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Jeff Dahl races down Harrison Avenue while skier Vincent Pestello looses control of the first jump of the Leadville ski joring course during the 71st annual Leadville Ski Joring weekend competition on March 2, 2019, in Leadville.
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A couple days before Thanksgiving, more than a foot of snow dumped on the Front Range. You might have seen that as a roadblock to a big dinner at grandma’s house. Lauren Jones saw an opportunity.

She’s the owner with her husband, Scott, of Abominable Events, a series of gut-busting races that, as the name suggests, take place in winter. The Abominable Winter Obstacle Adventure, which takes place Feb. 22 in Como, is a pretty typical obstacle course — running, climbing, crawling — only it’s in the snow. In fact, Jones prefers to have a good base of powder for her courses.

“Just the deep snow itself is an obstacle,” she said. “We have groomed paths, but we have quite a few sections where it can be waist deep. It’s fun.”

“Fun,” of course, depends on the person wearing the boots. But if you’re like Jones and you see an opportunity for good times in snow – and you want something different than downhill skiing – the Abominable is just one adventure you can have this winter. There’s also cross-country skiing, snowshoe racing and something called kite boarding, or snowkiting.

Abominable Winter Obstacle Adventure

When: Feb. 22Where: ComoFor more information: abominablerun.com

The Abominable adventure may feature sections where you carry logs, crawl through snow tunnels or speed down a sledding hill. We say “may” because not even Jones knows for certain what she will offer from year to year. That depends on the snow and the landscape it covers.

“It really depends on what’s available,” Jones said.

Jones raced competitively in obstacle events until hip injuries slowed her down, and she loved running in the snow for training, even carrying a sled on her back and sliding down any hill that came her way. She wanted to bring that joy to others. The event is in its fifth year and draws about 150 racers, including some kids, although, Jones warns, “they’re tough kids.”

She thinks Como, a former mining town at about 10,000 feet, is the perfect place for it. And Jones says the thought of the cold shouldn’t scare off anyone. ”You’re working so hard,” she said, “you’ll heat up right away.”

U.S. Snowshoe National Championships

When: Feb. 28-March 1,Where: The Colorado Mountain College in Leadville.For more information: snowshoeracing.com

Nearly a decade ago, snowshoe racing was the fastest-growing sport in U.S. But times have changed, said Darren Brungardt, race director for the U.S. Snowshoe National Championships in Leadville.

That’s why he’s gearing the sport toward anyone who wants to give it a shot. This includes the national championships from Feb. 28 to March 1, which now takes first-timers in open events as well as veterans or pro racers who quality for a shot at the title. Brungardt hopes to get high schoolers involved in the sport, so he also holds the Colorado Cup at Colorado Mountain College. This year it included the high school state championships for the informal club sport.

“I’m really hoping for a rebound because it’s definitely slowed down,” Brungardt said of racing. “I’d really like to see the youth get involved in it.”

RELATED: 9 snowshoe trails with the best views to fill up your Instagram

For those intimidated at the thought of running in the sort of snowshoes you might rent to tromp around Winter Park or a snowy foothills trail, know that racing snowshoes are different. And the race itself should seem familiar to trail runners – or anyone else, really.

“It’s just like running,” Brungardt said. “I’ve never really noticed a chance in my stance or gait or anything else.”

There are still snowshoe race series at many of the state’s ski resorts, though they have thinned out.

The Colorado Mountain College program remains strong, however, and hosts both events, which Brungardt said has a nice course for beginners. ”It has some really nice groomed trails,” he said.

Leadville Skijoring

When: March 7-8Where: Downtown LeadvilleFor more information: leadvilleskijoring.us

Two close friends, Tom Schroeder and “Mugs” Ossman, first witnessed skijoring at the Steamboat Springs winter carnival. A horse and rider gently pulled kids on skis behind them. They thought it would be a good attraction for Leadville’s own Crystal Carnival.

They only had one question: Why would anyone want to go that slow?

Mugs had raised quarter horses for speed, according to the race website, so they tried their version of the activity in a pasture in deep snow. The modern sport of skijoring was born.

The races will run for the 72nd time in a row in downtown Leadville on March 7-8, and if Steamboat is basically a horse and buggy, Leadville’s race is the Daytona 500. It is not meant for kids. It is so fast, chaotic and, yes, dangerous that only the top skiers in the state are allowed to take part in the open event, and they must qualify to enter.

