Winter is synonymous with snow, hot cocoa, cozy socks and sweaters, and heart-pounding adventure sports.
That doesn't necessarily have to involve a pair of downhill skis or a snowboard, though. As it turns out, there are several other fun and extremely unique outdoor winter sports — and we're willing to bet you haven't even heard of some of them.
Before we dive into that, have you checked out our selection of Travel Tokens? The Wander Club has tokens for just about every imaginable destination (including wintry ones, of course!), plus several custom options!
Quirky Outdoor Winter Sports
If you've been snowshoeing before, it probably seems fairly normal — and definitely not "quirky." However, for those who have never strapped themselves into a pair of snowshoes, it's one of those outdoor winter sports that seems almost foreign and certainly intimidating.
Fortunately, snowshoeing is actually surprisingly easy, both to get started and to get good at it. The sport is essentially hiking in large paddle-like devices reminiscent of tennis rackets.
You can snowshoe on just about any hiking trail or even open areas, but you do need the right snow conditions. The best time to snowshoe is when snow has freshly fallen and a couple of days after. If the ground is too hard-packed, it actually becomes dangerous (not to mention awkward!).
Where to try it: Yellowstone National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT; Catskill Scenic Trail, NY
If you're scratching your head wondering what ski biking is, it's actually exactly what it sounds like: a bike with skis attached instead of tires.
Ski biking is also just as challenging as you might expect it to be, requiring a great deal of both balance and coordination. Beginners will definitely want to take lessons before heading downhill on their own ski bikes!
While it sounds niche-y, ski biking has a fairly solid following. In fact, there are even annual international ski bike festivals and tournaments!
Where to try it: Purgatory Resort in Durango, CO; Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff (really!); Boyne Highlands in Michigan
Ice fishing may initially seem like one of the most low-key outdoor winter sports on this list. What makes it so extreme, however, are the conditions required for ice fishing.
Of course it needs to be cold enough for entire bodies of water to freeze over. Then, while it's not necessarily a rule, it is just a way of life: ice fishing holes tend to be quite remote.
You can catch trout pretty much all winter throughout North America, but if you want a more "out there" bucket list experience, head to Greenland. Every winter in a small town called Uummannaq, avid fishermen gather to try their luck at shark ice fishing!
Where to try it: Devils Lake, ND (also one of the best places in the US to catch the Northern Lights); Lake Champlain, VT; and anywhere in Alaska
Derived from a Norwegian word meaning "ski driving," skijoring is when a person on Nordic skis is pulled by an animal or vehicle.
Skijoring is most commonly associated with dogs, but can also involve horses or motor vehicles. Whatever is used for towing, this fast-paced outdoor winter sport is exhilarating!
In some areas with long winters and heavy snowfall, like much of the Midwest, skijoring clubs are quite common.
Where to try it: The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough, MT; Gunstock Mountain resort, NH; North Fork Park in Liberty, UT
Dog sledding has roots that date back several centuries. It's one of the world's oldest modes of transportation, particularly in cold areas that get heavy snow.
Even today, dog sledding is often a primary transport mode in remote areas, including in many parts of Alaska. It's also, of course, a unique outdoor winter sport and tops many a bucket list!
Luckily, you don't have to travel far to experience dog sledding yourself. Many places, national parks included, offer it as a winter experience. In some cases, you can even try mushing yourself!
Where to try it: Alaska (specifically, Nome or Denali National Park); Grafton Notch, Maine (Mahoosuc Guide Service); Ely, Minnesota
Ask any ice climber to describe their sport, and you're likely to hear things along the lines of, "epic," "thrilling," "unreal," and "terrifying" — and all are equally accurate.
For ice climbing, you need, well, ice (and proper climbing equipment and ice tools, of course). That can come in the form of a waterfall, glacier, cliff covered in ice, or another large, frozen surface.
This is precisely why ice climbing is indeed a bit dangerous and certainly not an outdoor winter sport you simply take up one day. Ice isn't exactly stable and by its nature and definition, it's constantly changing. Don't try this one at home, kids!
Where to try it: Ouray, Colorado; Valdez, Alaska; The White Mountains, New Hampshire
Love snow, but not necessarily skiing, snowboarding, or anything that can be labeled as "extreme?" Snow tubing may be perfect!
It's as simple (and exciting!) as sledding, only in inflatable tubes. All you need is a good sledding hill to enjoy this unique outdoor winter sport, and some ski resorts actually have dedicated tubing hills or lanes.
To really level up your snow tubing experience, bring some friends and rope and tether your tubes together before going downhill!
Where to try it: Mt. Hood Skibowl; Killington, VT; Camelback Mountain Resort, Tannersville, PA (Poconos)
Also called "snowkite," this is about as exciting and adrenaline-inducing as outdoor winter sports get. In fact, it's even referred to as "every extreme winter sport in one!"
Anyone trying this will first need to be comfortable on skis or a snowboard. Next, all you really need in terms of conditions is open space and some wind — great news for snow sports lovers who aren't close to mountains.
There are several logistics to get the hang of (pun very much intended), but once you do, it's just a matter or skiing or snowboarding while also holding onto a kite. Fortunately, more and more companies are offering lessons.
Where to try it: Banff, Alberta, Canada; Camas Valley, Idaho; 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota
Ski Ballet (AKA Acroski or Ballet Skiing)
Believe it or not, ballet skiing was once a wildly popular Winter Olympics sport. It's exactly what it sounds like, skiing with choreography, set to some sort of music. And competitive.
Somehow both surprisingly and unsurprisingly, ski ballet fizzled out after just a couple of decades, and its last Olympics appearance was in 1992. It seems that it all but disappeared, until social media made the mesmerizing outdoor winter sport viral once again.
Today, it's difficult to find ski ballet anywhere in real life. It mostly lives in video form on YouTube and social media. However, experienced skiers can simply practice acroski on their own and every once in a blue moon, you'll find an odd ski resort offering a one-time lesson or event centered around it.
Typically, it's either the ski slopes or lake life — not both. Snow kayaking, however, marries the two in an unexpected but also somehow logical way.
In this fun sport, a kayak essentially becomes a sled (more specifically, a bobsled). Except, because it is indeed a kayak, you'll actually use your paddles to help propel you down the hill...and get unstuck.
Snow kayaking isn't quite as widespread as some of the other outdoor winter sports on this list, but it seems to be gaining in popularity. If you want to experience it yourself and you happen to own a kayak, simply find the nearest downhill area with enough open space.
Where to try it: Monarch Mountain Ski Area, CO; Boyne Highlands in Michigan; Mt. Baker in Washington state