For many, the winter is the worst 3 months of the year, equating to icy, inclement weather and being cooped up inside the house watching reruns of '80s sitcoms. For those with a little more determination and zeal, the winter can be among the best times of year to enjoy outdoor recreation. It's the only time of year that you'll have access to features like snow and ice. In addition to well-known standards like skiing and snowball fights, there are a variety of other fun activities that you can enjoy in the snow.
A sport that turns skiing and snowboarding on its ear, snowkiting trades gravity for the fierce winter winds in propelling you across snowy terrain. Since there's no need for mountains or hills, this sport is practiced anywhere that combines snow and open terrain. As such, if you live between the Appalachians and Rockies, you can still get out and enjoy skiing and snowboarding. Locations like Minnesota, Montana and Utah are popular for the sport. The high-paced adrenaline sport can boast speeds over 50 mph and offers an addicting form of winter recreation.
In 2006, David Arnold from "The New York Times" described the cross-segment appeal of the sport: "An extreme sport might be defined: you push beyond your limits; you own the consequences. These kites, flown in certain configurations, are docile. In other configurations, their force has been likened to trying to stop a passing pickup with a lasso." Up, down, flat, fast, slow--snowkiting is a sport that anyone can enjoy.
Snowshoeing is a well-known winter activity that has been around for thousands of years. If you're a jogger or a runner in the summer, there's no reason you need to hang up your running shoes in the winter. Instead, strap them to a good pair of snowshoes and run over the snow. You may not want to try running in your average recreational snowshoes, but most major manufacturers offer slimmer, lighter variants designed specifically for running. A 2002 University of Vermont study demonstrated that those who used snowshoeing training in winter workouts had higher levels of fitness than those who chose to just run.
Even newer to the scene than snowkiting, speed riding is a thrilling combination of paragliding and skiing. Even watching the video is enough to give you an adrenaline rush. While part of the sport is skiing down the slopes like normal, participants have one little advantage that most skiers don't: a paraglider on their back that can be activated when the terrain gets a little too rough or the skier tires of the ground. Experienced speed riders like pioneer Francois Bon are able to ride never-imagined, sure-death lines on the top of craggy peaks because they're able to fly into the air once the terrain gives way.
While that may sound ridiculously intimidating to the unexperienced, Bon reassures the novice in a 2008 "Telegraph" article: "...Speed riding is something that you can learn, slowly. It's not something you have to throw yourself off the top of a mountain to try out."
Originating in the French Alps, the sport has slowly spread to other areas, and a limited number of adrenaline-junkie haunts now host schools that offer lessons. The Aspen Speed Riding Club lists school locations in Aspen, Colorado; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Santa Barbara, California and Draper, Utah, among a few others.