Leadville has a division for those experienced enough to ride but not race in the top event, where skiers can hit 60 mph. If you want to try it, you can hook up to the back of a snowmobile for a ride along the course.

“It’s a lot easier to control the speed of a snowmobile,” said Paul Copper, race director of the last 38 events. “We have ambulances on standby, but we don’t want to have to use them.”

The top racers brave 7-foot jumps and gates at highway speeds. The course runs through downtown, making the event fun for spectators. Plan ahead if you want to spend the weekend in town; the races attract thousands and hotels are likely to be fully booked.

“You’re so close to the race,” Copper said, “you can smell the sweat on the horses.”

Colorado Cross Country Skiing

When: The Colorado Nordic race series is underway, with the next race Feb 9Where: AspenFor more information: coloradocrosscountry.com

If you’re looking for something different and you don’t want to be tied to the end of a horse or a kite, cross-country skiing and skate skiing are popular sports.

If you just curled your lip, well, it’s true that many people associate Nordic skiiing with Olympians as tall and thick as the California redwoods with names like Hans who collapse at the finish line drooling from exhaustion. That’s something promoters of the sport want to change, said Cassidi Peterson, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Cross Country Skiing Association.

The group promotes a fun series of races, and they mean it: The words “Skiing. Drinks. Friends. Fun.” greet you on the group’s webpage. The tours are geared for those who, you guessed it, just want to have fun instead of drool.

“There are people in goofy costumes, and you get to go through downtown,” Peterson said. “It’s a great way to see Colorado.”

The association also promotes a “rookie roundup” for a group Peterson calls the “never-evers.” They’re working to attract newbies to the sport, targeting folks who are fed up with long lines at ski lifts and being stuck in traffic.

“Downhill is saturated and expensive, and we are overlooked and not really understood,” Peterson said. “Our idea is to get people to our events because they are off the beaten path. You can get into the woods and not into the crowds.”

There are races geared toward serious, semi-serious and amateur hardcore athletes as well as people just looking for a workout in a picturesque setting.

“It’s a great cross-over for any athlete,” she said. “Mountain bikers, swimmers, runners, hikers, you name it, you can ease your way into it. And it’s peaceful and calm.”

The race series includes the Alley Loop Nordic Marathon in Crested Butte on Feb. 1, the Owl Creek Chase in Snowmass on Feb. 9, and the Snow Mountain Stampede at Snow Mountain Ranch on March 14 and 15. The fun series continues with The Pub Ski in Crested Butte on Jan. 31, Ranch-to-Ranch Trek at Snow Mountain Ranch on Feb. 8, Owl Creek 15K Tour at Aspen Nordic on Feb. 9, Frisco Brewski at Frisco Nordic Center on March 14, and the Spring Festival at Snow Mountain Ranch on March 21.

Snowkiting

This one is not a race but it’s definitely worth it. Snowkiting may sound exotic and therefore difficult, but if you can kiteboard on water, the hard part’s over, said Anton Rainold, owner of Colorado Kite Force.

Think of kiteboarding this way: You’re flying a kite, but the kite is more like a dragon.

The kite uses the wind to carry you across a surface at high speeds, much like downhill skiing without the moguls. In fact, a smooth, consistent ride is why Rainold prefers the snow to water and the waves and chopping white froth the wind can produce.

“You might even be better once you get on snow,” Rainold said. “The water is way harder. More than 80 percent of students take lessons on water first, but it’s such a big learning curve right off the bat. You get worked pretty hard for a few days. And you don’t sink in the snow. Once you make a mistake you can just pick up and go again.”#instagram_ad {float: right;width: 40%;padding: 0.5em;border-left: 2px solid #EDB207;margin-bottom: .2em;margin-left: .5em;}@media (max-width:416px){#instagram_ad {width:100%;}

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You can kite high in the mountains, although that invites avalanche danger and other problems, so Rainold prefers to find a spot on a lake such as Dillon Reservoir once the snow covers the rocks.

Rainold used to offer lessons, but his permit expired in December and he declined to renew it. He doesn’t recommend trying to learn the sport on your own, but said it’s possible to get pointers from experienced kiters. He’ll be out on Dillon through the winter. Or, you can learn to kite board on water and transfer your skills to snow next winter.

You can take lessons on Lake McConaughy in Nebraska, Rainold said. You also can take lessons in Utah (try utahsnowkite.com or powdermountain.com for details).

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