Tim took this photo on a similar ride last year. We headed out from the Smokejumper trailhead last night around 7pm with a group of seven. It was -10 degrees.
I wore my winter tights with ski pants over top. My face was covered with a full face mask. On my hands I wore wool liners and my mountaineering mittens. On my feet, I donned my minus forty degree dog walking boots.
We took off from the trailhead quickly, there was no time for talking. As the wind blew through all of our layers we struggled to warm up. At this temperature my muscles feel really stiff and sluggish, my breath is more labored and the cold air burns my lungs. I start to wonder why I like riding at this temperature. I knew there was a reason, but I just couldn't figure it out right away. As I chased the fast group up the first hill, struggling to breath and to warm my hands, feeling nauseous from the extreme cold, I just couldn't think of any reason why this would be a good idea.
About ten minutes into the ride, we turned onto the trail called Speedway (or the Aspen Trail or Area 51 depending on who you talk to). I could feel the warm blood from my core slowly making it's way to my extremities. My feet felt warm, my hands began to thaw with a little bit of the stinging pain that comes with returned circulation. The tingling feeling slowly crept around my body until I felt completely warm.
We pulled out into the open meadow on Speedway, a line of headlights in the dark quietly floating over the trails with the Chugach Front Range hovering over us in the background. The only sounds were tires lightly squeaking on the snow and the sound of breathing through masks. I removed my mask and felt the cold air on my face. I felt the warmth moving through my body. I was completely comfortable and content at minus ten. And then, I remembered the reason.