Great Runs is the ultimate guide to the best places to go running in the world’s major cities and destinations. We’re pleased to share this content through a partnership with Runkeeper.
For some, winter running might mean hopping on a treadmill or getting on a plane to a warm-weather spot. But others embrace winter running for its crisp air and snowy landscape. For winter running lovers, this column is for you! We’ve come up with our list of the best cities for winter running.
What makes a great winter running city? First off is reliable winter weather! We prefer running when its 20º and snowy than when it’s 42º and rainy. But even more than that, good winter running cities have a winter running culture. They celebrate winter. And in some cases, they maintain some of the roads and trails so they can be enjoyed in winter. So grab your Yaktrax and go!
Montreal. It will be no surprise that three Canadian cities top our list. Montreal has the coldest and snowiest winters of any major city in the world. Head to Mount Royal, which in winter has a maintained outdoor ice rink, ski/toboggan hill, and miles of trails popular with runners. And on a snowy night, there’s nothing better than running through the streets of Old Montreal.
Ottawa. Like Montreal, Canada’s capital celebrates winter. The Rideau Canal is a World Heritage site and is the longest maintained skating rink in the world. Several miles of the path, especially near downtown, are cleared of snow. Runners can enjoy these paths and avail themselves of the changing rooms and warning huts lining the canal – and have a post-run hot chocolate!
Quebec City. Like the other two Canadian cities in the snowy Golden Triangle, winter is celebrated in Quebec City, rather than eschewed. Of course, there’s the famous Winter Carnival, which features some skiing and running amidst the snow sculptures, sledding spots, and copious alcohol consumption. Here’s a hearty winter challenge: run the Plains of Abraham on a cold, windy morning. We’ll send you a T-shirt!
Minneapolis-St. Paul. One of the better-guaranteed snow/cold cities in the United States, where winter is braved…and celebrated. A prime example: the iconic Chain of Lakes trail is plowed in winter. So, bundle up and enjoy!
Acadia National Park. The most visited national park in the U.S. is quiet and pristine in winter. It’s worth the drive to enjoy running on the park’s famous Carriage Trails, there XC skiers and snowshoers will pack down the trail for you, and the trails are groomed by a group of volunteers in winter. They’re wide enough so that runners can share the trail – but please stay out of the ski tracks! Grooming status here.
Burlington, Vermont. Winter and Vermont are synonymous. This city embraces winter. Great winter running spots are incorporated in our Burlington Highlights Tour, which features Church St. and Battery Hill. Or, head down to the Lake Champlain waterfront, where trails are packed by winter sports enthusiasts, and enjoy views of the frozen lake, the Green Mountains, and the Adirondacks.
Scandinavian Cities. Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo, and Helsinki are at relatively similar latitudes and can all be very festive and snowy in the winter months. The short daylight hours and the strong biking culture mean that key paths are well-lit and maintained – a boon for runners! Due to the ocean influence, none of the major Scandinavian cities gets extremely cold. Oslo and Helsinki probably have the most ‘reliable’ winter. The further north and away from the coast – think Lapland – world-class Nordic skiing also provides for some great running opportunities.
Moscow, Russia. Alongside Montreal, the coldest, snowiest major city in the world. For a great sense of beauty and history on a snowy day, take a run through Gorky Park or along the Inner Ring series of linear parks. Our ‘run seeing’ tour of Moscow has lots of atmosphere on a snowy night!
Warsaw, Poland. There are some other European cities that are a bit snowier, but Warsaw temperatures are more reliably cool and the city’s setting makes it great for winter running. If the Vistula River Pats aren’t cleared of snow, Łazienki Park and Mokotowskie Field have a pleasant winter atmosphere. Or, enjoy the snowy trails in Kabacki Forest south of the city, and Bielański Forest to the north.
Mark Lowenstein is Chief Running Officer of Great Runs, the ultimate guide to the best places to run in the world’s major cities and destinations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @greatruns