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10 outdoor winter activities you have to try this year

Here are 10 exciting outdoor winter activities recommended by professional skiers and snowboarders, from beginner activities to extreme winter sports.


We asked skiing and snowboarding pros for some hair-raising winter sports on their radar.


You’ll hear from Martin McFly Winkler (freeskier and mountain guide), Xavier De Le Rue (champion snowboarder), Anders Backe (freeskier and film star), and Pedro Oliva (whitewater kayak adventurer) on outdoor winter activities that get their hearts racing.


Here are their recommendations for exhilarating, lesser-known winter sports that they think everyone else should try too – whether you’re an extreme athlete or just a beginner.


In this article:

Winter activities to try according to the pros:

#1 Winter or igloo camping

(In this picture: Two people camping in the winter in a Thule Tepui rooftop tent.)


Level: Intermediate


Recommended by: Xavier De Le Rue

“Igloo camping is a great alternative. Igloos are easy and fun to build and can be quite sizable. They are well insulated and the temperature in them is really decent if you have the right gear. You can have a great evening with your friends or your partner.”


Why you should give it a go:

Igloos have been built by certain Inuit communities in parts of Canada and Greenland for centuries – and there is a good reason for it. Snow, rather than being a problem, is very insulating and can be around 20°C / 70℉ warmer than outside.

So, if you love hiking and camping, why stop just because it’s snowing? Winter camping gives you the chance to see interesting new wildlife and nature is even more peaceful when blanketed under a layer of snow


What you need to do it:

You’ll need a whole lot of snow to build an igloo!

And hey – if you don’t trust yourself to build an icy house, why not camp in a tent that is built for the winter? These tents have ample insulation and protection against wind, rain and snow.

Rooftop tents, for example, are built with year-round protection but also come with additional insulators for extra warmth.

All your camping gear should be built for cold temperatures, including a winter sleeping bag, sleeping pads, and a stove that works in below-freezing temperatures.

You’ll also need to dress up warm, with extra layers and insulating materials. Drink a lot of water on the trip and make sure to get enough nutrition – this will help keep you warm.

Make sure to check the specific winter camping gear before you set out so that you are well prepared!


#2 Snowskating

(In this picture: A boy participates in the Snowskate Open Jam. Photo credit: Philip Nelson under license CC BY 2.0)


Level: Extreme


Recommended by: Martin McFly Winkler

“A lesser-known winter sport I’ve tried that I think everyone else should try too is snowskating. There is no binding, you can ride it with normal shoes, just like a skateboard. There are different sizes and shapes, so there are ones that allow you to do tricks or other ones you can ride powder with. One of the fascinations behind it is that it turns a small hill into a challenging run.”


Why you should give it a go:

If you’re a fan of skateboarding, this is the sport for you. Snowskating is a hybrid of skateboarding and snowboarding, using a board that is a combination of the two. Essentially, it’s skateboarding that works even in the ice and snow.

It’s a great winter sport because you truly can do it anywhere. Snowy streets, skateboard parks – and even mountains like a snowboard!


What you need to do it:

A snowskate and a helmet.


#3 Dog sledding or skijoring


Level: Beginner to intermediate


Recommended by: Anders Backe

“I really like dog sled riding because you can go for a long trip, bring skis and go test out some remote spots in the old fashioned way!”


Why you should try it:

Dog sledding is a classic winter activity – that most people probably haven’t tried!

In the traditional version, you travel on a dog sled several days through the snow with a band of huskies.

But you can also pick up speed with skijoring – a more athletic setup. Here, you attach yourself to a harness that is connected by a towline to the dogsled harness around your dog. The dog then runs while you tow behind with skis.

This will take some training, but similarly to cycling with your dog, the trick is find the right pace so that neither you nor your dog is dragging behind.

Both dog sledding and skijoring are great activities. It’s excellent exercise for your pet (especially if you have a particularly energetic breed). It also allows you to cover longer distances and discover new places.


