Depending on your perspective, wintertime is either a time to sit at home and hibernate or it’s the time to kick into high gear and really participate in some high action, fun and exhilarating sports. The fact is that participating in sports is one of the best things you can do as a tourist when you’re traveling the world and the wintertime shouldn’t stop you from doing it. It’s for the people who love winter, sports and traveling that we present this list of the 10 Best Winter Sports and Where to Find Them. Some of these sports are meant to provide you with relaxation and fun for the whole family, while others are meant to challenge you to be at your very best, because no matter what your goal is when you’re participating in sports one thing is for sure, you can visit some of the most beautiful places in the world and create memories that will last forever once you’ve had the chance to visit some of these jewels of winter sports. Here’s the list…
Have you ever had to walk outside after a winter blizzard only to notice that your feet are buried in the snow and you’re practically waist deep and unable move? Alright, we’re exaggerating a little bit here, but that very challenge we humans have faced probably contributed to the invention of snowshoeing. A snowshoe is like a big giant tennis racket that’s tied to the bottom of your foot and spreads your weight evenly across the snow, allowing you to move through treacherous terrain in the wintertime without falling into the white powder.
It can be a truly exhilarating aerobic exercise, and definitely is a fun sport to participate in during the dead of winter. Krvavec, Slovenia offers its famous Igloo Village as one of the great places in the world to participate in snowshoeing. It offers a huge stretch of Alpine landscaping that remains completely untouched. The whole village is basically a network of tunnels that connect you to hotels, bars and restaurants as well, which makes for an all-around tourist’s paradise for avid winter athletes.
9. Dog Sledding
Dogs are awesome. They’re friendly, cuddly and man’s best friend, but they can also be quite fierce and reliable when called for, especially when it comes to battling through winter weather. Of course the little beagle that you have at home isn’t really going to protect you or get you anywhere in the middle of the wilderness in the wintertime, but a pack of Huskies would certainly do the trick.
The bottom line is if you want an exhilarating experience that you’ll never forget, you should definitely try dogsledding. A pack of dogs chained to a sled running through trails can really get the speed going and your adrenaline rushing. The best place in the world for it is in Greenland through Greenland Explored. This place offers you the real deal; a chance to go dogsledding with Inuit guides. You can go on a day trip or a trip that lasts several days with the guide, the dogs and an in-depth tour that gives you loads of information and fun facts about what you’re seeing. It’s really a once in a lifetime winter sport experience.
8. Ice Fishing
There really is nothing like going fishing when you want to relax, especially in the summertime with a cold beer in your hand, assuming of course that you’re not drinking and boating at the exact same time. However, there is something to be said for fishing in the wintertime. Ice fishing can be fun too, especially if you’re a kid and your dad’s really into it and asks you to skip school to go with him on a trip, (like a certain writer at EH once did).
Now as much as the cool kids don’t exactly skip school to go ice fishing, it really is a thrilling spin on a hobby normally reserved for summertime. One of the best places in the world that you can go and do it is Cold Lake in Alberta. You’ll have the opportunity to catch fish there weighing upwards of 18 pounds! Cold Lake is located right on the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada. You can fish for walleye, pike and whitefish. What most of what you manage to nab out of the water may not weigh 18 pounds, catching a 10-pound fish is not uncommon.
7. Snow Sculpture Competitions
No matter what your experience level participating in winter events and sports may be, there’s a good chance we can probably all agree that snow sculptures and the concept of them is just amazing. If you can say that you have an appreciation for that kind of art, then you’ll be absolutely blown away by the sights you can see at the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in China. The festival includes the world’s biggest ice sculptures and is considered the biggest event of its kind on the planet.
To see sculptors from all over the world challenge themselves mentally in terms of the cool designs and amazing images they can conjure up through their art and also challenge themselves physically in terms of being able to put together so many amazing pieces in perfect detail is just incredible to witness. If building ice sculptures was a sport, these artisans would be the top athletes in the world. One visit there will inspire you to try it yourself without a doubt. The festival celebrated its 30th anniversary last year and it seems to only get bigger and brighter every year.
Remember back in the day when you were a kid and you would slide down a really big hill close to your home on a sled in the dead of winter and never want it to end? Well the sad fact of life is that what goes up must come down, so eventually the incredible speed, the wind blowing through your hair and the fun of being a little bit scared and exhilarated all at the same time had come to a halt. The good news is that while there is no such thing as a never-ending downhill slope, you can get pretty close to one if you go to the Wildkogel Sledding Arena in Bramberg, Austria.
