Cool Running: Winter Races in Colorado

In a state where outdoor recreation is a way of life, Coloradans don’t stow away their sneakers during winter. Register now for these wintertime races that range from traditional 5Ks and marathons to fat bikes and uphill snowshoe treks.

By: Staff Writer
Updated: February 21, 2024

Rio Frio 5K On Ice, Alamosa

The Rio Grande River is a powerful force of nature, carrying snowmelt from Colorado’s San Juan Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico. This lifeblood of the Southwest is awe-inspiring from its banks, but the Rio Frio 5K organizers in Alamosa want runners to see and feel the landscape from the river itself in January. Hard-packed ice permits racers to run directly on the Rio Grande and experience a newfound appreciation for the waterway.

Leadville Loppet

The people of Leadville are hardcore. Each August, elite athletes run the Leadville Trail 100-mile race (yes, 100 miles). Not to be outdone, winter residents lovingly founded the Leadville Loppet — a February cross-country ski race with five distances, ranging from 44k and 22k (each an American Birkebeiner-qualifier) to a 5k costume ski and a 1k for kiddos. Those who endure are rewarded with one heck of a bucket list item — and an after party with plenty of warm-you-up foods.

Old Man Winter Bike Rally & Run, Lyons

February's Old Man Winter Bike Rally & Run gives runners the chance to weave and wind through Lyons via gravel, snowy singletrack and red-rock canyons in some of the most beautiful landscapes Colorado has to offer. Take your pick between the 5K and 10K races, or put your legs to the test by combining the 10K running and 50K cycling events. (There are also 50K and 100K cycling routes for those who prefer only to pedal.)

Vail Mountain Winter Uphill

Vail visitors are used to swishing down world-class slopes. Not so in February, when racers charge up 2,200 vertical feet from Lionshead Village to the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola. The Vail Mountain Winter Uphill is à la carte: Choose from running, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or any other winter transport you can fashion.  

Run Through Time Trail Marathon, Salida

For the habitual long-distance runners out there, put Salida’s Run Through Time on your list for March. Elevations of more than 7,000 feet and views of the Arkansas Valley have made it a favorite among trail-running fanatic. A hard half marathon and 2-mile option are also available.

Emma Crawford Coffin Race, Manitou Springs

In 1889 when Emma Crawford died of tuberculosis, her final wish was to be buried atop nearby Red Mountain. Her fiancé honored her command, but rainfall tempted fate and released her coffin down the mountainside. Emma’s body was never found, but the coffin became a rallying point for Manitou Springs' Emma Crawford Coffin Race where period-dressed racers roll coffins up Manitou Avenue each October.

Additional Heart-Pumping Winter Races in Colorado:

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Tips for Running in Colder Weather

  1. Footwear: Less mesh equals less potential for wet feet. Depending on the race, consider buying running crampons that will give you more traction on ice.
  2. Clothing: Don’t forget Colorado’s mantra: layers! Our high elevation means you can be in a T-shirt one second and a heavy jacket the next. Tip: Dress as if it’s 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature
  3. Fabric: Wear fabrics that wick away moisture, especially on your feet, where cotton harbors uncomfortable chilliness.
  4. Efficiency: Gloves, face masks and hats help maintain your body heat. Tip: Put hand warmers in your shoes and gloves. 
  5. Warm-Ups: Avoid shocking your body with a sudden drop in temperature. Instead, warm up inside before heading out.

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