What you need to get started:

A dogsled, skis, and a dogsled harness that is specifically designed for this activity (it distributes weight and has extra padding to make sure your dog is comfortable for the whole ride).

Of course, while a husky is the perfect dogsled puller, a chihuahua will be more suited to riding the dogsled alongside you. To see whether your pup is ready for dog sledding, check with your veterinarian.


#4 Speed riding / snowkiting

(In this picture: Two people go speed riding. Photo credit: Juozas Šalna under license CC BY 2.0)


Level: Beginner to extreme


Recommended by: Xavier De Le Rue

“Speed riding uses skis or a snowboard with a small paraglide. Because of its size it flies fast but floats less in the air so that you can touch the snow with your skis and have a mix of gliding and flying.

There is a great feeling of speed, and it is a great alternative to skiing or snowboarding when the snow is not perfect!”


Why you should give it a go:

Speed riding is an extreme sport that combines skiing and paragliding!

In speed riding the skier attaches a windsurfing kite to a harness around their waist and uses the power of the wind to reach high speeds or jumps. Compared to normal skiing, you can travel both up and downhill – and skip the ski lift.

Speed riding gives you the option to travel cross-country and downhill. There are even snow kiting freestyle parks that let you try your hand at various tricks.

If you’re interested, why not join a local class that can sort out the gear for you and make sure you get started in a safe way?


What you need to do it:

Ski boots, skis, harness and a kite, helmet, goggles and of course, warm clothing.

If you need a way to transport your skis and kite in your car, you might also need a cargo box.


#5 Ski jumping


Level: Beginner to extreme


Recommended by: Anders Backe

“I like ski jumping and I used to do a lot of it when I was younger.”


Why you should try it:

Ski jumping is a thrilling winter sport where athletes descend from a steep ramp and try to achieve the longest distance off the ground.

The thrill of the sharp descent and flying through the air is hard to beat. If you’re a downhill skier who loves getting up to high speeds, this could be your next favorite sport.


What you need to get started:

It might not come as a surprise, but as a beginner you won’t be starting on the steep descents you see at the Olympics.

Ski jumping lessons can start at all ages. First you take a stab at the tiny ramps and build your way from there. Lessons start with some sort of skiing skills as a basic requisite. You’ll need your ski boots, skis and a helmet.


#6 Winter Kayaking

(In this picture: Pedro Oliva kayaking in Antarctica)


Level: Intermediate


Pedro Oliva is an extreme whitewater kayaker and former world record holder for the highest waterfall jump with a kayak. Clearly, he’s a person who does not shy away from adventure.

So, it makes sense that one of his most memorable kayaking experiences was in Antarctica. You can read more about his extreme water adventures here.

Of course, you don’t have to head all the way to the South Pole to do some winter paddling. In fact, you can go winter kayaking on your local lake or river.


Why you should give it a go:

Winter kayaking is a great way to glide through the icy landscape and observe wildlife in the tranquil peace of winter.

Some places even offer winter kayaking tours, which is a great way to see new places covered in frost and snow.


What you need to do it:

You’ll need clothing for the cold and clothing for the wet. Layer smart with warm, yet breathable materials.

A dry suit is best for kayaking to keep the water out. This is because wet suits are only useful when immersed in water and – hopefully – on this kayaking trip, you won’t be tipping over.

If you do fall in, not to worry! Professional dry suits don’t let in any water. For more information about how to layer up for kayaking, check out our guide.

If you have a kayak of your own, you’re also going to need a way to transport it. A kayak rack helps you carry your boat to any location, even in the middle of the winter.


#7 Sunset/sunrise skiing


Level: Beginner


Recommended by: Anders Backe

“A winter activity that people should try is skiing during sunrise or sunset. It’s the perfect way to ski during December-January when the sun rises late and sets early.

Just be up on the top before it starts to glow, wait until the sun rises, and when everything gets light, enjoy the view one last time and ski down.

Some resorts have morning skiing or open early enough for you to take the first chair up and be ready for the sunrise. It’s a perfect way to start or end your day on the mountain!”


