15 Quirky Winter Sports to Try This Season
If snowboarding makes you yawn and skiing seems positively humdrum, maybe it’s time to shake up your winter activities. Here are 15 quirky sports to add to your cold weather to-do list this year.
1. Ski Ballet
Popular in the ‘70s, ski ballet (also known as acroski) took the already challenging sport of skiing and asked athletes to add flips, rolls, jumps, and graceful arm movements—all set to music, of course.
2. Horse Skijoring
Skijor is a sport in and of itself; it’s what happens whenever a Nordic skier is pulled by something else, whether that’s a snowmobile or a sled dog. But add in a horse, and you’ve really got something special. Equines have so much horsepower (naturally) that skiers can achieve incredibly high speeds, enabling them to pull off stunts like a 56-foot long jump (the skier, not the horse).
3. Snow Polo
Since you’ve got the horses out for skijoring anyway, why not grab a couple of polo mallets? The first official snow polo match happened in 1985 in Switzerland—and just to up the ante, the game was played on a frozen lake. Today, polar polo is played in frigid countries all over the world.
4. Snow Kayaking
Just because there’s snow on the ground doesn’t mean your kayak has to be relegated to the rafters of your garage. Snow kayaking is almost like extreme sledding—participants wax up their crafts and fly down a steep hill, using the paddle to steer just like they would in a body of water.
5. Shovel Racing
You may have seen kids riding shovels down snowy slopes in old Christmas movies, but the sport is certainly not a thing of the past. For more than 30 years, people have gathered in New Mexico annually for championship shovel riding, a competition where grown men and women grease up metal shovels and ride them down ski slopes at 70 miles per hour.
6. Wok Racing
If shovels are too traditional for you, there’s always wok racing. Even ex-Olympic champions line up for the chance to plop their posteriors into a food-grade metal wok and careen down ice chutes similar to the ones used for the luge.
7. Ice Yachting
You won’t find any swimsuit-clad socialites sunning themselves on the deck here. Very popular in the Netherlands and the Gulf of Finland, ice yachting is a cross between wind surfing and traditional sailing. Sailors use techniques that are similar to those used in sailing, but runners on the bottom of the boat operate like ice skate blades to grip the frozen surface.
8. Speed Flying
At some point, skydivers and paraglider pilots got together and decided that they needed a new adrenaline rush. They combined their sports, threw a pair of skis into the mix, and came up with speed flying. The skier wears a skydiving-like parachute and controls his or her descent down the mountain by moving the skis.
9. Kite Skiing
Slightly less terrifying than speed flying, kite skiing can trace its roots all the way back to World War II when paratroopers had to deliver supplies to peers in the Alps. Skiers hold onto a large kite and use wind power to propel themselves. Most of the time they stay grounded, but speed flyers occasionally try to catch some air.
10. Snow Scooting
Love snowboarding? Enjoy mountain biking? Now you can do both at the same time. A snow scooter is a slim snowboard with handlebars attached to the front, so riders can steer like they are guiding a bike.
If you like the idea of snow scooting but need more than just handlebars, check out skibob. It’s essentially a bicycle frame attached to skis, and it’s a great winter sport for anyone who’s had knee problems.
12. Shark Ice Fishing
Anyone can go ice fishing for walleye or perch, but it takes an extreme sportsman to face frigid waters for a shark. Weighing more than a thousand pounds and measuring up to 21 feet, Somniosus microcephalus (Greenland shark) is sure to pose a new challenge for even the most experienced fisherman.
13. Snow Tubing
Just like tubing on a lake, the only athletic prowess this winter activity requires is a good grip. Not unlike sledding (or bull riding), the main goal is just to hold on—in this case, to an inner tube—as you’re propelled down a hill.
14. Ice Karting
Most of us try to avoid ice when we’re behind the wheel, but that would take all the fun out of ice karting, where the entire track has been frozen to keep drivers on their toes. Some of the karts are modified with spiked tires to provide extra grip.
Another mash-up of sports, bandy has elements of soccer, American football, hockey, and field hockey. Though it’s popular overseas—there are more than a million players in Russia—there’s only one bandy rink in the U.S. It’s in Minnesota, of course.