Ever try running in the snow in barefoot, five-toe running shoes? Sounds crazy, but there are plenty of exercise junkies participating in workouts far more dangerous and extraordinary than you’d think. YS has found some of these adventurers and outlined their atypical winter sports routines. And if cross-country skiing is more your speed, we’ve found the best ways to get up on the mountain for under $50. Whether you chose ice climbing or snowshoeing, its time to head for the hills and enjoy the best of the season’s sports.E
What do you get when you cross a bicycle with skis? A ski bike, of course. Sometimes referred to as a snow bob, this up-and-coming sport actually had its start in Europe in the 19th century. Now, interest in ski biking has been slowly growing in the States, even spawning a scooter-inspired offshoot of the ski bike—the ski scoot. One of the great things about the ski bike is that it’s got an easy learning curve, making it great for novices and impatient learners. The bikes are anchored by skis instead of wheels, which the rider controls with either the front handlebars or by turning out their hips.
Try it: Vail offers ski bike rentals and instruction at Adventure Ridge, ?970-754-8245.
If you’re looking for a sport that combines strength, endurance, agility, and adrenaline, look no further than ice climbing. Ice climbing involves either summiting a frozen entity, such as a glacier, or climbing water ice, like a frozen waterfall. The sport requires special equipment, like the claws, or blades that stick out from the shoes that allow climbers to kick into the ice and grip, as well as the ice axes, which involve 15 cm blades to hack into the ice. Climbers are typically roped and protected from fatal falls, similar to regular rock climbing.
Try it: Ouray Ice Park is considered one of the epicenters of ice climbing in North America. The park features over 200 man-made ice climbs, from beginner to expert. Admission to the park is free, and there’s even an ice festival on January 8th-11th, 970-325-4288.
Winter Barefoot Running
Barefoot running, or running in which participants don five-toed sport shoes to run as close to barefoot as possible, is something you’d probably assume is reserved exclusively for sunnier months. Not anymore. Extreme runners wanted to find a way to continue running barefoot, even in the snow. Enter the Vibram Lonta, an insulated version of the five-toed shoe, which allows runners to be comfortable throughout the winter. The minimalist shoes feature fleece lining and neoprene cuffs to keep snow out, making the run a bit more comfortable. In Boulder, however, there are those that continue to run barefoot all the way down to 20 degrees. The key, many say, is to start gradually and let your body slowly adapt to temperatures.
Try it: All you really need for barefoot running are a pair of feet with good circulation. If you’re looking for the five-toed shoes for some extra warmth, try the Vibram Lontras. Many local barefoot runners enjoy running the same trails they would in the summer, like Boulder’s Mount Sanitas.
This winter sport involves a little help from some four-legged friends, as either dogs or horses pull a skier across the snow. Ski Joring comes to us from Scandinavia, where the sport has been going on for quite some time. Competitive ski joring involves speed racing on courses with gates, jumps, and rings. If you’d like to see a ski joring event in action, look no further than Leadville. Leadville has been host to an equestrian ski joring competition since 1949, and it continues to be one of the most well known ski joring events in the country.
Try it: Head up to Leadville’s ski joring event on March 7 and 8 to see over 60 teams compete in the ski joring competition. The ski joring festival also features a number of other Nordic activities, 719-486-2014.
While boating is a popular summer pastime, not many know that the sport translates to winter as well. This high-adrenaline winter sport puts participants in a thrilling battle with the forces of nature. Riding lightweight crafts on razor skates, participants slice through iced-over bodies of water at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour (and that’s without much wind!). Participants need to be armed with not only life jackets, but also ice picks in case they should need to pick themselves out from icy waters. With a dangerous combination of high speeds, difficulty, and the potential for being catapulted into freezing water, this sport is generally one for the pros. The ice must be at least 4 inches thick for ice boating, so the season on this sport is pretty short in Colorado.
Try it: Lake Dillon, Georgetown, and Eleven Mile Lake are all popular destinations for ice boating in the dead of winter. This is very hard sport to get into, and rentals are not commonly available. However, just watching the pros participate is quite a thrill.
Snow kiting is exactly what it sounds like—snowboarders or skiers use kite power to glide across the snow, similar to kite boarding. Snow kiting is becoming rapidly diversified, as adventure seekers push the boundaries and take the sport intto the territories of big air, speed, and back country exploration. The beauty snow kiting is that you don’t even need a slope to do it—in fact, with the right wind conditions, you could actually use the kite to pull you up the mountain! As you may have guessed, kite boarders easily learn the sport, but it’s not terribly difficult for complete novices to pick up, either.
Try it: Looking to try snow kiting yourself? Telluride offers a full snow kite school so you can learn the ins and outs of the sport. Classes are available for complete beginners as well as experienced kite boarders, 541-490-4401.