From the January/February 2012 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine
When Old Man Winter blankets the landscape with a fresh pile of powder, consider it a cue to bundle up and head outdoors. Like the thrill of an impromptu snowball fight, cold-weather activities—from igloo building to bobsledding—inject a shot of adrenaline sure to help shake off any bouts of cabin fever.
Dogsledding, Seward, Alaska
On Ididaride Sled Dog Tours, led by the seasoned Seavey family, two novice mushers take turns driving sleds—pulled by four aspiring (or retired) Iditarod huskies—on a 16-mile mosey through the Resurrection River Valley to the electric-blue Exit Glacier, at the foot of the rugged Kenai Mountains.
Olympic Sports, Lake Placid, New York
A go-for-the-gold spirit fills the two-time setting of the Winter Games. At Mount Van Hoevenberg’s Olympic Sports Complex, wannabes rocket through wild turns by bobsled (with a pro driver and brakeman) or skeleton sled. Nordic skiers can try biathlon (target shooting) next to Olympians on 31 miles of trails.
Igloo Building, Vancouver, British Columbia
Winter nights feel surprisingly snug when you’re hunkered down in Inuit-style igloos. Aided by the savvy of Westcoast Adventures, warm-blooded campers learn how to select a site in a secluded mountain meadow, prepare the snow, cut blocks, and assemble an icy abode.
Waterfall Climbing, Ouray, Colorado
Climbers (novice to pro) convene at the Ouray Ice Park in the soaring San Juan Mountains to ascend the frozen flows of fat, blue ice that line the 40-to-200-foot Uncompahgre Gorge walls. San Juan Mountain Guides provides climbing harnesses, crampons, and ice axes, plus expert instruction.
Hut Touring, Gaspésie, Quebec
The international extension of the Appalachian Trail weaves through and over Canada’s glacially carved Chic-Chocs and McGerrigle Mountains. Wood-heated mountain huts dot the five-day Logan Circuit—a pleasant jaunt by ski or snowshoe, especially when Ski Chic-Chocs guides are leading the way and arranging to haul your luggage. A short drive away, Gîte du Mont-Albert is a luxe end point.
Snowboarding, Copper Mountain, Colorado
You don’t have to be a competitor in the Winter X-Games to throw tricks in a superpipe. Woodward at Copper, an indoor/outdoor snow sports training facility, offers gymnastic trampolines to learn “aerial awareness,” synthetic Snowflex ramps and giant foam pits to perfect a trick, and Copper Mountain’s on-mountain terrain parks to try out new skills on real snow.
Snowkiting, Lake Champlain, Vermont
Harness the power of the wind to ski or snowboard across a frozen winter wonderland, an activity known as snowkiting. One of the best spots to do it is Vermont’s Lake Champlain, with its wide-open, snow-covered, reliably windy expanse. Burlington-based Stormboarding can get you set up with equipment and teach you how to fly the large, foil-style kite that mates with a releasable seat harness.
Wild Skating, Canyon Ferry Lake, Montana
For most, ice-skating means heading to the local rink. But in wild skating (also known as Nordic skating) participants eschew the rink in favor of Mother Nature’s natural, frozen bodies of water. Head to Montana’s Canyon Ferry Lake, where deep cold coupled with dry weather creates ideal black ice—a perfectly smooth, slick surface that is a skater’s dream (rough ice and snow can make wild skating a challenge in other locales). Or head to Ottawa, Ontario’s Rideau Canal Skateway. At nearly five miles long, it’s billed as the world’s largest skating rink.
Snowshoeing, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley USA ski resort, on the western shore of Lake Tahoe, recently got more than 800 inches of snow (a Squaw Valley record). What better place to head into the hills with snowshoes on your feet? While many of Tahoe’s ski areas offer snowshoeing (even on groomed trails), Adventures of Reno Summit Touring will get you off the beaten track and into the forests and meadows of the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains, with plenty of Tahoe’s fresh powder to call your own.
Ice Fishing, Rhinelander, Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s plentiful lakes, upper Midwest cold, and prized fish species such as walleye, northern pike, and lake trout make it a must-go destination for ice fishing. Head to Rhinelander, the “Ice Fishing Capital of the World,” which hosted the 2010 World Ice Fishing Championship. Try your luck on Boom Lake—and other area lakes—with the help of Anglers Choice Guide Service, which maintains a fleet of ten insulated, heated ice houses, two more portable shelters, a trio of snowmobiles, and all the fishing gear you’ll need.