoors on the dreadmill, some other exercise equipment, or indoor track? Do tell.

In just the past few weeks, us trail and ultra running folks have seen our kind show how it’s done in winter. For example, Kilian Jornet just won the European Skimo Championships while Mike Wolfe won the US Winter Triathlon National Championship. A bit further back, Luke Nelson won the US Skimo National Championships. That’s getting it done in the off season!

If you’ve been out and about in wintry conditions this season, please share your tales and pics. As much as I’ll miss running the trails, I’ve had some fabulous wintertime adventures (i.e., TransYellowstone Snowshoe, Yosemite Hut-to-Hut Snowshoe, and failed TransYosemite Snowshoe) and look forward to many more!

Bison and Electric Peak in a Yellowstone winter.

Bison and Electric Peak during a Yellowstone winter snowshoe adventure. Photo: Bryon Powell

There are 74 comments

  1. StephenJ

    I live in the mountains outside Park City. The San Rafael swell is 4 hours away, which makes it suitable for a day trip. Yesterday was shorts and tee shirt weather and absolutely gorgeous. Today I went telemark skiing at the resort, hoping for a powder day. Later today I will go search for some freshies around the neighborhood or run on the snow packed roads.

    I telemark ski at the resort with my kids. I spend enough time away for them running in the summer. It's not a real workout, but at least telemarking works the legs kind of the same way as running downhill does.

    Bryon – You live in Park City. The backcountry touring Wasatch mountains is the winter is a whole other experience. There's nothing like a nice 6 hour ski tour to the top of something special like Box Elder peak or the Coalpit Headwall, followed by the trill of ripping down the best snow in the world.

  2. JKal


    from 1:20 to 1:40 you can watch them going up a hill with skis obscured by something. Looks just like running. Also the first 30 seconds of the video is a hill so steep they are just running up it on skis without glide. Bryon you should really give classic skiing a try in the winter – your area has some amazing trails and snow for classic.

  3. dave

    I'm in Calgary, where the variation can be pretty extreme – -30C and two feet of snow, followed by a chinook that takes us up to +10C and melts almost everything into a shiny sheet of ice, followed by another plunge into the deep freeze. If it stays cold there's lots of x-country skiing, on the local golf courses or in Kannanaskis or Banff. This year it hasn't stayed cold; my run yesterday was at +1C on four inches of new snow that was mostly gone at the end.

    So for running, there's the road and multiple layers. And before you scoff, consider that the side of the road is rutted, partly-packed snow on ice, covered with a mix of slush, gravel and chunks of ice. Its slippery, very uneven and wet: a lot like running on a wet trail covered with sand, with roots thrown in for fun, all on top of a teflon skillet, with very large hunks of steel racing by. It makes me miss trail running, but typically because trail running is both less work and less scary.

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