For some winter is a time to cozy up with a hot drink and a nice fire, while others love to pile on the layers and get outside. While most winter-lovers stick to skiing, there are so many activities you can do in the winter. So, get out of your comfort zone on these winter adventures.
Climb a wall of ice, Bozeman Ice Fest, Bozeman, MT
If you’ve ever wondered what it would feel like to clamber up an icicle, head for the Bozeman Ice Festival running December 11-13. The festival, which takes place in Montana’s Hyalite Canyon, is for anyone who wants to ice climb, from first-timers to world-famous athletes including Conrad Anker, who makes a regular appearance at the festival.
You don’t need your own gear – rent or borrow ice axes, crampons, boots and helmet from festival exhibitors. And there are clinics for everyone, ranging from beginner to advanced, as well as women's clinics, a people-of-color clinic and queer-friendly clinic. Mixed climbing clinics, including workshops on how to lead a climb and ice climbing for beginners are also on the schedule. And when you’re not climbing, there’s food, movies and schmooze time to keep you busy and get you inspired.
Track gray wolves in Yellowstone National Park
Winter is the best time to see wildlife in Yellowstone National Park, and this week-long trip takes you deep into the northern reaches of the Park’s Lamar Valley in search of gray wolves. The habitat of these stealthy and elusive creatures is the same as Yellowstone's legendary megafauna – so not only will you have the chance to see and photograph canis lupus, you’ll also capture bison, elk, moose, pronghorn and bighorn sheep in your viewfinder from a pop-top safari truck.
In addition, you'll be getting an education on Yellowstone wolves and wildlife from your naturalist guides, who are acclaimed local scientists, wolf researchers and renowned wildlife photographers. High-powered spotting scopes and binoculars are provided as well as warm boots and parkas. Natural Habitat is a partner of World Wildlife Fund, and all trips are carbon offset.
See Northern Lights as you cruise the Norwegian Fjords, Ålesund, Norway
Long nights and short days make winter prime time for northern lights viewing in the Norwegian Fjords. And the best way to see Northern Lights is from a boat, far from the ambient light of any city or town. Experience this atmospheric phenomenon as well as fine food and drink – and cozy Scandinavian hygge – aboard the recently renovated, retired wooden minesweeper, Gåssten. The historic ship was one of the last wooden crafts built by the Swedish navy. Now, it's retrofitted so passengers sleep in former officer's quarters and munitions storage and dine in the Admiral’s lounge.
The Gåssten casts off from the Art Nouveau town of Ålesund and steams to a quiet anchorage in the archipelago ideal for star gazing and Northern Lights viewing. Dinner and drinks are served in the ship’s cozy sheep-skin-adorned saloon. By day you’ll cruise the region, including the magnificent Hjørundfjord, keep an eye peeled for pods of orcas and sea eagles seeking shelter from North Atlantic winter storms. A cocktail stop in Øye, home of the famous Hotel Union, precedes an onboard dinner of traditional lutefisk before you wrap yourself in a blanket and wait for the sky to ripple with lights.
Ski the last degree with polar explorer Eric Larsen, North Pole
Experience the earth's most extreme environment when you traverse the final 60 nautical miles to the Earth’s Geographic North Pole on your own power. This seven- to 10-day ski adventure traverses the last degree of latitude at the planet's northernmost point, across the shifting and fracturing sea ice of the Arctic Ocean. It’s not for the faint of heart or leg.
After flying from Svalbard to the Russian temporary ice station Barneo, participants helicopter to the 89th parallel then set out on skis pulling all their gear and food in robust pulk sleds in temperatures ranging from 20 to 45 degrees below zero, with legendary polar explorer Eric Larsen in the lead. It’s a trip that requires prior experience and a deep wallet. If you haven’t done a previous polar expedition, you need to complete a one of Larsen’s polar training courses first.
Skate the Rideau Canal, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Ottawa’s Rideau Canal is the largest naturally frozen skate rink in the world, as well as a Unesco World Heritage Site. The Skateway winds through the city of Ottawa – some residents even use it to commute to work on skates! Around 20,000 visitors come daily to glide through the city on this unique 4.8-mile urban rink that stretches between the National Arts Centre and Dows Lake.
Skate the whole thing, and it’s like crossing 90 Olympic-sized hockey rinks. Though the canal is natural ice, it’s maintained for smoothness. Skating the Rideau is free and open 24/7. At night, it’s illuminated over its entire length. Non-skaters can enjoy it too. In addition to rental skates, rental sleighs for pushing non-skaters, are also available. So are heated changing rooms, hot chocolate, and BeaverTails pastries – deep-fried, cinnamon and sugar confections baked only in Ottawa. Verify ice conditions before you go.