This is Why You Should Tri a Winter Triathlon

by USA Triathlon

OK, so the cold, snowy days of winter are coming. That doesn’t mean the racing has to stop.

Winter triathlon, the run-bike-ski cousin of swim-bike-run is a fun way for triathletes to spend time outside in the fresh air during the traditional tri offseason. A growing multisport discipline, the cross-training benefits of winter triathlon training are huge, said Jason Lamoreaux, longtime race director of Alaska’s Tri-Flake Winter Triathlon, which hosted USA Triathlon Winter Triathlon National Championships the past three years.

“A great thing about winter tri is that just about any form of activity will help build fitness for this event,” Lamoreaux said. “Between running, biking, and Nordic skiing, you are using just about every muscle group in your body.”

The composition of winter triathlon can vary and is often dictated by the race director and snow conditions, but traditionally, the USA Triathlon Winter Triathlon National Championships are comprised of a run, a bike (it’s common to see competitors ride a fat-tire bike, running tires with low PSI) and a cross-country ski (either classic or skate-ski) —all done on snow.

Ever-changing snow conditions can make the cross-country skiing part of the sport slightly unpredictable — a good way to sharpen skills for your summer triathlon races. And for those without access to snow, roller skiing on pavement is a good way to practice for cross-country skiing.

What about clothing gear? Lamoreaux’s top tip: Practice layering.

“Clothing is probably the hardest part to get right for an event like this.  Your body generates a lot of heat when running, but then you are faced with the bike leg where things like hands and feet are exposed more and encountering more wind. Too much sweating during the run can result in getting chilled or worse during the bike,” Lamoreaux said. “Then you have to figure out how to work your fingers to change from bike equipment into ski boots.”

Figure out how your body works with different layer choices, Lamoreaux said and have options available for race day if the weather is different. 


A Fun Community

World Triathlon hosts the Winter Triathlon World Championships each year, and the U.S. annually sends a small, but mighty, age group Team USA squad. Longtime Team USA member Sheri Schrock loves the camaraderie among the athletes from the European countries, and she often stays at the same team hotels as the German and Austrian competitors, so the teams can dine together. 

“We have a tradition that after the race, the ‘loser’ buys the winner a bottle of champagne,” said Schrock who was a member of the three-strong Team USA squad in 2018. “Being new to winter tri and not having a USA coach at Worlds, we needed a mentor to understand how things run. Hans Peter Grunebach, one of the top German competitors, looked after me that year and the following years. Even though his wife Marianne and I battle it out every year, Hans Peter has kept me informed of what’s going on.”

Fellow Team USA member David Lasorsa also appreciates the tight-knit and supportive community of winter triathlon and instantly fell in love with the sport at his first winter triathlon.

“During my first winter tri in Anchorage I saw a person competing in a pink tutu and another in a leopard-skin suit,” Lasorsa said. “That convinced me this is the kind of sport I could love!” he said.”

What Athletes Are Saying About Winter Tri

“Winter triathlon is a fun way to train in the offseason. Playing in a winter wonderland is magical.” — Barbara Kostner

“Winter triathlon will make you a better summer athlete. It gets me training outdoors in the winter and gives me a new way to challenge myself.”— Chris Wodke

“Winter tri is so much less stressful than other racing — it's a small sport and there is great camaraderie. You don't have to be proficient at skate-skiing, you can start with skin skis and not worry about waxing. Just put your skis in the tracks and do classic-style.” — David Lasorsa.

“Winter tri is excellent cross training — Nordic ski helped my run speed big time. Advice: Don’t overdress. You will sweat. Invest in good underlayers — windbreaker underpants are a thing and they are great.” — Noah Billings

USA Triathlon Winter Triathlon Series

Craftsbury Winter Duathlon
Dec. 10 | Craftsbury Common, Vt.

Tri-Flake Winter Triathlon
Jan. 13, 2024 | Anchorage, Alaska

Vasaloppet Winter Triathlon
Feb. 4, 2024 | Mora, Minn.

Empire State Games Sprint Winter Triathlon
Feb. 17, 2024 | Lake Placid, New York

Abominable Snow Tri
Feb. 18, 2024 | Belmont, Mich.

The Breckebeiner | 2024 USA Triathlon Winter National Championships
Feb. 23-25 | Breckenridge, Colo.

Gaylord All Outdoors Tri 45 Winter Triathlon
March 3, 2024 |Gaylord, Mich.

Arctic Winter Triathlon
March 10, 2024 | Anchorage, Alaska

Winter Triathlon and Winter Duathlon 101

In this webinar, USA Triathlon Certified Coach Heather Helzer and Winter Worlds age-group Team USA athlete Sheri Schrock discuss what you need to know about trying the exciting format of Winter Tri! Mike McCormick, 2024 Winter National Championships race director, also shares information about the Nationals event in February in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Winter Triathlon and Duathlon 101