Winter running enthusiasts share their secrets
Before he heads out on cold winter runs, Stuart Graves finds his favorite pair of tube socks and slips them on right over his gloves.
It might not be the most stylish look, but the running enthusiast says it's effective.
"It works as a nice insulator for my hands, and it allows for carrying some snacks," he said.
Going with layers, even unconventional ones, is just one of the tricks veteran trail runners resort to as Utah's weather turns cold.
Normally considered a relatively simple sport in the summer, running in the winter presents a variety of challenges such as when to run, how to dress and what trail etiquette tips should be considered.
Facing those frigid temperatures might keep some runners inside, but it is possible to continue the sport outside, and the reward for those brave enough is solitude in beautiful scenery.
The secrets, everyone says, is to be prepared and know your trail conditions.
Utah is blessed with many trails that remain passable even in deep winter. While the Bonneville Shoreline trail that skirts the Salt Lake valley is a good option, heading to the Park City area when inversions set in is an attractive option as well.
There, runners will find groomed trails in the Round Valley area, the Rail Trail and the Basin that normally offer more than 20 miles of runnable trails. Mountain Trails Foundation, a local organization dedicated to promoting and maintaining the Park City trail system, grooms daily if conditions permit.
The Quinn's Loops, Matt's Flat, Cammy's and Round Valley Express are just a few of the trails popular with runners because they offer expansive mountain views without too much elevation gain that could make winter running treacherous.
The Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail and McLeod Creek and Willow Creek are other lesser-used but good options.
With so many trails available, enthusiasts are advised to pick up one of the winter trail maps available at local ski shops or mountaintrails.org. When runners, skiers and walkers mix, there inevitably can be some conflicts.
However, the Mountain Trails Foundation's Rick Fournier said there are a few trail etiquette tips that can help keep things running smoothly.
• Avoid running in soft-snow conditions that leave post-holes on the track
• Walk/run/snowshoe on the outside edge of the trail and opposite of the classic ski lanes
• When running uphill, yield to downhill skiers
• There is a leash law in Summit County, so dogs should be on leashes. There is a new program Mountain Trails is promoting called the "Yellow Dog Project," in which dogs who aren't good with other dogs wear a yellow bandanna to alert other dog owners to give them additional space.
As with most winter sports, dressing in layers is key for running, said Staci Centini with the Salt Lake Running Co.
Centini, a trail running enthusiast, said runners should use the VIP system of ventilation, insulation and protection when preparing for runs.
"Runners need a tight, light, thin layer underneath that is breathable," she said. "You want something over that that insulates you but is breathable, then you want some sort of wind or rain protection."
Keeping layers thin and tight is the way to go, she said. So don't bundle up like the boy Randy in the classic move A Christmas Story to the point you can't put your arms down or get up from a slip in the snow for that matter.
"The two biggest mistakes people make are over dressing and getting sweaty and it makes them cold or wearing cotton," Centini said. "If you have the right layers on, you only need two or three rather than three or four."
Centini also recommends tracks for shoes to help grip on icy patches. Stick with regular running shoes too instead of buying any waterproof ones, she said.
"You want ones that are breathable so the feet stay dry from sweat," she said.
That also means keep the tube socks on your hands, not on your feet, to keep the feet dry and, of course, to carry snacks.
"My favorite snack is a peanut butter and honey burrito," Graves said. "It's nice and flat so it can be carried in the "socks easily."