Now is the time of year when all people seem to talk about is diamonds. Their size, their cut, their color. Others focus on fresh powder and where to find it. I’m talking, of course, of the winter sports enthusiasts, those stalkers of snow forecasts, buyers of season passes, splurgers on ski or snowboard escapes to the Swiss Alps, Tahoe or the Canadian Rockies.
But what if you’re not into skiing or snowboarding? What if you’re tired of going to resorts with enthusiast friends but want something more than sledding and hot tubs? What if you’re *gasp* tired of the major winter sports and looking for something else? Fear not. There are alternatives for the most bored or snow-sport averse among you. Their inventiveness may surprise you.
Imagine you’re sitting on a bicycle with skis instead of wheels. Then place yourself not on a street or bumpy off-road path, but on the slopes of a snow-covered mountain. This is ski biking. With the high amount of intuitive control afforded by handle bar steering, the low center of gravity and the same lean-to-stop breaking as skis, many users report an ease of adoption far greater than skiing or snowboarding. Need to see it to believe it? Check out this video.
Already popular in Europe, many resorts across the United States and Canada now allow ski biking, and the number is increasing. The Durango Ski Resort in Colorado hosts an international ski bike festival every year.
Close to the Russian border in the Eastern Finnish town of Rukatunturi, Ruka Adventures offers a winter take on a warm weather favorite. Ice karting provides the same exhilaration of speed and competition as go karting, but the ice karts feature studded tires and more powerful engines for their races along an ice-covered track.
The races are the real deal. Riders participate in warm up laps with 8-10 other karts, a qualification match that determines placement in the starting line up and then a final race. PRO racers receive more time on the ice and prizes for the three fastest drivers. With the enhanced difficulty of icy conditions, most soon find that technical skill beats speed.
Finland too far? Other ice karting locations can be found in Austria, Italy and Wisconsin, USA.
Ice sailing (also known as ice yachting) takes the sport of sailing, removes it from open, windy waters, adds steel runners and deposits it onto open, windy expanses of ice. As you might expect, operation is similar to that of a traditional sailboat, with rudders, jibing, and tacking playing a large role. The sail, of course, is the most important part. It’s what harnesses the wind and propels the boats across the ice at speeds up to 40 miles per hour. It’s also what allows you to stop.
Naturally the sport is practiced wherever temperatures dip below freezing and large lakes and rivers are found. The Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club in Madison, Wisconsin is one of the most active in the United States and has been in existence for over 100 years. Want to go somewhere more exotic? Visitors to the Masurian Lake District in Poland will find many operators that rent boats and give lessons. The sport also remains popular in the Netherlands, where it originated.