Endless Autumn: Running Through the Winter That Never Was

I may live in a ski town (Park City, UT), but I don’t know how to downhill ski and am, more or less, a one-trick pony. Simply put, I love to run! That’s why this winter… or, rather, lack of a winter has been absolutely wonderful in my book.

Just yesterday, I left my house, hit the roads for two-thirds of a mile to my favorite neighborhood trail loop, and ran on packed snow trails. The last day that loop was runnable last “winter” was November 20th. That means I’ve had an extra 11 weeks and 2 days/2 months and 18 days of extra trail running this winter over last year’s snowfest. All those extra trail miles have kept me motivated and excited about the coming season.

Winter trail running 2011-12

Me atop my favorite local trail loop late last month.

Call for Comments
This Winter That Wasn’t is happening around much of the lower 48 and, as I understand it, was hanging around Europe for quite some time. With that in mind, it’d be great if you could share:

  • How you’ve been using your extra trail time this winter;
  • Any primo trail runs/adventures that wouldn’t normally be possible;
  • Pictures that go along with your sweet winter trail running; or,
  • If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, some tales or pics of trail running to get us Northerners excited for what’s still to come?

Ps. Since you may still be dealing with winter conditions to some degree, check out our collection of winter running articles as well as our review of winter running traction devices and the winter apparel lineup in the iRunFar Store.

There are 45 comments

  1. David

    Bryon,

    Northern Virginia as well. I'm 4-miles west of Dulles Airport which annually gets about 22 inches of snow. This season we got 1/2 inch before Halloween and that's it. The second half of Feb and March could tell a different story but it's been shorts weather thus far.

  2. ajax

    Same deal here in Kentucky,

    Celebrated last Saturday by running shirtless in the rain just because I could. Looking forward to this Saturday's Lovin the Hills 50k. Gotta love the vitamin D.

  3. mylesmyles

    I have been able to do multiple Long Path runs from the NJ side of the GWB north. Something that usually Isn't possible till late March most years. Makes getting that long weekend run in much easier for us city dwellers. (The usual long winter run is some form of a loop of Manhattan, which means running along the water and dealing with the wind for hours on end, not to mention the pounding of cement.)

  4. CJ

    And my wife and I picked this winter to head to Florida in our little RV to escape "winter" in NW Ohio. It's been very mild there as well which is opposite from last year where winter began promptly on December 1 and never let up until April.

  5. Cody L. Custis

    It's not the snow that's a problem here in Montana as much as the ice which sets in and doesn't thaw. Last time I tried running on trail was back on Jan 2, and the trails were extremely icy. Last Saturday (Feb 4), ran on mostly snow packed path (I don't count anything along an operating railroad as trail), although the snow has been worn down on the roads, leaving the ice.

  6. Andy

    It was summer here until February showed up. I was running in shorts and short sleeves. Now it is low teens in the mornings and highs of mid 20's to mid 30s.

    I had an ITB injury a lot of the nice weather and am now healed for the cold of course!

    In the north central part of Kansas BTW. Not to far from the center of the contiguous USA.

    Andy

  7. Doug (aka Snurfer)

    Just over the mountain from Park City I normally trail run all winter on lower south facing trails regardless snowfall. Likewise I can pursue my other love of backcountry snowboarding (snurfing) on north facing terrain. This season its been sort of a bummer not being able to pursue both of these interests equally.

    On the the bright side I love that I can often run up above 9000' from those same south facing trails in mid-winter and on the rare day the snow is good I can get my vert on a splitboard. Can't complain either way :)

  8. Kim Neill

    We’re having a very mild, non-winter in Boise. But because of the freeze/thaw (cold nights, 40s during the day) cycle and lack of snow, the trails are muddy after about 9:30am, with a voluntary closure in affect. So trail running is confined to dirt roads and a few of the sandier trails. We’ve had way too many opportunities for wearing shorts this winter. But hey, can’t really complain.

  9. Trail Clown

    It's snowing lightly right now in Hamilton, VA! Woo-Hoo! Gonna go out for a run. Have used my YakTrax just once this whole Winter. The world was coming to an end, but it's ok now. Snow is falling! Barely…but it's falling nonetheless!

  10. Bobby Dixon-Kim

    hey Bryon, I had sent you an email about the vibe in portland oregon for trail running and how it keeps its rather exclusive knit community. However, after reading your blog like I tend to do, I jumped on a caravan and made out to park city for the last weekend of sundance and first weekend of world cup. I threw on my trails shoes and heading straight up iron canyon. What a amazing place to run! I really had a great time in park city and used my lil time there for some elevation training and just sheer beauty for the eyes! The locals were not so impressed that I was happy there wasnt much snow, but then again, they dont run for fun! Great stuff Bryon. I'll be back to that great place!