This tobogganing haven is located in the western part of Austria and it’s probably the biggest tobogganing hill in the world. It takes approximately 30 to 50 minutes to go all the way down the course. The entire course is floodlit until 10 PM every night and it’s open from mid December through March. With a course this long it’ll feel like an eternity of tobogganing fun (almost).
5. Snow Tubing
Not to be confused with tobogganing of course, snow tubing is a little bit different. For one, you can spin around in circles while you’re going down which makes it way more fun. Secondly, you can go downhill after midnight thanks to Midnight Madness. At least that’s the case if you’re at Mad River Mountain in Ohio. No doubt there are many places that offer big-time slopes you can go down on a tube from Japan to Germany and everywhere in between, but there aren’t too many places that offer it after midnight.
This is obviously an especially cool experience for adults, because after all school is in session during the wintertime and the little ones should really be in bed by then. But seriously, if you want to go snow tubing you can go for three hours for just $25 and the website offers you an opportunity to bring along your fellow snow tubers in a group and save a little bit more money. The slope itself is pretty awesome, but it’s the experience of flying down it in the middle of the night that’s most exciting and totally worth every penny you spend.
When your city plays host to the 2010 Winter Olympics there’s a good chance you might be some world-class facilities left behind for tourists to use, which bodes well for winter sports athletes of all levels, particularly those that would like to try the luge. If you’ve never heard of the sport, it involves going down a big giant twisting tube of ice on a sled with nothing except a helmet and a skintight suit to protect you. You also wear shoes that can dig into the ice but who’s worried about that when you’re sliding down feet first at what feels like 200 miles an hour?
Of course no sports manager in their right frame of mind would let you slide down the ice at 200 mph on your first go around, but you can indeed try the luge in Whistler, British Columbia Canada. If you wanted you could do the riskier version of the sport as well and try the skeleton. It’s the exact same thing as the luge only you are going down headfirst instead of feet first, getting you even closer to an exhilarating, near death experience. We’re exaggerating a bit here as it doesn’t have to be that intense but if you try the luge in British Columbia, even at a recreational level you’ll have a great time.
Yellowstone National Park in Montana is one of the best places in the world to go snowmobiling. The western part of it averages 143 inches of snow per year, which means that as long as the season calls for cold weather, you are guaranteed to be able to go there, get on your snowmobile and ride through incredible, scenic terrains on fresh white powder. People first started riding the modern-day snowmobile in Yellowstone National Park back in the early 1960s, and ever since then it’s been a popular thing to do in Montana.
In this day and age the tenders of the park have focused more on managing the large amount of snowmobiles that come into the park every year and there are restrictions in place to keep things safe when it comes to speed and other aspects of snowmobiling. That said, the scenery you get to witness as you ride in the wide open spaces make it way too exciting to pass up and one of the best places in the world to check out when it comes to snowmobiling.
2. Cross Country Skiing
If you don’t like the idea of skiing down a slope at 100 miles an hour, you can still enjoy the exhilarating parts of the sport by trying the cross-country version. Comparing cross-country skiing to downhill skiing or snowboarding is like comparing a walk or jog in the park to a downright sprint. You can go through trails with up and down hills that challenge you, but move at your own pace and get your arms going as well. It’s basically like walking on skis.
Even if you don’t know a lot about sports it’s probably no secret that Norway is the best place to go for cross-country skiing. Norwegians don’t excel at the sport in the Winter Olympics by accident. Fortunately you don’t have to be an Olympian to excel at the activity recreationally and have a great time. In the fall and winter, you can get a great view of the Northern Lights, and there are several different paths and areas in the country where you can give it a shot. Stabbursdalen National Park is probably one of the more infamous cross-country skiing spots in the nation.
Other than ice hockey, perhaps the only other sport completely synonymous with the winter is skiing, and of course for the cool kids who are into the more extreme version, there’s snowboarding and ski-blading too. Ski blades are simply shorter versions of skis designed for speed and acrobatics. No matter what floats your boat in terms of winter sports, the point is you can use skiing to enjoy racing downhill, participate in the cross-country variety, or even jump out of a helicopter right onto a mountain if you really wanted to.
Whistler, British Columbia would no doubt be one of the top places in the world to go and try any one of those skiing related activities. As mentioned earlier, the city hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics, so to say that you have access to world-class slopes there is an understatement. If you’re feeling like traveling elsewhere however just to get a little outside of the domestic North American locations, you could always make a trip to Switzerland and check out The Swiss Alps. The town of Zermatt is worth a look if you’re the type of person that wants to party while you enjoy the fresh powder.