Winter sports you should totally try before the snow melts
The winter wonderland season is upon us once again (and will be for at least another few weeks, if groundhogs are to be trusted), and for many sport enthusiasts, skiing seems to be the go-to option. But what if you’ve already mastered the art of skiing, or are just looking for something more impressive to post on that Instagram or Facebook profile? Whatever your reasons, as legitimate or pathetic as they might be, I’ve got you covered. So, go ahead, grab that to do list, wrap up a few layers, and be prepared to come back with the experience of a lifetime. Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of alternative winter sports!
Feel the refreshing air rush against your cheeks, and prepare to look majestic as a pack of minions (i.e. your huskies) tow you at speed. Being able to soar through the snowlands while admiring nature at the speed it was created to be appreciated at is no doubt why dog sledding has attracted plenty of tourists across Scandinavia. It’s a widespread sport in the Arctic regions of the United States, Canada, Russia, and some European countries, and there’s even timed competitions such as sprints and long distance races. While dog sledding might seem like a fancy nature excursion, don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s all about nature appreciatin’. There will be some guaranteed workout as you maneuver your loyal pack and traverse through countless windy paths. Expect sore arms in the morning!
Snowkiting can be summed up in three simple words: kiteboarding on steroids. If having to plant your feet firmly on the ground seems oh-so-boring, give snowkiting a go. In snowkiting, you use the kite as your power source and, resisting its pull, the power is transmitted to your body. It’s similar to water-based kiteboarding, but participants wear footwear used in snowboarding or skiing, and elegantly ninja-glide over the ice (disclaimer: appearance and/or ninja-glide may vary depending on experience level). In the earlier days of snowkiting, foil kites were most commonly used; while nowadays, many kiteboarders prefer inflatable kites. Snowkiting is rapidly creeping into the mainstream consciousness in places like Russia, Canada, Iceland, France and Austria as well as Sweden, Norway, and the Northern and Central United States.
What better way to celebrate the numbingly cold season than to fully embrace it (quite literally) by immersing yourself in a chilling body of water? It’s your instant access pass to join the tough breed of swimmers with more-than-human and quite clearly biological-defying capabilities. Ice swimming is simply what the name says: swimming in outdoor locations (open water swimming) or in unheated pools or lidos. The International Ice Swimming Association (yes, such thing exists), requires that the water is colder than 5°C, and typically, the water can get as cold as 0°C. In Eastern Europe and Russia, ice swimming is part of the celebration of the Epiphany, a Christian holiday, while in many other countries, it purely serves “recreational” purposes. Many ice swimmers swim with standard swimming costumes, rather than protective gear such as wetsuits or other thermal protection—because where’s the fun when you can’t feel your internal organs slowly freezing? Ice swimming is also a tradition in the UK, and famous locations include the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, London and Highgate Ponds in Hampstead, with races taking place all year.
Basically, this sport involves ascending inclined ice formations such as icefalls, frozen waterfalls, and frozen cliffs. It’s actually simpler than it sounds; all you do is wear some protective and official looking gear, then engage your glutes, core, and all them leg muscles in a pretty intense workout. In ice climbing, a climber chooses equipment according to the slope and texture of ice. For example, on flat ice, almost any good hiking shoe would suffice, but for serious climbing, double plastic mountaineering boots (think Mount Everest) would be used to help maintain ankle support. For longer and steeper slopes, crampons are used for safe climbing; and in all scenarios, special rope systems, tying in, leading, and belaying techniques are used to further ensure safety.
Boarding a toboggan will surely send you whirling down memory lane, back to the good ol’ days when you and your friends would squeeze together into your magical pretend-ship, and fly down hills at a million miles per second (or so it seemed at the time). While you might like to pretend that the toboggan is a spaceship—a perfect weapon of choice to conquer the world with—it’s simply a wooden or plastic sled and is, in fact, a traditional form of transport used by the Innu and Cree of northern Canada. A toboggan is often used to carry one or more people, usually children, down a steep slope, and the action can be repeated again and again until you satisfy your greedy little hearts’ content. Almost all ski resorts worldwide offer tobogganing, and there’s certainly no shame in partaking, even if you’ll most likely be the only adult amongst a hoard of children.
Kat Pooprasert is a Bangkokian studying in the UK, but secretly wishes to teleport home to eat all her favorite Thai food, as well as get the daily dose of sunshine goodness. Other than writing haikus to convince her friends to cook for her, she periodically makes small and insignificant contribution to the web at www.liberatedmusings.tumblr.com and hellopoetry.com/wassabii.