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 and tell us about it. We’ll send you a T-shirt!
Minneapolis-St. Paul. The coldest major city 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 almost 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.
Moscow, Russia. Among the coldest major cities in the world, alongside Montreal. Reliable snow from November to March, matched by short winter days due to its northern latitude. It can be a treat to go running in the winter there. A snowy run in Red Square might be fun, but the river paths might be tricky. On a pretty winter day, find a path in Gorky Park, or in one Moscow’s other great parks: extensive Solniki and Pokrovskoye Streshnevo parks; Filevsky and Suvorov parks in western Moscow; and Severnoye Tushino, Riverport, and Druzhby parks in the northwestern part of the city.
Tallinn, Estonia. This city located on the Gulf of Finland is an increasingly popular visitor destination, owing to its setting and beautiful architecture. It’s charming (but dark) in winter, especially festive during the holiday season.
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 extreme cold. Oslo and Helsinki probably have the most ‘reliable’ winter in terms of snowscape. The further north and away from the coast you go– think Lapland – world class Nordic skiing also provides for some great running opportunities.
Salzburg, Austria. This city located at the foothills of the Alps averages 110 cm of snow annually, and is absolutely charming when blessed with a winter landscape. If it snows, be sure to run the Hellbrunner Allée, a path that leads to the beautiful grounds of the Hellbrun Palace.
Warsaw, Poland. Picture eastern Europe and you think winter, right? 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 Paths 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.