From ice climbing in a southwest Colorado box canyon to snowshoeing through vineyards while pausing to do yoga along the way, winter is a great time to test your skills with a new adventure. Sure, you can always buy a lift ticket and go skiing if you live in a mountainous state, but what about snowkiting? Here are our 10 picks for the best unique winter adventures across the U.S.A.:
Snowga in Washington
Located in the heart of Washington’s Cascade Mountains, Lake Chelan is a spectacular waterfront destination just three hours east of Seattle. While the region is known as a summer hotspot with its gleaming waters and breathtaking mountains, it’s also special in winter when it turns into a snow-filled wonderland. In January, Yogachelan offers a unique retreat called Snowga, an innovative combination of snowshoeing and yoga. Snowga-goers enjoy a two and a half hour excursion snowshoeing through vineyards on the Echo Ridge Trail, stopping along the way to do yoga poses in the snow within view of stunning Lake Chelan. At the top, bask in the view with hot tea and delicious treats provided by local Bear Foods Market. The retreat is offered on Jan. 17 and 23 during Lake Chelan’s Winterfest, an annual festival with ice sculptures, wine tasting and even beach bonfires.
Snowkiting in Utah
Flying down the snowy side of a mountain powered by the wind is a unique winter adventure. And while many snowkite enthusiasts use a board or skis, all you really need to go is a power kite and an appetite for excitement. Glide down the slopes in snowy Utah and let the wind pull you up into the air. If you don’t know what you’re doing, try taking a lesson though the Ogden Valley’s Utah Kite Addiction snowkiting school. The class is worthwhile even if you’ve tried the sport a few times, as it also helps hone snowkiting safety skills.
Ice climbing in Colorado
Located in a box canyon in southwest Colorado, Ouray is one of the dreamiest Rocky Mountain towns in the state. Here the mountains extend right down into the village, which is home to a soothing hot springs resort and a unique winter sport: ice climbing. To try climbing the face of a frozen waterfall, head to the Ouray Ice Park, located in a two-mile stretch of the Uncompagre Gorge. The first of its kind in the world, the ice park is free and open to the public, and draws climbers from around the globe. If you’ve never climbed before, an intro lesson is imperative. San Juan Mountain Guides offers a number of different course options and rates include all gear.
Airboarding in Pennsylvania
Nestled in the Endless Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania, Montage Mountain Resort is the ideal destination for a unique winter adventure. The property is one of only seven resorts in the USA offering airboarding, which involves taking an exhilarating ride atop a lightweight inflatable sled. Similar to body boarding in the ocean, airboarding requires no previous experience and is easy to pick up. Riders can reach up to 60 m.p.h. as they surge down the mountain, but fear not – airboards are designed for optimal maneuverability with underside grooves that allow for sharp turns and quick stops. Airboarding at Montage Mountain is an ideal alternative to traditional skiing or snowboarding, and is ideal for thrill-seekers. It’s only a $29 add-on to a lift ticket, and that price includes all gear and a quick training session. If airboarding isn’t your style, you can also try snow tubing at this resort, which offers 10 trails running about 800-feet-long in a specially designed snow tubing park.
Cosmic Tubing in New Hampshire
For something funky, get your glow on Saturday nights at Granite Gorge Ski Area in New Hampshire. Here you can go cosmic tubing Saturdays between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Dress warmly and whirl down the slopes in two-person inner tubes in a specially designed park. The mountain glows neon thanks to black lights, fluorescent tubes, light shows, and even disco balls while a live DJ spins tunes across the mountain sound system.
Ice Biking in New York
Since debuting at Buffalo’s redeveloped waterfront last December, ice biking has been a huge hit. The ice bikes are outfitted with a stainless steel frame with blades, which allow cyclists to seamlessly glide along the ice at Canalside, a 33,000 square foot frozen rink built on a replica of the Erie Canal that once ran through downtown Buffalo. The sport is entirely homegrown, as well: The bikes are produced at a Buffalo-based company, General Welding and Fabricating, and are believed to be the first of their kind for public rental in the USA.
Snowbiking in Oregon
After trying ice biking in Buffalo, head out to Hoodoo Mountain Resort in Oregon to attempt snowbiking. Here the bike frame is mounted on skis and riders race down a snowy mountainside, reaching speeds up to 135 m.p.h. Anyone who knows how to ride a bike and has a hunger for adrenaline-filled activities will love this sport. Once you get the hang of it, there are trails for a variety of skill levels and even jumps and moguls to navigate. Snowbiking is also a great multi-generational, family sport – it’s a low-impact alternative for skiiers whose knees can no longer take the stress of skiing, and also good for young winter sports enthusiasts who haven’t got the hang of balancing on skis or a board yet. With a fleet of 35 rental snowbikes and lessons for beginners, plus snowbike races and even a spring snowbiking festival, it’s no wonder Hoodoo has been called the snowbiking capitol of the USA.
RZR Tour in West Virginia
Located just three hours from D.C., Snowshoe Mountain Resort in West Virginia has been a long time favorite winter retreat for Washingtonians. Beyond downhill ski slopes and a cobblestone-lined mountaintop village, as well as the most skiable terrain below the Mason-Dixon, Snowshoe also offers a unique winter tour by RZR (think heated 4-person off-road vehicle) that is perfect for romantic getaways. The three-hour trip takes you deep into the backcountry where a multi-course dinner is served at the Sunrise Backcountry Hut (from $219/couple). Expect winter favorites such as beef stew and pecan-encrusted tilapia, washed down by local beer and wines, in this rustic cabin surrounded by evergreens.
Night Ziplining Tour in New York
Kick up the fear factor a bit by heading to Hunter Mountain Ski Resort in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York to try a Night Zip Tour. Run by New York Zipline Canopy Tours, this winter ziplining adventure takes place on the Mid Mountain Tour, and is family-friendly. The experience includes six zip lines, four rope bridges and a 65-foot rappel. The moon and nine illuminated tree platforms guide you over the three hour tour. The resort also runs a daytime winter ziplining adventure called The SkyRider Tour. It is the longest, fastest and highest zipline tour in North America, and the world’s second largest in the world. Consisting of 4.6 miles of ziplines, adventurers reach speeds of close to 50 m.p.h. The tour includes five side-by-side racing ziplines, the highest of which stretches 600 feet above the ground.
Snowshoe to dinner in Idaho
From December through March, partake in a winter culinary adventure like non other in McCall, Idaho. Snowshoe or cross country ski to a BYOB gourmet dining experience at the Blue Moon Yurt. This is a unique winter dining experience deep in Idaho’s scenic Ponderosa State Park. Patrons pack adult beverages of choice, strap on snowshoes or cross country skis, then journey one mile under the stars to a warm, cozy yurt where they are greeted with warm apple cider or mulled wine. The yurt, which is nestled on the shores of Payette Lake, cozily surrounds a wood stove with communal seating. A short welcome is made along with light hors d’oeuvres before the prix fixe gourmet meal commences. Reservations up to month in advance are suggested as this experience often books out fast.
Carri Wilbanks, Special for USA TODAY