Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding
One of the most popular winter activities, downhill skiing is a blast for the whole family. Bundle up and head to a nearby resort, or even plan a week-long getaway to a ski/snowboard destination. Most ski areas offer a variety of terrain perfect for all levels, as well as equipment rentals and lessons. Plan your trip carefully, however, as lift ticket prices can often be very expensive.
Cross-country (or Nordic) skiing is a great way to get outside and get a little aerobic exercise. On cross-country skis, only your toe is attached to the ski, allowing you to kick and glide yourself forward. Most ski areas have a Nordic center that rents gear and has groomed flat trails for more novice skiers. A pass typically costs about $15 a day, but you'll save on the headache (and leg-ache!) of attempting to glide through backcountry powder.
Snowshoeing is a great way for the avid summer hiker to experience the wilderness in winter. As simple as strapping the shoes on and heading out for a walk, there is no specialized knowledge or skill required to enjoy a day on snowshoes. Bear in mind that while snowshoes will keep you from sinking up to your knees in deep powder, they will sink just a bit, making the going more challenging for the person up front. Switch the order in which your group walks to spread the work evenly.
A classic winter pastime, ice skating is available in nearly every wintery town. Whether on a rink or a lake, this activity provides fun for people of all ages. Most organized skating rinks offer skate rentals either included in the price or for a small additional fee. Be warned, though: skating on a frozen lake that is not billed as an established rink can be incredibly dangerous and is never recommended.
For those with a bit more gumption, camping in the winter can provide an exciting twist on a traditional favorite summer activity. Many outdoor equipment stores rent four-season tents for the winter, which are exceptionally stable and provide maximum wind resistance. If you're feeling particularly ambitious, you can even build your own snow hut, but you should only attempt this with an experienced winter camper.