All You Need to Know About Winter Triathlons

Winter is coming and it’s going to get as cold as Game of Thrones. Inclement weather, icy winds, frosty nights, and pristine snow are knocking at our doors.  If you are a triathlete, you might be tempted to think – time to hang up those shoes until next the season, right? Wrong! So what if summer is over? It’s time to gear up for an equally exciting sport – the winter triathlon.

For newbies who have not warmed up to this concept, winter triathlon is a sport in its own right and involves running, mountain biking, and cross country skiing – all done on snow! Contrary to what you might think, it is not a new sport. The International Triathlon Union has been holding winter triathlon world championship races since 1997!

It’s a grueling sport, to say the least. Imagine running and biking through snow-clad mountain trails and finishing it off with equally laborious cross-country skiing. It’s as much a test of an athlete’s endurance and fitness as a regular triathlon.


So, why bother? Why not just enjoy the off-season especially when you know you have earned it? Or just stick to the usual winter workout routine of running that treadmill, spinning that stationary cycle at the gym, and swimming in a warm indoor pool all winter?

Well, for one, it’s really boring if all you end up doing is just training. Moreover, there’s no place like the outdoors to train if you are a real triathlete!  Winter triathlons help you stay connected with nature as you keep up your fitness and training regimen. As for enjoying the off-season, sure! Why not, as long as you don’t mind losing all the great work you have done this year. Do you really think you would be excited about building your stamina and performance levels ALL OVER AGAIN when summer comes? Doesn’t sound so inviting now, does it?

Winter Triathlon 101

Don’t worry if you are new to the concept of winter triathlon. We have the complete lowdown on what it’s all about. You’re looking at sequential completion of three different sports – running, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing – typically on hard-packed snow courses.

It’s no surprise that the equipment required for contesting in winter triathlons is going to be a little more specialized than your traditional triathlon. So, we describe each sport in detail along with the specific winter triathlon gear you will need for each:

  1. Running: The running leg in winter triathlons is usually contested on a snow packed course. The length of running courses vary greatly, but the standard distances range from 5-9 kilometers (3.1-5.5 miles).


    • Gear: It’s not going to be easy running on snow with regular running shoes, although a lot of triathletes are known to use them. Cross-country spikes or customized shoes with 3.2 mm metal spikes may be your best pick.
  1. Cycling: The mountain biking leg of the winter triathlon is conducted on packed ski trails. Typical course lengths range from 10-15 kilometers (6.2-9.3 miles).


    • Gear: Mountain bikes with large width and slightly deflated tires for better traction should work well. Wearing a helmet during this competition is mandatory.
  1. Skiing: Considered the most physically demanding sport in the world, the skiing leg of winter triathlon is contested over courses that are usually 8-12 kilometers (5-7.5 miles) in length. Both skating and classic style skiing are allowed.


    • Gear: Supportive boots, poles and skis that meet the length and stiffness criteria are all the equipment you will need. However, your prime concern when it comes to skiing should be training that focuses on improving your speed, fitness, and finesse.

Winter Triathlon Tips

If you are new to the winter triathlon competition, we have some helpful tips for you. First up, make sure you learn the proper running, biking, and skiing technique for the competition. As mentioned before, running and biking on snow-clad trails is an entirely different ballgame and you need to master the technique if you want to participate well in any winter triathlon.

Make sure you have a winter training plan in place to prepare for the competition. Without getting too ambitious, your plan should have just enough motivation for you to kick off those covers on a cold, cold morning.

Use the right winter triathlon clothing. As they say in Norway, “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. Remember that clothing for running and cycling in cold weather is quite different from what triathletes use in summer. However, don’t make the mistake of over-dressing. Your clothing should allow your body to get rid of the excess heat and sweat generated when you exert yourself.

Get familiar with the rules and regulations of winter triathlon competitions.  For example, make sure you know the rules for each sport as well as when you are transitioning from one leg to another.

Winter triathlon has been around for sometime. Though it’s not as popular as the traditional triathlon, it is quickly gaining acceptance in the triathlon community and may even be included as a winter Olympic sport in the future. As a triathlete, you know this is your chance to stay fit and get some Adrenalin-pumping action during the off season. Are you ready to blaze a trail in the snow?

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