Outdoor Winter Activities That Aren’t Skiing

The onset of colder months doesn't mean you have to hide inside! There are plenty of outdoor winter activities to choose from other than skiing. As they say, there is no bad weather, just bad clothing! With a little preparation and the right gear, you can enjoy outdoor recreation year-round, especially in the winter.
Prepared By:

Shannon Lowery

Writer & Traveler

Let’s face it, not everyone loves skiing, or maybe skiing doesn’t love you. Injury, fear of heights, or just being out of practice can all affect the enjoyment one gets from this winter sport. Even if you love a good downhill run, quality powder isn’t always easy to find thanks to climate change. Fortunately, skiing isn’t the only winter recreation activity that exists. In fact, you might even enjoy some of the alternatives more than skiing. Many of the outdoor winter activities listed below are already offered in or near ski resort communities, so give one a try during your next winter holiday! 

Fat Biking

Fat biking, and biking in general, is one of the few outdoor activities that can be enjoyed in almost any season or climate. The signature super-sized, slightly deflated wheels of fat tire bikes allow riders to explore off-road terrains with ease, including sand, mud, gravel and even snow. Plus, the increased traction ensures riders still get a rigorous yet low-impact workout.

Fat tire bikes are common in coastal communities where beach cyclists ride the sandy shoreline year-round. However, fat tire snow bikes are gaining popularity. The versatility of fat biking makes it one of the best outdoor winter activities, regardless of the weather or your fitness level. Pedal along scenic forest trails or brave a heart-pounding downhill mountain biking ride. The durability of fat bikes makes them excellent for bikepacking excursions, too. No matter what, you’re sure to have a great adventure and workout.

Winter Fat Biking is one of the best outdoor winter activities

Ice Skating Trails

Winter weather fiends have been lacing up their ice skates and hitting frozen surfaces for centuries. However, climate change is rapidly changing the safety and reliability of wild ice skating in many places. Luckily, hiking trails are now being transformed into icy forest skating trails in the winter! Imagine gliding along between the trees on a narrow, well-maintained path through an undisturbed winter wonderland. Sounds idyllic, right?

Outdoor ice skating trails are a great way to hit the trails and enjoy nature during the winter months. You can find forest skating experiences in Alaska, Lake Morey, Vermont, the Lappish Forest of Finland, and in various locations across Canada.

Ice Skating Trails are great outdoor winter activities

Winter Swimming 

Step up your recovery routine and take up winter swimming. Health benefits like improved circulation and decreased inflammation are some of the major reasons people enjoy outdoor swimming year-round.  Join the brave locals for a plunge in the frigid European lakes and sea waters of Ireland, Scotland and the Nordic nations. 

Of all the outdoor winter activities on the list, open water swimming takes the most planning due to safety and acclimation. Start by swimming during the warmer months to get used to chilly waters. Consider a wetsuit, which comes in varying thickness levels to accomodate different water temperatures. Always swim with a visibility buoy or dry bag and don’t venture too far from the shoreline. Pack a warm beverage and a dry set of clothes so you can safely raise your body temperature after a frozen dip. 

Winter Swimming as an outdoor winter activity

Ice Slides

You’ve probably heard of an ice luge—they’re typically used for dramatic beverage service. Their cousin, the ice slide, is like a life-size ice luge intended for human use rather than a shot of your favorite libation. The history of ice slides dates back hundreds of years, providing simple seasonal entertainment before “Netflix and chill” was a thing. Some ice slides are a simple frozen track that adventurers zip down on inflated tubes or mats. However, the most impressive ice slides are made entirely out of ice—track, walls and all.

The annual Ice Castles festival in Lake George, New York, features all kinds of frozen attractions, including ice slides. In Alberta, Canada, Sylvan Lake’s ice slides are lit with magical winter lights making for a fun outdoor winter activity day or night. The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival held in China boasts the largest ice slide in the world, stretching nearly 300 meters.

China is home to the world's longest ice slide

Just because you’re not a skier doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy outdoor winter activities. There are plenty of other winter sports to enjoy during the colder months. Which one will you try first?

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