Here at Stio Headquarters, lunch break trail runs are a regular occurrence and a shared activity among staff. The accessibility of trail running is so easy to love and the enthusiasm for the sport has grown in our community. We’ve received a few questions about what to use when trail running, or where to go, so we connected with a few of our most experienced trail running ambassadors to pick their brain about the sport.
Christy Mahon: Christy is a Colorado native who is continually inspired by mountains. She was the first woman to ski all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks and is the only woman to ski the 100 highest peaks in Colorado, a feat that earned her a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year nomination in 2016. Her current goal is to run and ski the world’s most legendary peaks, traverses, and trails while working full-time to protect the environment through her work at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.
Sam Schwartz: Sam was raised in Jackson, Wyoming and still calls the Tetons home today. His upbringing in the mountains taught him how to go big and get after it from an early age, which lead him to a Junior World Freeski Champion title, published photos in various ski magazines, and a title from Freeskier Magazine as the #1 Backflipper in 2016. When he’s not flipping on his skis he can be found trail running through the Tetons and exploring new mountain ranges.
What is it about trail running that you love so much?
Christy: Exploration. Not only of remote mountains and beautiful spaces but also for the introspective to know better who I am. For me, it provides endless inspiration for the pursuit of mental, physical, and spiritual growth. With each trail run, I come back a happier and more motivated human being. I love stepping off the cement and feeling the dirt beneath my feet. Trail running slows us down in a good way and connects us with the natural world. I love the simplicity and accessibility, as well freedom it gives me to leave the world behind, if even just for an hour.
Sam: There is nothing quite like the freedom of trail running. Mountain biking, skiing, and climbing are all such special sports, yet require so much technical knowledge and equipment. All you need to run is a pair of shoes and determination. It’s so simple. Pick a trail head. Put your shoes on. Go.
What are a few tips you have for someone trying to get more into the sport?
- “Always go!” No matter how tired you are in the morning or how exhausted you feel after work, just remember that you will always feel more energized after your run. It never fails!
- Get out the map! Discover what’s around you. Each season explore new trails and add variety to standard loops. Even running a trail in the opposite direction will provide a totally new perspective.
- Set goals. Including new distances, terrain challenges, and running adventures.
- Vary the pace. Enjoy runs that are slow and easy, but also make sure to add days when you push yourself with intervals or overall faster pace.
Sam: Even a sport as basic as running can have techniques to help you improve and make your experience more enjoyable. Here are a few things I always consider when it comes to trail running:
- Get hydrated before running. I absolutely CHUG water the night before a big run. Showing up hydrated and fueled allows me to carry less weight on the trail and keep a consistent pace
- No matter your pace, keep it consistent. Running is such a mental game. Especially as you get into uphill running. Keeping pace is crucial and a hard concept for beginners to learn. I call it finding your “forever pace”. A pace that you can run at all day without stopping. Listen to your body and you’d be surprised how far you can go without stopping.
- Run somewhere new every week. To me, running is a vehicle to get into the mountains and enjoy yourself. It’s all about getting uncomfortable, finding something new. Go online, look at a map, find a new trail head and go!
- Don’t overdo it. Growing up, most of us hated running. Once you get into it though, it becomes addicting. Getting the blood flowing, being out in nature is something my brain craves every day. Running can be hard on the body and overuse injuries are common. Listen to your body, have a plan to progress your running and ramp it up slowly.
- Keep it fun. Don’t take trail running too seriously. It’s popular, all over social media, and at times extremely competitive. Keep it light and enjoy yourself. Go with friends. Run up to obscure peaks. Jump in lakes. Make it something you want to come back to week after week
When it comes to trail running gear, what products do you use to build out your kit?
- Stio Second Light Jacket: My absolute favorite layer for early morning runs, mountain tops and ridges, and the lightest thing in my pack.
- Hoka Shoes: The new trimmed down style still has all the padding needed for long days on the trail.
- Ultimate Direction Running Vest: These running vests have changed the world of hydration and trail running. You can pack it for an hour or eight hours on the trails. It has all the room I need for extra jackets, snacks, and still feels light on the back.
- Stio’s Second Light Short: The majority of my trail running is done in just shoes and shorts. It is essential to have a pair of shorts that has the perfect cut, is lightweight, and doesn’t absorb strong sweat smells.
- La Sportiva’s Ultra Raptor: I love to get onto trail runs that bring me to technical rocky terrain. The Ultra Raptor trail shoes give me a balance between grip on exposed terrain and cushion for long distance runs.
- Stio Alpiner Hooded Jacket: The go to warm yet extremely breathable layer for morning, spring, or fall runs. Lightweight and packable, this layer goes in my vest for any long day.
- Osprey Duo 15L Running Vest: Unless I’m going for a big adventure, I go bare bones. Just shoes and shorts. For those big days and long runs requiring lots of water and fuel, this vest fits snug, packs a 2.5L water reservoir and even allows me to pack a camera.
Christy, what are a few of your favorite trails in the Aspen area?
- Aspen’s Hunter Creek Valley provides endless miles of loops and trails to choose from making it easy to put together anything from a 4-mile run to a 24-mile run.
- Once the snow has melted, connecting trails in the Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness Area makes for some of the most beautiful loops and running traverses in the country. For many of these trailheads, you can connect them by bus, therefore, taking out the need to drive or shuttle cars.
- One of my favorite loops is a 7 or 10 miles “Urban Trail Run” that connects a bunch of shorter and hilly trails that circumnavigate Aspen’s core. Gives a great perspective of town and is the perfect trail run when you don’t have time for a longer jaunt into the mountains.
Sam, as a Jackson local you’ve explored a lot of terrain around here. What area a few of your go-tos?
- Grand Teton National Park, Lupine Meadows Trail Head: This is a must visit area. The world famous GTNP is my go to, due to unlimited options, and unparalleled scenery. From experts looking to traverse the highest summits to beginners looping around lakes with new challenging mountains peering down at you.
- Elk Refuge Road: Access into the Gros Ventre range is 10-20 minutes outside of Jackson. The less popular mountain range offers challenging secluded trails. Look for classic peaks such Jackson Peak or run the long dirt road for classic Teton and wildlife views.
- Snow King Mountain: The town hill offers quick access trail runs up Josie’s Ridge or up the Summit Chair line. The best trails go off the back side towards Cache Creek or Wilson Canyon south of town. These trails offer a great balance between distance and vertical feet.
- Always remember your bear spray and be bear aware when traveling in bear country.