Image of Ice Climber in Ouray, CO by Caroline Mayou
There are two types of people out there when the winter months arrive: those who hunker down indoors with blankets and an impressive Netflix queue, and those that relish getting outside. In knowing that the options are a bit more limited, we’ve narrowed down a list of the best extreme winter sports -- some of which may be new for you. Before scrolling down, know that the gear you use is a bit more crucial in the wintertime. However you decide to piece together your layers, boots, and balaclavas, be sure to stock up on Heat Factory Warmers before setting out on any of these extreme winter sports.
For avid downhill skiers and snowboarders who may not have access to a mountain resort, snowkiting is a logical alternative. Picture kiteboarding, but on the snow. And because you’re not fighting waves or dealing with dropping your kite in the water, it’s actually significantly easier to learn. Anyone with a wide open patch of snow can effectively get out and ride without paying exorbitant lift ticket fees, which makes this one of our favorite winter sports.
If you’re scuba certified and ready for the next adventure, consider ice diving. It’s extreme, challenging, and simply one of the most unusual sports out there. The idea is to drill several holes in the ice, and have someone (usually an experienced guide) rig up a cable connecting them. Then you drop into the water, attach your harness to the line, and scurry beneath the ice to see what lies beneath. Without a doubt, this is not recommended for anyone even remotely claustrophobic.
Did you ever throw a leash on your dog and have them pull you on a skateboard or roller blades? That’s the concept behind skijoring -- but in the winter, and a little more extreme. The origins of skijoring can be traced to the 1850s in Scandinavia, and over the years it’s grown into the biggest winter pastime you’ve probably never heard about. This sport -- which can be done with dogs or horses -- requires the stamina of cross-country skiing, the core strength of wakeboarding, and the balance of downhill skiing.
Quickly gaining traction in the world of extreme outdoor sports is snow biking. And no -- this is not simply taking out your roadster on icy winter streets. Specially-designed ‘fat bikes’ with oversized and low-pressure tires are used to conquer winter tundras in one of the most thrilling winter sports around. It’s usually not as high-speed as downhill mountain biking, but it’s an excellent way to get your heart rate pumping.
When it comes to the winter Olympics, the biathlon is usually overshadowed by blockbuster giants like skiing, snowboarding, figure skating, and even curling. However many folks have caught onto the curious sport of biathlon -- the curious sport that combines downhill skiing and rifle shooting. Although it seems pretty obscure, you can actually learn for yourself here in the U.S. Some places to learn the ropes include Lake Placid, NY, the Soldier Hollow Cross Country Ski Resort in Utah, and the Maine Winter Sports Center.
Airboarding is what happens when kids who grew up sledding get degrees in engineering and product design. An inflatable tube with specially-designed grooves on the bottom allows you to fly down the mountain, make turns with a surprising amount of control, and stop by shifting your weight to the front. Check out this video for an idea as to how fast you can get going.
Shovel racing is the beautiful and refined art of straddling a shovel and riding it down a mountain. It’s one of those peculiar 1970s ideas that probably gained more momentum than in deserved, but for better or worse, it’s here to stay. It was featured in the 1997 Winter X Games, and since then it’s become much more extreme than just a fun alternative use of a shovel. Speeds of 70 miles per hour have been tracked, and there aren’t exactly brakes, per se.