Why you should try it:

Okay, yes, this is supposed to be a list of outdoor winter activities besides skiing. But hear us out! Skiing in the early morning or evening is a new way to experience the sport.


What you need to get started:

It’s also a great outdoor winter activity since you can just use the ski gear you already have. Just make sure you check the local sunrise or sunset time and have an alarm clock ready to wake you up in time!


#8 Ice climbing

(In this picture: Ice climbing in France. Photo credit: Kévin K. licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 FR)


Level: Beginner to extreme


Recommended by: Xavier De Le Rue

“Ice climbing is also great, and I find as a snowboarder it’s really helpful to build up your mountaineering skills.

Also, a bit of time on the ice will make you feel much better in most situations that you encounter when approaching freeride lines when snowboarding.”


Why you should give it a go:

Ice climbing is a growing sport and with its combination of core strength and mastery of the techniques, it is easy to understand why.

Ice climbing is a great activity that you can start immediately as a beginner with the help of an instructor and smaller, indoor ice walls. You can quickly work your way up from that to larger walls, or ice out in nature in the form of frozen waterfalls or alpine ice.

Unlike climbing a mountain, the conditions of the ice and snow are always changing. This makes ice climbing an exciting challenge for anyone who already enjoys the thrill of tackling a boulder or mountain.


What you need to get started:

You’ll need ice axes, crampons, a helmet and harness. If you’re a beginner with experience in rock climbing, make sure to go with someone who can teach you specific techniques. If you’re interested in starting and have no experience whatsoever, look for local lessons.

Of course, dress up warmly!


Other outdoor winter activities to try:

#9 Winter Mountain Biking

(In this picture: Xavier De Le Rue goes biking in the snow)


Level: Beginner to intermediate


Why you should give it a go:

For mountain bike and fat biking enthusiasts, fat bike riding in the snow adds a whole new dimension to biking.

One of the best things about fat biking in the snow is that it’ll make you rethink everything you thought you knew about fat biking. Everything from how you distribute your weight, brake into turns and how the tires hook up.

Also, since the snow conditions vary from day to day, every ride will come with new challenges, and put your skills to the test.


What you need to get started:

For the bike, the wider the wheelbase the better. You can also get specialized tires that are suited to the snow.

If you’re looking for a good place to start winter riding, most trails for Nordic skiers will also suffice for your fat bike. That said, more and more regions are also creating singletrack specifically for winter bikers.

You’ll also need a way to transport the bike. Rear mounted bike racks are heavy duty bike racks that are up to the challenge. These bike racks allow for the transport of bikes with large wheelbases, like fat bikes.


#10 Snowshoeing

Level: Beginner


Why you should give it a go:

Snowshoeing is essentially hiking through deep snow in snowshoes – strange-looking contraptions that you attach to your winter boots. They spread your weight evenly and ensure that you float on the snow rather than sink or get stuck.

There are different techniques to snowshoeing to make going uphill and downhill easier. If you live in an area that is usually knee-deep in snow, snowshoeing means you can go on long excursions year-round.


What you need to get started:

Snowshoes, snowshoe poles, and warm winter boots or shoes. If you’re interested in trying snowshoeing for the first time, look for a local tour that provides snowshoes for you.

If you get into the activity, you can invest in a pair of snowshoes that are right for your weight, local terrain and snow conditions.

Thule ambassadors in this article:

Martin Winkler, former pro freeskier and Thule ambassador.

Martin ‘McFly’ Winkler is an Austrian former pro Freeskier, film producer and mountain guide. You can see his work at the Zero Division production company or head over to his Instagram.

Anders Backe, Norwegian freeskier and Thule ambassador.

Anders Backe is a Norwegian freeskier who starred in the ski documentary films Supervention I and Supervention II. Find out more on his Instagram page.

Xavier De Le Rue professional snowboarding champion and Thule ambassador.

Xavier De Le Rue is a French big mountain snowboarder with 4 World Boardercross Champion and 3 Freeride World Tour Champion titles to his name. Check out his website or Instagram.

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