If you go

What: Final Nighthawks race of 2013

When: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 6 p.m.

Where: Eldora Mountain Resort

Cost: $10-$15

More info: http://eldora.com/programs.nighthawks.html

For six weeks in January and February, Marty Pietruszka breaks up his drab workweek routine by skiing every Wednesday during the Eldora Nighthawks race series.

Getting out into the chilly night air, racing under the lights, competing against friends --it's the perfect mid-week recess, said Pietruszka, a chip design engineer for SeaGate in Longmont.

"When you're out there doing something fun, you're not thinking about work, not thinking about things stressing you out," he said. "It's an opportunity to get some exercise, and then you get to know people and make friends up there. It's a great way to break up the week."

The six-week series began Jan. 23 with snowshoe, Nordic and Alpine races for any age or ability, and Wednesday marks the last Nighthawks race of 2013.

Pietruszka, 46, said he considers himself "a little more than a weekend warrior" because he races on Wednesday evenings, then trains with the Rocky Mountain Masters ski team on Thursday mornings. He moved to Colorado eight years ago from Wisconsin, where he night skied at least one evening each week.


"Seeing that there's not really much nighttime skiing in Colorado, when I learned about Nighthawks, I thought, 'fabulous,'" he said.

The Alpine races include telemark and snowboard categories, as well as age and gender categories. Race organizer Melody Loar said the races garner between 40 and 80 participants each week.

Loar said many parents bring their children to Nighthawks to introduce them to ski racing, and to spend time with them during a shared activity.

"It's a fun way for them to learn what racing is about," she said.

Bart Miller participated in the Nordic race for the first time in early February after seeing posters about it "for years," he said. Miller, a 46-year-old water program director for Western Resource Advocates, said he was impressed by the number of "amazing" Nordic skiers he saw on the trail, which is lit by blinking red lights.

"I know Boulder and Nederland have a lot of fit people, but this was ridiculous," he said. "If you want to have a little bit of humble pie, it's super fun to be out there chasing people in the dark on the snow. "

Cheryl Paulson, 48, and her 8-year-old daughter Trinity spend their Wednesday nights snowshoe racing, with headlamps to light the way.

Paulson, who ran track and cross-country in college, said she finds the snowshoe racing provides the same aerobic challenge, but with less stress on her body.

The best part of snowshoe racing at Eldora is that Trinity can participate, and Paulson knows that other participants will watch out for her, she said.

"You just have this family, community feeling," she said. "It's what I want my daughter to be exposed to. It's why I go there. I have all sorts of blinky lights on her, everyone knows her, and she has a blast. It's a way to get me out in the snow and compete, but I can share it with my daughter."

--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.