  11. Marcus

    I'm in southern California… winter doesn't affect our running here much (except for long rainy periods in most winters which can make running in the mountains dangerous). The big difference this year is just how phenomenally beautiful it has been on many of my runs. It hasn't been too cold and the skies have been clear. This weekend I ran up Mt. Wilson outside Pasadena and it was in the upper 60's with crystal clear views of all of the southern California mountain ranges, all of Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean. We need to get some rain here, but this weather has been really enjoyable.

  12. MikeC

    One of the coldest and snowiest winters in Anchorage history this season. No one is running here.

    That said, summer mountain running in Anchorage is paradise, as long as you don't mind frequent bear and moose encounters.

  13. Greg Veltkamp

    On the contrary, winter up here in Alaska is approaching record breaking status in terms of snowfall and freezing temperatures. I just moved up here in January, and have been pleasantly surprised to find most of the local single track trails in town well packed by hikers and snowbikers. Nothing quite like running miles of singletrack through a forest buried under 5 feet of snow! Mike C – get out to N. Bivouac and Rovers Run. Kincaid has miles of packed singletrack!

  14. Anthony B

    I recently took on my first 50k at a race dubbed the "Wilson Creek Frozen 50K." Needless to say, the name implies that it should be cold, but with temps in the mid 40's and a week's worth of rain, the trail was a mudfest to say the least. Many experienced runners reported that it was the most difficult 50k they have ever done, and though I've only ran 1, I can't imagine it could get any harder. I would have loved for sub-freezing temperatures and a bit of snow, but instead I got blasting winds and sleet on top of the ankle deep slogfest going on. I have a report of the run on my blog:
    http://anthonybunt.blogspot.com/2012/01/wilson-cr

    Prior to the race, it had been beautiful weather all winter. Great timing on nature's part.

  15. Kix

    Fenelon Falls, ON – two hours north of Toronto, ON – not much snow to deal with. The problem is the ice. Fields and fields of ice. Not much cross-country skiing. However, I will be attempting my first 50miler at end of May (Sulpher Springs) and I am enjoying the warmer temperatures to get those runs in!! I was worried about having to battle through blowing snow and cold temps – no fear this year! No excuses either I guess.

  16. Lizzy Hawker

    So maybe we are having your winter, as well as ours, in Europe?!! the skies cleared just in time to see the full moon and such a treat to see the summits again. but lots of snow and temperatures down to -20 (Celsius) !!!! we'll be a while waiting for snow free trails ….

    greetings to all who might see this! best, Lizzy

    1. Bryon Powell

      I'm sure the US trails can handle a couple European trail running refugees if any of you need a break from a late-arriving spring. In the meantime, enjoy those moonlit, snowcapped peaks! :-D

  17. Perry

    Incredibly mild winter here in Central PA so far – much more mud than snow. Your Tweet was timely though because we're actually getting snow today. Went for a run over my lunch break – inhaling big wet snow flakes can be hazardous. This weekend is the annual Snow Fest Trail Race at RB Winter State Park – it's a short, but fun way to start the year – unfortunately this year it may be the Snowless Fest.

  18. Robbie

    The typical Winter cold never came to be here in southern Sweden so my girlfriend and I packed up for a month of glorious trail running on the volcanic island of La Palma, home to the TransVolcania ultra. We found a trail paradise. The first of my articles has just posted on http://www.runtramp.com
    Home in Sweden once again and the winter has finally arrived.

  19. Alex

    I worry that the conditions have led me (and plenty of others) to overdo it…usually winter provides a forced down time – I still run then, but will less reckless abandon – and I wonder if everyone is going to feel a lot less fresh come July.

    Also, I'm a downhill skiier :(

  20. Michel Rysenaer

    Hey

    I live in Belgium which is not really a mountain country but in the east part of the country where I live, not far from

    the german border, we can have hard winters with plenty of snow. This year we just had à few snow falling 3 weeks ago but since more than a week we face a cold wave with temps averaging 10°F. This means I am able at this time to run on a 2 inch layer of crunchy snow which provides a very good grip and run pleasure. Not talking of the postcard lanscapes under clear blue sky. Magic.

