For some, the winter season is about good food and warmth; about enjoying time by the fire. And for adventure seekers, winters bring a plethora of adrenaline-rushing outdoor activities- from skiing to ice fishing, and even building a snow den. If you relate to the latter, you’ll love checking out these fun, adventurous outdoor winter activities.
Skiing is an incredibly popular winter outdoor activity. Did you know that the word “ski” originates from the Old Norse word “skio,” meaning a split piece of wood?Another piece of trivia…The very first skis date back to 8000 years BC and were found in Northern China. They were made of 2-meter-long pieces of wood and were covered in horsehair. No wonder skiing is both a recreational activity and a competitive sport.
Have you ever heard of a Biathlon? Its a winter sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. Yes, you read that correctly. It is treated as a race, with contestants skiing through a cross-country trail whose distance is divided into shooting rounds.
Where to ski in the US
The United States has some of the best ski resorts in the world. And when it comes to the US, Colorado boasts some of the most scenic ski resorts. Vail Ski Resort, Aspen/Snowmass, Telluride Ski Resort, Breckenridge Ski Resort, Beaver Creek, Steamboat, Keystone, and Purgatory Mountain Resort attract thousands of winter outdoor activity lovers. Utah is home to Snowbird, Deer Valley, and Park City Mountain Resort. If you want to ski in Vermont, head over to Stowe or Sugarbush Resort.
Other popular ski resorts include Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (WY), Big Sky Resort (MT), Palisades Tahoe Ski Resort (CA), Sun Valley (ID), and Taos Ski Valley (NM).
Talking specifically about cross-country skiing, these are the most popular destinations in the US:
- Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa
- Methow Trails
- Trapp Family Lodge
- Bretton Woods Nordic Center
- Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System
- Maplelag Resort
- White Grass Ski Touring Center
- Carter's XC Ski Center
- Mount Bachelor
- Sun Valley Nordic & Snowshoe Center
- Bear Valley Adventure Company
- Snow Mountain Ranch
- Jackson Ski Touring Foundation
- Cascade Cross Country Ski Center
- Lone Mountain Ranch
- Kincaid Park
The right skiing gear can make all the difference. Make sure you carry the right Ski trousers & jacket, base & mid layers, ski goggles and gloves, ski socks, helmet, and wrist guards. Snow gear has changed dramatically over the years. You don’t have to strap on overalls and fluorescent pant suits. Ski in style with unique VERO watches for men.
Modern snowboarding was the brainchild of Sherman Poppen. This Michigan-based engineer put together two skis and added some rope for steering. His wife called this frankensteined ski board, a “snurfer”.
Since its birth, snowboarding has grown to hold its own on the slopes, and in the world of professional athleticism. There are 7.56 million snowboarders hitting the mountains every year. Pro athletes like Shaun White and Torah Bright thrill followers with their extreme tricks, and bombing steep, untouched mountain runs.
Did you know that the United States holds the most Winter Olympic medals for snowboarding? Shaun White is the most decorated, holding three gold medals alone.
Where to snowboard in the US
Here are some of the most popular snowboarding destinations in the country:
- Mt. Hood Meadows (OR)
- Park City Mountain Resort (UT)
- Mammoth Mountain (CA)
- Telluride Resort (CO)
- Palisades Tahoe and Alpine Meadows (CA)
- Jackson Hole (WY)
- Whitefish (MT)
- Mt. Bachelor (OR)
- Crystal Mountain (WA)
- Sun Valley (ID)
- Big Sky (MT)
- Whiteface Mountain (NY)
If you are not into ice skating, or the conditions on the slopes aren’t great, snowshoeing could be your way to get out and explore the outdoors. Put simply, snowshoeing is hiking in the snow. Snowshoeing makes an excellent winter outdoor activity for people of all ages. You can burn more than 600 calories on average per hour snowshoeing. And most outdoor retailers offer rental options to make it easy to get your hands on some snowshoes. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve been known to pack up thermoses of hot beverages on those snowy days, and hike out to take in the sights. It’s a great way to get out of the house and make a day out of a snow adventure.
Where to snowshoe?
The best thing about snowshoeing is that it can be done in a variety of places. From national parks to recreational parks, from a backcountry space to even your backyard or city streets, you can enjoy snowshoeing just about everywhere. Places such as the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin, Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado are also popular for snowshoeing. But for local spots, use hiking apps like AllTrails to see what winter hiking routes near you offer great snowpack to beautiful destinations.
Winter Hike Ideas
While you have those snowshoes handy, here are some great hike ideas to make the most of your time outdoors.
Hike to a local hot spring!
There are 1,161 known thermal springs in the US alone. Just don’t forget to bring a towel along for the trek back through the snow.
Hike to a fire look out!
There are roughly 300 fire lookouts across the US. Some are still in use by the local forest service so check what is open to a visit before setting off up the mountain. Fire lookouts are now even being used as hike-in overnight destinations, offering a cozy place with dramatic views to bunk up after your long hike. Check out Airbnb and other vacation rental sites to find a fire look out to rent near you. As we approach the holidays, getting a Christmas tree can be as easy as heading out to your local forest. There are tons of great places to cut your own Christmas tree and forage for branches to make your own DIY wreaths and other crafted decorations.
Whether you want to collect mushrooms for a hobby, or to make some extra money, mushroom foraging makes for a great winter outdoor activity. If you are into winter mushroom foraging, you might want to check out the following winter mushrooms that grow in the northeast and other cold climates:
- Turkey Tail
- Birch Polypore & Tinder Polypore
- Witches Butter
- Lion’s Mane
- Winter Oysters
- Artist’s conk
- Red-belted polypore
- Amber jelly roll & Black Jelly Roll
- Wood ear
- Brick caps
Prepping for Mushroom Foraging
Besides the clothes, shoes, and gear for hunting mushrooms, you should also have a region-specific mushroom guide or a handy mushroom identification chart. Alternatively, you can use a mushroom-identification app on your smartphone. Just be sure to check and double check before enjoying as some edible mushroom species often look identical to other not-so-edible ones. Winter time is when we all like to hibernate a bit, but make sure you get out to enjoy nature in these chilly months as well!