Need something to get your cold blood pumping? We’ve scouted out winter’s most batshit crazy thrills, from skiing behind a galloping horse to kayaking down a mountain.
Snowkiting, Long Island, NY
Kiteboarding’s chilly sister sport takes snowboarding to an extreme. Hold on tight as gusts of wind propel you forward and lift you up to six feet. Once your feet touch the ground, the pros will give you tips and show you how it’s done, badass aerial tricks and all. The best part? You don’t need to head to the Rockies to catch some air — this sport can be done on a range of terrain. Book a lesson in Long Island at NY Kite Center (intro classes start at $100).
Cold Water Surfing, Alaska
Tackling a set of gnarly waves is enough to make our knees weak — add dodging glacial ice chunks and you’ve got to have nerves of steel. With more than 34,000 miles of rugged coastline, 30-foot tides and unpredictable storms, Alaska’s surf scene is one of the most challenging in the world. Hit the Yakutat Peninsula, a remote enclave in the state’s southern tip, where you’ll find grizzly bears on the beach and diehard surfers trekking through the snow in search of the best swells. And when water temps drop to 40 degrees (or colder) and the air is below freezing, the last frontier is a force to be reckoned with.
A boat without water is like a car without wheels, right? Apparently not. Ice-boaters simply outfit their sails with a pair of mega skis or iron skates, allowing them to glide on frozen-over lakes. The most aerodynamic of the bunch can reach crazy speeds up to 60 knots (roughly 70 mph), so racing – on a one-way route, upwind – is common, especially in northern states.
Fat Biking, Whistler
Mountain bikers, rejoice! There’s no need to wait until summer to cycle thanks to the surge of winter-friendly fat biking trails. This trendy off-slope sport involves riding bikes with large, inflated wheels designed to roll easily over snowy turf. Try it at Whistler Olympic Park, which just opened its Nordic grounds to fat tire bikes for the first time. And if you’re up for a serious challenge, the sport’s inaugural world championship races are being held at Crested Butte in Colorado from January 26 to 29.
Downhill Ice Cross
Leave it to adrenaline-junkie co., Red Bull, to create a high-octane sport that combines speed skating with downhill skiing. The Crashed Ice competition involves four adults, strapped into hockey gear and motocross helmets, racing down a steep course of jumps, moguls and free falls at speeds up to 45 mph. Warning: This is not for the faint of heart. Expect to see bodies flailing brutally over the ice. The season opener was held in Austria on December 10th, but stay tuned for upcoming races in Marseilles, France (Jan. 13-14) and Jyväskylä, Finland (Jan. 20-2217). Watch video coverage here.
Skiing cowboys sounds like a western gone wrong. But skijoring, where cross-country skiers hold onto a rope towed by a galloping horse, is no cinematic stunt; it’s actually a real sport. See it for yourself in Montana at the two-day Wisdom Winterfest (Feb. 25-29), which showcases skijoring races, some including jumps and obstacles. Or, give it a whirl at Triple Creek Ranch in Darby (an hour north of Wisdom) where you can take a lesson with an expert wrangler. Don’t worry if you wimp out, there’s also dog sledding, horseback riding, snowmobiling and Nordic skiing.
Sleigh Ride, National Elk Refuge
Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh, to the National Elk Refuge we go, ‘gramming all the way. During the winter, this 25,000-acre sanctuary near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is home to thousands of migratory elk. If you’re lucky, you’ll also spot bison herds, gray wolves and bald eagles on the scenic tour. Bonus: The sleigh ride only costs $21 for adults and $15 for kids.
Ice Cave Climbing, Iceland
With 11 percent of this arctic country covered in glaciers, it’s no wonder there’s still much to be explored. Descend into the crevices of Vatnajökull; at 4,600 square miles, it’s the largest ice formation in the area. We suggest embarking on a two-day trek to see the northern lights and the vibrant blue ice caves. On some longer expeditions, the group will camp inside the grotto to watch the crystal walls turn to shades of cyan, sapphire and indigo.
“It’d be fun to lug a kayak up a mountain!” Said no one ever… until now. This questionable recreational activity involves sailing through sharp glades using nothing but a paddle for steering and stopping. Before you try it for yourself (and risk becoming the next winner of America’s Funniest Home Videos), heed our advice: Watch out for that tree.
Skiing/Snowboarding with an Olympian, Whistler
Sure, it’s embarrassing to eat snow, but to faceplant in front of an Olympic skier? That’s a frosty nightmare. Learn to conquer the slopes at Whistler Blackcomb (host of the 2010 Vancouver Games) with a rockstar coaching team of five Olympic snowboarders and six Olympic skiers. Once you’ve mastered the black-diamond runs, head to the Olympic Center where you can bobsled, cross-country ski or test your marksmanship at the biathlon range.
If you imagine bobsledding to be like the Jamaican jokesters in Cool Runnings, you’d better guess again. The mile-long track at the Olympic Legacy Center in Park City, Utah, takes brave volunteers rocketing down a one-minute run at up to 80 mph. And if that’s not sufficiently terrifying, we double dare you to go on a head-first skeleton ride. Trust us, by the end, you won’t feel your face.
Shovel Racing, New Mexico
Whoever came up with the idea of sitting on a shovel and sliding down a powdery hill probably didn’t expect it to become an annual activity. And yet, the tradition of competitive shovel racing, which started in New Mexico’s ski towns in the 1970s, has been carried on at Angel Fire Resort for decades. February 3rd through the 4th, watch kids slide on plastic shovels or catch the World Championship Shovel Races, where elite contestants reach up to 75 mph!
Despite what you might have thought, golf isn’t a strictly fair-weather sport. Come winter, real devotees trade greens for “whites” and pop on a pair of skis, a board, or some high-traction boots to take to custom-made courses around the world. Greenland has been hosting the World Ice Golf Championship since 1997, bumping the minimum handicap – for professionals – to a generous 36, so don’t get yourself too worked up if things don’t go as smoothly in the snow.
Report by Chelsea Stuart for Jetsetter