  21. Andy

    Same report in southern New England — Only one microspike outing after a 4-inch dusting 3 weeks ago, but otherwise it's been more shorts and thin glove runs than anything else. Not even that much mud and only a few patches of ice. Stark contrast to last year, when even snowshoeing was tough thanks to the depth of the white. The biggest challenge has been the still remaining remnants of our cataclysmic tree-crushing snow in October – most of the trails are cleared, but some have had to be rerouted due to the size of downed trees and there are still many limbs scattered around. The only other challenge is staying in the office when it's 50 degrees and sunny in February! They say some cold and snow is on the way, so we'll see …

  22. Davide

    Well, here in Italy we had glorious sun and 20° celsius until last week… And then winter finally settled in and we went the other way round: Genova, my hometown, close to Mediterranean Sea, known for mild climate year round, had 20 cm of fresh snow, and temperatures below zero. Shirtless to hat, gloves and jacket in two days.

    Nonetheless it was great to run our usual trails with snow, it gave new meanings, new perspectives.

  23. Brad Olwin

    We run in the winter and the Front Range in Colorado has plenty of snow. Several of my long weekend runs were a bit slower than the summer runs considering we were running in 12+ inches of snow–I can't stand running inside, just bring traction and lights when you need them.

  24. Forrest

    Here in MN, just a little snow in the shadowy spots, and I really miss it! Nothing more beautiful than watching the sun rise over a snow covered field or swooshing silently through a trail all alone. Simply getting outside is a little easier, but what draws me to the trails is partly the challenges of all the aspects of being outside, and winter just isn't a challenge with temps here hanging in the 20s F.

  25. JonR

    I am training for a 30k that new england winters always make super challenging. Training has been easy this year with no snow. I can even hit the trails on my cyclocross bike!

  26. tom

    here on the eastern margin of the European Eastern Alps (Graz, Austria), there are usually runnable trails all winter. but this season is also for us a pretty snowless one and the only thing we currently have to handle is the cold (0.4 to 23°F during daytime; as Lizzy Hawker and others already said about Europe in general right now). this allows for wonderful quiet slightly-snow covered trails, as the occasional frozen fingers or toes might not motivate all of us to hit the trails ;-)

    though the clear and cold air allows for great sun-ups and -downs which is motivation and satisfaction more than enough…

    nonetheless, looking forward to the shorts-season!

    BTW: even though the trails are runnable, due to the cold air the pace is rather moderate and as such ideal for starting into the season (actually haven't ended the old really ;-)

  27. Jon

    In Western NC we've had the pleasure of having some of the winter's usual Blue Ridge Parkway closures coupled with blue skies and unseasonably warm temperatures. That duo makes for essentially isolated shirts-off running on some of the most spectacular trails on the east coast!

    Of course, the long, snowy, picturesque winter mountain runs are missed- but how could you possibly complain about jumping into a lake after a run in February!?!

  28. A. Pace

    I think we've been hogging all the winter conditions here in Denali, AK– I've been training for the Susitna in -40 with some of the best snowfall we've seen in years. We just have to put in trail with a dog team & then we're in good shape until the next storm comes along a few days later. I am finally getting to the point where I dream of the feeling of dirt underfoot. Soon enough.

  29. worm

    bittersweet emotions reading your non-winter musings. here in Anchorage winter has worked overtime so far this year. coldest January on record (2.7˚F average) and over 100" of snow already this season. when it's like this you just have to get out in it. definitely looking forward to daylight, dry trails, and warmer temps…

  30. Van Horn

    Just after Christmas I was running the trails above City Creek. It felt like I was sneaking awesome runs in a time of year I had no business running on dry trails, in 50 degree weather.

  31. Tim B

    Bryon,

    Are you out at the Junction? I used to love winter running there on when I lived in PC. You can get plenty o winter running on trails in Denver. The snow gets packed down and when there's sun, there are trails that dry quickly.

    1. Bryon Powell

      No, I"m up in Old Town, so Lost Prospector, Gambel Oak, and Masonic are where I've been hitting the trails of late. Unlike the Front Range, those trails tend not to get packed down once the powder starts flying.

  32. Jared Friesen

    I am running my first ultra next month, the Little Su 50k (Geoff has the current CR). I live in Alaska, this race is in February. We are having record snow fall (over 100 inches in Anchorage YTD) and just had a record cold. It has been winter in every sense of the word! Either way, this being my first year running and training through winter, it has been a lot of fun and I have leared a lot about being out in the cold by myself for hours. I am also really looking forward to the big foundation I have built going into spring.

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