After a solidly wonderful snow at the beginning on November, runners are already pinging each other to determine day-to-day trail conditions in Truckee and beyond. Figuring out how to still get your runs in, particularly if you prefer it not be on pavement, becomes an art in balancing word-of-mouth reports, DPMR updates, and timing needed to go a little further for dirt.
Many of us view it as the off-season and adopt a winter activity to take the place (mostly) of running — cross country, backcountry, downhill — while others try to balance it and stay close to running with snowshoeing, spikes, and dreadmill time.
So as you approach snowy or icy days and still want to get a running-type outing in, consider using the following progression to assess your options for each winter outing:
I Want Dirt
Living the dream — running on dirt in the winter! It’s glorious, especially after a few weeks trudging through snow and ice. For those in the North Tahoe area, you’ll likely need to do a little driving to find it (please carpool, if possible). Here are some of the more popular areas and trails for winter dirt surfing:
- Tahoe Pyramid Trail – the stretch between Hirschdale and Verdi is close by, and tends to be run-able for a decent amount of the winter – particularly the stretch East of Farad.
- Reno/Peavine – there is usually snow up high, and sometimes a lot (plus, wind that will cut you in half), but if you stay on the lower trails you can often find great dirt. Check out south-facing River Bend up to Sandy Hill, the Halo Trail, or Keystone Canyon and the surrounding non-motorized trails.
- Auburn/Foresthill – it’s a further jaunt, but there are ample dirt trails to be found free of snow down the hill. The Western States trail is a favorite wintertime training ground for those looking to log long dirt miles as they prep for spring races.
A Little Snow Won’t Stop Me
A few inches of snow shouldn’t slow you down, right? Especially if it is nicely packed. Start with some trail shoes with healthy lugs on ’em for soft, thin snow — consider a pair of Gore-Tex trail shoes if you are going more than 2-3 miles. Then progress to microspikes when it’s icy, hard-packed or a bit deeper on the trails. I recommend the 1 cm length spikes for these conditions. Instant confidence on snow and ice. Lower profile products like “nano” spikes or Ice Spikes can also increase traction in the ice and snow (especially when firm).
Gimme That Deep Power Workout
After a decent snow or when postholing is possible/expected, reach for some snowshows (borrow them from DPMR!) to get your run in. You can get in a great cardio and strength workout via snowshoe running — it take more effort but the payoff is excellent, and likely gets you out into the forest solitude when few others are around. Some key things to consider:
- Go for shorter showshoes when running (25in or less), or better yet a running-specific snowshoe. Atlas Run Snowshoe is great option, and that’s what DPMR loans out to its members.
- Wear waterproof/gore-tex running shoes to keep the wet and cold out a little longer.
- Wear pants or tights that are breathable but also don’t absorb water easily, since when you run the snowshoes will kick up snow on your back side.
- If you are cutting the trail, good for you — an even better workout and adventure! If there are fresh skin tracks, it’s courtesy to try and stay out of them if the trail is wide enough.
- Since it’s more work and your feet will get wet, plan on a 2-6 mile outing. You can go longer of course, but expect it to feel like 2x effort of a dry run — take ample food/liquid and pay attention to your feet.
- Some cross country areas have snowshoe trails (or even allow use of the groomed ones if you stay to the side), which can make the outing less effortful.
- Packed-down snowmobile tracks also can make for smoother snowshoeing. Check out the fire roads around Prosser Hill.
- Want to tackle a wintry climb? Castle Peak, Mt. Judah, and even Scott Peak (from the backside) have been regular routes for me. Just check the avalanche report and be mindful of snow conditions, just as backcountry skiers/riders do — best to go high when risk is low.
Not sure what to choose? Consider making it an adventure run — start in spikes and take your snowshoes in a backpack, then switch modes when needed. You can cover pavement, hard-packed and deeper snow all in one epic go!
Give Me Cold, Hard Pavement
If you don’t mind hitting the pavement, there are plenty of options — just watch the dark ice. Good gear for running on icy pavement in the winter are the smaller “nano” spikes or Ice Spikes. Some elect to go the DIY route and put small screws in the soles of their shoes, some buy shoes with spikes already in place, while others strap on something like this.
- Legacy Trail (Glenshire to downtown)
- Truckee River Bike Trail (Hwy 89 from Olympic Valley to Tahoe City)
- Trout Creek Trail (Tahoe Donner to downtown)
- Any streets in your neighborhood!
Since the winter of 2020 (COVID!), these trails now get plowed regularly in the winter (I hope this continues). The clearing of the trail along Highway 89 occasionally takes longer to clear given higher snow levels (and a different agency handles that).
Damn, That’s Cold
Admittedly, there are times where you just don’t want to go out in the cold. That’s when the progression of options turns to the treadmill, the gym, or some semblance of a home workout. Or, hot cocoa with whiskey. Do what ya gotta do!
After the wait, what trails in the Truckee area tend to be ready to go first after the snow starts to melt (or during an elongated dry spell)? Look for lower elevation, southern exposure trails, or trails a bit further East. And DPMR typically has a crowd-sourced trail conditions report that starts circulating in the spring.
- Tahoe Pyramid Trail (mentioned above)
- Canyon Springs trails (in Glenshire)
- Emigrant Trail (Hwy 89 towards Stampede Reservoir)
- Drunken Deer (along Alder Creek Rd, southern exposure)
- Waddle Ranch (except for the north facing trails — Erica’s, Matt’s)
- Martis Valley
- Boca Hill/Lloyd’s
Now it’s time for everyone to do a little snow dance to build up that base, and then have some fun out there! And please share your recommendations and ideas in the comments below for keeping your running going through the winter.
… and don’t go to peavine after precip unless you want to be a few inches of mud taller
Good reminder — it’s a special, sticky, ugly kinda mud.
> If there are fresh skin tracks, it’s courtesy to try and stay out of them if the trail is wide enough
I don’t wanna tell anyone what to do but for in order for the one person who doesn’t already know this to not be unpleasantly surprised, running in skin tracks is actually considered to be something closer to a felony than a lack of courtesy by most people you’ll run into in the mountains here. It won’t be me but at least one person will put a lot of energy into yelling at you and mostly likely it will be several people. Trails don’t exist once the ground is snow covered so mentioning anything about a trail will just dig your figurative hole deeper.
But if you thrive on conflict by all means run your own run. 🙂
Jack Macy says
Agreed, some people do take protection of the tracks very seriously, so that’s why I mentioned it as a friendly reminder to snowshoe runners and hikers — appreciate you adding emphasis and perspective to that, I’ve also cut many paths (often along known trails) in snowshoes, and people lay their skin tracks down on top of the line only to tell me on the way back that I should stay out of them. As a skier and a snowshoe runner, the bottom line for me is everyone is out to have a good time and enjoy the mountains, and be considerate and share our amazing spaces graciously.