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Luge, Snow Kayaking, Ice Bumper Cars and More: 9 Unique Activities to Make Winter More Gnarly

Sometimes you get tired of hitting the slopes, or the cold weather has you singing the blues. Whether you are looking to try something new or a variation of a sport you already enjoy, there are plenty of options to get outdoors and challenge yourself during the winter. With the proper gear, background knowledge, and safety tips, one of these activities might be what you need to get out of that winter rut. Here are nine sports to try.

1. Fat Tire Biking

Fat Tire Bike - Image 1
Image by Himiway Bikes

Fat biking is a way to keep exploring on two wheels when conditions aren’t safe or manageable with a regular mountain or road bike. Although fat bikes have been around since the early 20th century, fat biking only became popular in the past ten years or so with the wider availability of lighter and cheaper versions of this type of bike. Featuring wide tires—between 4-5 inches wide—meant for plowing through snow and sand, fat tire bike tires offer a great way to explore in the winter. 

Many Nordic centers allow fat tire biking on their trails, some even offer designated fat tire bike trails. This is one of the best places to start because trails will be maintained and groomed. It will be easier to find the right level of trail and rentals too. 

2. Luge 

You don’t have to be an olympian to try this fast-paced sport. Throughout the U.S., there are opportunities to try the sport that was modernized in the Swiss Alps in the 1880s. While the U.S. was slower to adopt the sport than other countries, a youth movement has helped grow the sport. The Muskegon Luge and Winter Sports Complex in Michigan has year-round opportunities to try this adrenaline rushing activity. You can also visit Park City, UT and ride on the Olympic track. The USA Luge website has a “Try Luge” drop down menu to find opportunities near you. 

3. Ice Bumper Cars

Ice Bumper Cars Image
Image by Getty Images

While ice bumper cars don’t take as much endurance and skill as other quirky winter sports on this list, it still takes some tactics to chase down other cars while avoiding being bumped yourself. Using two levers to steer, the cars spin and glide across the ice on studded tires. Because of the surface, ice bumper cars tend to go faster making for a wild ride and strategy to out drive the other cars. Ice bumper car courses are popping up in more locations seasonally every year. Check Ice Bumper Cars to find one of the 40+ locations around the United States. 

4. Ice Climbing 

Ice Climbing-quirky article
Image by Tom Brunberg

Climbing on frozen water is a way to keep climbing outdoors during winter. Since the ice and snow continue to change, ice climbing adds an additional challenge not found with rock climbing. Using specialty crampons attached to mountain boots, two handheld ice tools, and other specialty equipment , this winter sport is a good challenge for the body and mind. 

Outfitters and climbing guides take groups out to try this thrill-seeking winter sport. An American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA)-certified guide is the best and safest way to try ice climbing. The Ouray Ice Park (Ouray, CO) and Mt. Washington Valley in New Hampshire are popular places to ice climb. 

5. Ice Fishing 

Ice Fishing-image 1
Image by Glenna Haug

You’ve probably seen those little tents set up on frozen lakes during the winter and wondered what they were for. Most likely, you were seeing an ice fishing tent/shelter. While ice fishing isn’t a new sport, advances in equipment have made the sport more enjoyable for people of all ages. While you need additional equipment to fish in the winter, the solitude and peace are often what drives people to enjoy this sport. While ice fishing has unique challenges, many fish species are easier to catch when the water freezes including trout, pike, and walleye. Here are some ice fishing tips from the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks division. 

6. SkiBiking

Bikes outfitted with three ski blades, ski biking is one of the newest upcoming sports to hit the winter scene. Skibikes use edges and pressure much like skis and snowboards for control. Using gravity to head down the slopes, the learning curve for snow biking is often faster than skiing and snowboarding. Snowmass Mountain in Colorado was one of the first places to offer lessons and rentals in the U.S. The list of resorts and locations that offer this adventurous and alternative way to shred on snow continues to grow. Check the American SkiBike Association to find rentals and lessons near you. They even have a search engine for options in Canada and Europe. 

7. Skijoring 

SkiJoring-quirky-sports
Image from Skijoring World Championships

For an adrenal rush and fast-paced adventure, try skijoring. A Norwegian term meaning “ski driving”, this winter sport involves a person being pulled typically on skis by a dog, horse, or even a motor vehicle. In the beginning, it was looked at as a form of winter travel. Today it is viewed as more of a competitive sport with competitions ranging from the Steamboat, CO., Winter Carnival to Bucked Up in Heber City, UT. From the Tetons to Wisconsin, there are many places to try skijoring in the U.S. 

8. Snow Kayaking

Sometimes called snow boating, snow kayaking is a version of “extreme sledding” where kayakers scream down the hill in their waxed boats and steer with their paddles. Flat-bottom kayaks work best for this obscure sport. If you have a boat, head to a local hill during a not-so-busy time and test your skills. While this sport hasn’t completely taken off like ski biking, you can find resorts like Monarch Mountain in Colorado that hold events like Kayak on Snow on closing weekend. 

9. Wild Skating 

Wild Skating-image 1
Image by Tuann Gatouillat Vergos

While skating on backyard ponds has been taking place for centuries, wild skating has come to the forefront as photos of people skating on remote lakes are a winter posting trend on social media. From the frozen lakes of Rocky Mountain National Park to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of Minnesota, wild skating began to grow with the pandemic. The picturesque landscapes, the look and color of ice, and an overall sense of freedom have drawn more and more people to try this sport in the wild. Besides the adventure of hiking to these locations lugging skates, it is important to know about ice thickness and safety. Do not attempt alone, and be prepared for changing conditions. 

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