Amazing Experiences Around the World That You Can Only Do in the Winter
Perhaps it's the shorter days, colder temperatures, and the need to get bundled up in eight layers before leaving the house, but people seem to really, really dislike winter.
Call us crazy, but we think winter is actually one of the best seasons. (It’s in the top four, at least.) Why? Because there are so many totally outlandish, zany and over-the-top sports, events and activities that you can only try in the snow.
We’ve compiled a list of the 20 craziest things for you to take part in this winter. But you better hurry, as a lot of them will melt away at the first sign of spring.
Go ice sailing in Michigan
Don’t let this sport’s name confuse you, as ice sailing isn’t simply a leisurely day on the water. Instead, solo sailors take to the frozen lakes of Michigan to race at heartstopping speeds of up to 60 miles per hour in boats known as “ice rockets.”
Michigan is the only place to really experience this sport. The state is home to the International DN Ice Yacht Racing Association, which boasts about 2,000 members, according to Sail Michigan. To try this heart-pumping form of yachting for yourself, check out classes at the West Michigan Ice Yacht Club at Muskegon Lake.
Go heli-skiing in Idaho
There’s nothing quite like jumping down out of a helicopter hovering just above the ground, straight into several feet of untouched mountain powder just waiting for you to shred. This winter it’s high time you tried heli skiing in Sun Valley, Idaho.
“Sun Valley Heli Ski pioneered American helicopter skiing, setting the standard for nearly five decades,” Sun Valley Heli Ski explained on its site. “A vast territory covering three mountain ranges provides unparalleled access to Idaho’s legendary powder and terrain for all abilities.” Trips start at $1,500 for a day.
See reindeer in Finland
Lions, tigers, and elephants usually get all the glory when it comes to safaris. So this winter, why not celebrate some other animals like reindeers and huskies by embarking on one of Lapland Safari’s excursions in Finland.
As the company describes, “A husky safari is a truly thrilling experience, especially when you have the chance to be a musher in control of your own team of dogs. Experience the excitement of the dogs as they eagerly wait to pull you at a speedy pace through the breathtaking Lappish scenery.” Check out their one-day excursions this winter for around $180.
Stay in an ice hotel Sweden
The Ice Hotel Sweden is one of the most sought-after winter getaways on Earth. The hotel is also an art exhibition made of ice from the river Torne. Every year it is reincarnated in a brand new design: “A place to discover silence, northern lights, glistening snow clad forests, reindeer, cloudberries, kettle coffee and much more,” according to the site. The hotel is open for events, weddings, or just to simply sleep over in your own private Princess Elsa-style room for $265 a night.
Soar over Mt. Everest in a hot air balloon
Want to do something this winter that literally only a handful of people on Earth have ever done? You can, but it'll cost you. You’ll have to fork over $4.8 million and step inside a hot air balloon that will take you over the world’s highest peak, Mt. Everest, for the experience of a lifetime.
According to If Only, the journey itself will last for weeks in Nepal and end with a day-long ride more than 30,000 feet in the air in the balloon. Those willing and able to pay up must commit to training for up to a month before embarking on this truly incredible journey.
Climb up a waterfall
If you’ve ever wanted to climb up a waterfall rather than stand under one, ice climbing is for you.
The Alpine Institute offers several classes for beginners to experts on how to traverse the freezing ice, including its “introduction to waterfall ice” class. There, the Alpine Institute says students will learn the basics of “ice climbing, crampons, ice tools, ice screws, belaying, knots and top-rope climbing techniques — all the basics required to be a competent top-roping partner for more experienced climbers.” More advanced students also have the opportunity to apply their knowledge to steeper ground. Classes are offered in Washington, California, and Colorado at varying costs. Lessons can run for one day or longer.
Run the Antarctica Marathon
If you’re an avid runner, or someone who is just into crazy experiences, then the Antarctica Marathon is for you. “Adventure marathoners and ultra athletes are always looking for the next big challenge,” the race’s website reads. “Mainland Antarctica represents the last frontier, the final great wilderness to be conquered. And now adventure athletes like you can do it.” This year, marathons will take place on November 24 and December 13, giving you just enough time to ramp up your training. They will both take place place at 80 Degrees South, which is just a few hundred miles from the South Pole. Just make sure to pack some long underwear — windchill temperatures average -20C. Registration for the race costs $17,500, but at least it includes a private jet ride from Chile to Antarctica?
Go ice fishing in Alaska
There may be nothing more satisfying and primal than catching, cooking, and eating your own dinner. Experience that feeling this winter by trying ice fishing in the great state of Alaska.
In Fairbanks, those looking to try out ice fishing for the first time can join Alaska River Tours for a one-day trip. There, you’ll have solar powered, pre-heated, and insulated ice fishing cabins, mobile chanties, and professional fishing guides waiting for you. Choose the “fish and cook” adventure to learn how to catch your dinner — and clean and eat it, too.
Go dog sledding in Iceland
Iceland is the “it” destination no matter the season, but we suggest visiting the island nation in its prime during the winter. There, you may want to hop on a dog sled to race through the country’s south coast.
“DogSledding Iceland caters to the romantic, the adventurer, the thrill-seeker, the young and the old alike,” Dog Sledding Iceland said. The kennel and its pack, which is easily accessible from Reykjavík, will take visitors through the breathtaking open landscapes. Afterward, visitors can check out the Golden Circle tour to see “gushing waterfalls, erupting geysers and the splitting of continental plates.” Excursions run around $360.
