Winter running can be very cold here in Alberta. But it also can be incredibly exhilarating! Running through trees that are covered in snow, trails thick with a recent snow fall, majestic views and the cold crisp air is very grounding and incredibly beautiful.
It has probably taken me around 8 years to work out how to be comfortable and warm when running in the winter here in Alberta. I have experimented with different types of layers, jackets and shoes. I now know what will work for me at a variety of different temperatures. I do not have set clothes that are specifically for skiing or running. I mix my clothes and will purchase items that I know work well for all winter activities.
So, you may ask, what is your temperature limit for running?
I tend to run up to -25º, lower than this I would personally head out for a cross country ski as I find I keep warmer doing this than running. At this temperature, I would not stay out too long, but a short, brisk 5k ski or run will invigorate you!
I run with several layers because I feel the cold, so you may want to adjust some of your base layers if you are a warmer runner.
Good socks - sometimes two if it is that cold!! I will run in ski socks when it gets really cold and will put a thinner layer on underneath for cold days!
Base layers - good base layers that wick away moisture. These can be merino or synthetic.
Thermals - great for REALLY cold days for under your running pants.
Winter style running pants (or Cross country skiing style pants). If they are windproof, this is a bonus.
Second layer for on top of your base layer - this can be slightly warmer. I love the Kara Traa clothing line. They do good merino and wool layers and they look cool as well!
Top layer - this can be either a thin shell or waterproof/wind proof. I use my top layer to backcountry ski in.
For women, an insulated skirt or shorts are great addition - as this really keeps that butt warm!!!
Toque or head band - definitely needed on cold days!
Buff - this will help keep your face from freezing! (See the image below!!)
Gloves - sometimes two pairs of it is that cold!!
Gaiters - these can be great to help keep your feet dry and not so snow covered!
Spikes or grips on your runners if it is icy - these are lifesavers to be honest and I often can not "run" Prairie Mountain without them. Icebugs are great, but you can also get some good other spikes. Asics do a great range of trail shoes with good winter grips. I like the FUJITRABUCO LYTE shoe.
And to keep those hydration packs from freezing add a heat warmer in a sock and keep the bladder close to your body, this should help limit the freezing!
and finally run with a SMILE!!!!
So I know wearing all this can take for ever to put on! But I promise you it is worth it to get out and run!
I was chatting about winter with a friend of mine in Australia and she was amazed at how many items of clothing I was talking about! She just laughed and said she runs in t-shirts and shorts - all year round!!
Finally a word of caution, if you are running on the trails in West Bragg or in Kananaskis, do not forget that you are in the mountains and the weather can change, so be prepared for the worst. Always take that extra layer of clothing just in case, be wildlife aware and take the right precautions and make sure you tell someone where you are going!!
Happy Trail Running!