One of my favourite days of the whole year is the first snowfall. Big, soft, fluffy flakes come twirling from the sky and lay gently on the ground, eventually creating a canvas of white. Everything is more magical in the winter – everything sparkles, the air is crisp, suitable attire becomes cozy scarves and mittens, there are no bugs, and it is completely acceptable to drink hot chocolate or coffee and Baileys everyday.
The list of winter magic goes on and on, but no matter what there are always a large handful of people who complain about the cold season every single year. As a born-and-raised Saskatchewanian, I am very familiar with cold weather. Throughout my entire elementary and high school career, there was a total of one snow day. Yet, with the wind chill, the temperature has on many occasions sat at minus 50. That’s freezing, even for me, but yet I still harbour a deep love for winter, and every time it comes around my eyes glisten like a child on Christmas Day.
So, my advice to the cold–complainers is this: SUCK IT UP. Winter will come around once in awhile, whether you like it or not, and instead of complaining about it you can either move to Arizona, where the average winter temperature is well above 0 degrees Celsius, or you can embrace it. Despite what you may think, summer isn’t the only season you can have an exciting experience. With winter comes a bunch of new adrenaline-pumping activities for adventurers to take part in.
For those who choose to embrace it, here are 7 adventures to take advantage of this winter.
1. Ice Climbing
This activity lets adventure junkies spend the day hanging on the side of a glacier or frozen waterfall.
Using picks and ropes, ice climbing involves scaling slick and icy surfaces. Ice climbing is accessible to almost anyone, as the tools and equipment are readily available in many sporting stores. There are also courses you can take, for the first-timers and less experienced climbers. For example, there is a course in Southern Ontario that will teach you techniques such as belay, proper use of crampons and ice axes, climbing technique and rope tying. You don’t have to venture all the way to Nepal to climb an icy mountain; the opportunities for ice climbing exist all around.
2. Backcountry skiing
Backcountry skiing refers to the location of the skiing and not the style. The backcountry setting revolves around unmarked or unpatrolled areas either inside or outside the boundaries of a ski resort.
Tetrahedron Provincial Park in BC offers plenty of backcountry skiing opportunities. There are dangers however; since it is generally done out of bounds, there is no ski patrol and no tourists, which means you have to be extra careful when going out by yourself, especially since some regions have high avalanche hazards. Despite being more dangerous, backcountry skiing is also more rewarding. Where other types of skiing involve following nicely groomed trails or freshly plowed land, this type of skiing allows ski-enthusiasts to form their own paths, through an untouched winter wonderland.
Also known as kiteboarding, this sport involves using kite power to glide on snow or ice, similar to the water-based version.
Kiteboarding can be done just about anywhere there is an open space. Equipment includes the same type of footwear used in snowboarding, and an inflatable kite. Kiteboarders have a lot of diversity as they can travel both uphill and downhill, depending on the wind direction. It’s also becoming a popular sport among thrill-seekers – many will get up to very high speeds and even execute jumps and tricks.
4. Winter camping
Most people think of camping as a summer activity, but it’s doesn’t have to be. You can find winter camping opportunities at just about any regular campground or Provincial Park, meaning a winter adventure is right at your fingertips.
When I was in the sixth grade our class went winter camping. “Winter camping?” we all shouted in disgust. The thought of crossing a mostly outdoor activity with the frigid Saskatchewan winter seemed completely absurd. Today, it remains one of my all-time favourite memories. We obviously couldn’t tent, so we stayed in tiny cabins with no bells and whistles – hard bunk beds were the only thing lining the walls. We went on winter hikes, tried snowshoeing, raced each other down the hill on our toboggans, and would finish each night telling stories around the bonfire – which was even more enjoyable thanks to its juxtaposition with the cold winter air. You can find winter camping opportunities at just about any regular campground or Provincial Park, meaning a winter adventure is right at your fingertips.
5. Ice sailing
Ice sailing is very popular among extreme sports enthusiasts because of the speeds you can attain, which can reach the same level as a car on a highway.
Ice sailing dates back to the 17th century when Dutch sailors would use ice sailing to transport goods across frozen lakes, rivers and bays, according to How Stuff Works. Ice boats are a cross between a regular sail boat and a sleigh, with runners attached to the bottom of the boat. Ice sailing is very popular among extreme sports enthusiasts because of the speeds you can attain, which can reach the same level as a car on a highway. There is even a sport, which involves racing ice boats, called ice yachting. One of the most popular classes of ice boat is the International DN, which has a large following. The most popular group in North America is the International DN Ice Yacht Racing Association. You can become a member of the group to learn, advance your skills, and compete in races against other enthusiasts. Or if you prefer something a bit more laid back, then you can spend a beautiful winter afternoon sailing across your nearest lake or river.
6. Cold-water surfing
Not only are surf spots less busy and crowded at this time, it is more challenging, which is ideal for the avid surfers who like to challenge themselves, or those who just wish to push their limits.
Another activity on the list that seems to primarily be associated with summer, but the winter surfing community is actually quite large. Not only are surf spots less busy and crowded at this time, it is more challenging, which is good for the avid surfers who like to challenge themselves, or those who just wish to push their limits and try new things. Xavier Campos, member of the Toronto Surf Club, says he prefers cold-water surfing to the warm conditions he was faced with when living in Mexico. “It just brings a very deep connection with the elements and with nature because you’re not using any equipment,” says Campos to NOW Toronto. “You’re using energy generated by the wind and ocean. It sets you in a very special rhythm that can only be experienced. It can’t be described.”
7. Glacial hiking
Hiking is a year-round activity, and the most exciting part is that the scenery is constantly changing.
Summer is beautiful because everything is green and colourful and warm. But winter scenery is some of the best there is. The sparkly snow and the crystalized ice is enough to take your mind off the cold. North America has plenty of glaciers that the public has access to. This map shows the glaciers of the American West, making it easy to find one nearest you.
Winter doesn’t mean you have to crawl into a hole for three months and wait for spring. It’s a time to dust off your skis and snowboard, break out your skates, and try something you’ve maybe never done before like winter surfing or camping. And if you really, really, really hate winter and these ideas are completely lost on you – then at least you can find comfort in cozy slippers and hot toddies.