Fat bikes, which have large forks and huge nubby tires, were invented so that Alaskans could commute by bike. However, in the past few years winter biking has turned into a much more recreational activity. Fat bikes have become exceedingly popular in the Midwest where the terrain isn’t too ideal for skiing. Instead, rolling trails and frozen lakes lend themselves nicely to wintertime cycling with fat bikes. Fat bike rentals are popping up in ski towns across the West. From Minneapolis to Jackson Hole, there are a variety of places where you can easily try the sport out for yourself.
Winter sailors call frozen lakes “hard water” and take boats fitted with runners instead of a keel sailing across solid bodies of water. The idea is the same, but the physics are slightly different. Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire and Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota are popular spots for the sport. Ice boaters have recorded speeds of upwards of 100 miles, but more commonly they sail in the 55 MPH range.
Every four years the Winter Olympics remind us how fun it looks to combine cross-country skiing with shooting guns. Competitive biathlon consists of a ski route broken up by shooting rounds. Athletes shoot from both a standing and a prone position. The hardest part is relaxing and bringing your heart rate down after skiing, so you can shoot accurately. Check your state or local biathlon association to find places where you can participate.
Shovel racing, which started as a way for ski lift operators to get downhill once the lifts were closed, has become its own semi-legitimate sport. It’s exactly what it sounds like: participants slide downhill on an upturned shovel, using the handle to (sort of) steer. In 1997 it was briefly part of the Winter X Games. You don’t need an official race to participate, but if you want one, these days, the biggest shovel race of the season takes place at Angel Fire Resort in New Mexico.
There are two different styles of Nordic skiing: classic and skate. Classic is probably what you picture when you think about cross-country skiing; a mellow jaunt on a trail through the woods. Skate skiing, which is almost more similar to ice skating than skiing, takes place on wide groomed trails, and is more of a killer workout than a nature walk. Like with ice skating, you transfer weight from one ski to the other, so the sport requires balance, skill, and a serious cardio output. In northern areas where it’s custom for cities to groom their trails in the winter, it’s shouldn’t be difficult to find the appropriate terrain to partake in the sport.
Curling, the act of sliding large stones across a sheet of ice towards a target, looks straightforward, but the simple sport can be deceivingly hard to do well. It’s similar to golf because it’s a sport that requires much accuracy, but your whole team, from the curler to the sweeper, plays a part in the overall outcome. Since it was included in the Olympics in 1998 curling has become increasingly popular, so it’s easier than ever to find ice—or “curling sheets,” as they’re called officially—to play on.
Snowkiting (which directly correlates to the summertime sport of kiteboarding) allows you to glide over snow and ice using wind power and a kite. In places like Greenland, people sometimes use it for transportation, but it’s exciting enough to do just for fun. Experts advise starting with a small trainer kite in an area with no obstruction to the wind flow or your flight and learning from someone who has experience with the sport.
If you don’t have a fleet of polo ponies at your beck and call, snow polo (which might be even more ritzy and ridiculous than real polo) is a fun sport to observe. It tends to take place in exclusive places like Aspen and Davos, Switzerland, but if you have the opportunity to catch a match, it’s certainly exciting to watch teams of three riders and horses in studded shoes chase a big red ball around a snowy arena.
If hiking is your go-to summer sport, then snowshoeing is probably just the wintertime activity for you. If you’re after more of a cardio workout than a scenic stroll will get you, snowshoe racing—a faster-paced version of the sport—is growing in popularity. According to the United States Snowshoe Association, there are races scheduled in 21 states this year. Running in snowshoes, because of the increased resistance, will spike your heart rate and provide a serious winter workout.
Does Nordic skiing seem like too much work? Instead, try skijoring—or being towed on skis by a horse, dog or maybe even a car. Skijoring with dogs is the most common form of the sport, and it can be a fun way to play outside with your pet. There are several equestrian skijoring events held across the Western U.S., including the World Skijoring Championships, held in Whitefish, Montana, and a yearly event in Leadville, Colorado, where competitors have to race over jumps.