Pull a “California Double”
If you’ve ever lived in California, you’ve no doubt had the conversation about how you can surf and ski in a single (busy) day. If you really want to do it, the Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach offers this totally SoCal experience. The Hyatt will take you from the beach to the mountains in one day.
In the morning you'll go surfing, with some instruction from Toes on the Noes. There, you’ll learn to pop up and catch a waves. Next, the group will trade the sand for the snow and board a luxury coach bus for Snow Summit Ski Resort in Big Bear.
The package costs $199, and also comes with the priceless right to brag that you actually pulled off the mythical “California Double.” Check out the dates for the 2017/2018 season.
Take up curling in Los Angeles
It’s been quite some time since Los Angeles has seen snow, however, that doesn’t mean the city of angels doesn’t enjoy its winter sports. In fact, in Pasadena, where the average temperature is about 67 degrees year-round, you can learn the sport of curling. For $25, you can join Hollywood Curling and “learn how to deliver a stone, and how to sweep it down the ice. Find out what hoglines, hacks, buttons, and houses all have to do with it. Bring your families out and learn together.”
Bike through the snow
Snow biking is just as ridiculous as it sounds. Riders simply mount a mono-ski bike as they would a regular bicycle, plop their mini skis down on either side and glide down the mountain. According to Ski-Bike.org, there are dozens of mountains that either allow ski bikes or offer up lessons on the sport including Pats Peak in New Hampshire, Powder Ridge Park in Connecticut and Mount Hood SkiBowl in Oregon.
Go fly a kite
Winter snow kiting closely resembles its summertime sister sport of kiteboarding. Users of both sports strap their feet into boards and hold on for dear life as a large canvas kite picks up the wind and carries them along, however, snow kiters simply do it in the freezing cold. Kiters can reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour and be hurled upward of 500 feet into the air
And according to some, Norway is the prime location to test out your athleticism with this intense winter sport. “Our biggest benefit is the almost unlimited amount of different snowkite spots,” Haugastøl, Norway wrote on its site. “Hardangervidda Nationalpark has 3,422 kilometers of rideable terrain, and Hallingskarvet National Park has 450. We have been kiting since 1999 and we still discover new places to ride every winter.” You can take lessons in the community via Fluid Kite. Email for pricing details.
Go airboarding in Vermont
Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont is kicking things up a notch for sledding. The family-friendly mountain is now offering clinics in Airboarding, the faster, sleeker version of sledding down its mountainside. “An Airboard is an inflated sled similar in size to a water raft and A-shaped,” according to Smuggler's Notch. “Similar to an inflatable sled or boogie board, they are lightweight and easy to maneuver. You can carve perfect turns as you cruise down the mountain.” Once the season begins, the lightweight sleds can be tested on the mountain from 2 p.m. - 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for $25.
Go snow golfing in Sweden
Sure, golfing in the summer with a cold beer in hand sounds nice, but why not bundle up this winter and test out your driver in a few inches of snow in Björkliden, Sweden.
“Summer golf has been here since the 1930s, but we wanted to do something for the wintertime,” Merja Bergwall, marketing and sales manager for Lapland Resorts, which manages Björkliden, told CNN. “We have nine holes and we use snowplows that we usually use on the slopes (to smooth the course).” Visitors at the resort can hit nine holes for $50. The facility even offers several tee times after dark with glowing balls so you may even be lucky enough to swing your clubs under the Northern Lights.
Join a pond skimming competition
Park City, Utah is home to one of the zaniest events of the winter season: Pond skimming. In this outlandish competition athletes dress up in wild costumes, which have included the entire United Airlines crew, the Titanic and just a delicious slice of pizza. Once their outfits are donned the people crazy enough to try this sport head down a hill on skis as fast as they possibly can then launch themselves directly into a pond full of icy water to see just how far they can travel. The person with the furthest distance wins. Check Park City’s calendar here to see when the competitions will take place and sign up you’re nutty enough to give it a try. Or, simply plan a trip to watch it all go down in person.
Enter the National Toboggan Championships
Like pond skimming, the National Toboggan Championships in the small town of Camden, Maine really doesn’t take itself too seriously. Prizes, for example, range from winning the two-man and four-man competition, along with best costume, best crafted toboggan and oldest team.
“The most revered prize of the past 26 years of U.S. National Toboggan Championships is to win first place in the four-person division,” the competition’s site reads. “The division has twice as many teams as the other two combined, and has twice as many teams in the finals, based on fastest times. No matter which division you’re in, everybody goes down the same 400-foot-long wooden chute, some close to 40 mph, ending your ride on frozen Hosmer Pond.” This winter’s competition will take place from February 9-11. If you’re keen on greasing up your toboggan and heading down the ramp sign up here.
Try skijoring in Colorado
Skijoring may be the funniest-sounding activity on our list, but the competitors in this sport take things extremely seriously. The sport, according to Leadsville Skijoring, is a competition where a horse and rider pull a skier behind them at a fast pace through a course that has gates, jumps and rings. The skier is judged on not only their time on the course but also on their ability to navigate the obstacles in their path. Winners can even take home cash prizes. This year’s Skijorning event in Leadsville, Colorado, will take place March 3-4.
Sleep in an igloo in Austria
The Khutai Igloo Village, located 45 minutes from Innsbruck, holds just 12 tiny but inviting igloo suites ready for you to spend the night in. Each room boasts thermal sleeping bags, insulated mattresses covered and sheepskin rugs to keep you toasty warm at night. During the day visitors can also try out a few different activities including husky sledding and igloo building workshops. Beyond the rooms the village also comes with two larger structures for dining and entertainment in case you get a little cabin, or rather igloo fever.