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Winter Sports–For the Not Sporty

"Ski" by Anders Ljungberg/CC BY

I love traveling in the Northern Hemisphere in the winter: discovering cities covered in snow, enjoying a hot beverage at a train or bus station, wrapping up in a scarf and mittens and taking a brisk walk through a beautiful place. For many of my fair-weather traveling pals, though, winter means just one kind of trip: A ski trip.

But me and skis? We don’t get along so well. I’ll be tuning in to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, but I won’t be trying any of the snow sports myself. In college, I tried out snowboarding after someone told me that it would be easier—since you only need to worry about one piece of equipment on your feet, and not two. The last time I went (*ahem*  tried  to go) snowboarding, however, in Liberec, a city in the Czech Republic that is a popular domestic ski destination, I couldn’t even get all the way up the bunny hill on the pull lift. This was a source of amusement for everyone on the hill, especially the four- and five-year olds who already seemed to be executing Olympic-quality turns and jumps.

So, in this post I’d like to explore a few other great sports you can enjoy on your winter travels, other than skiing.

Let’s begin:

Sledding

In their  article on the world’s best snow-tubing hills, the Huffington Post singles out Sapporo, Japan as one of the most fun places to slide down a bunch of snow on your bottom. The artificial slopes at the Tsu-Dome look great!  There’s no reason a lack of snow will keep you from this sport in the UAE, either. The Ski Dubai amusement park (yep, surrounded by desert!) allows for sledding as well as skiing and snowboarding.

Snowshoeing

A bit trickier than sledding, but not as daunting as speeding downhill on waxed boards (to me at least), snowshoeing allows you to take a hike over the pristine drifts of snow. If I were to pick a holiday based on snowshoeing (and had the budget for it) I’d probably go for something like this Heli-snowshoeing trip out of Queenstown, New Zealand. How much fun is this?

Dog-Sledding

Not ready to break a sweat under your winter parka? Let a pack of man’s best friends whisk you through the winter scenery, on a dog sledding team. Though nowadays dog sledding is probably most closely associated with Alaska and the far Canadian north (especially during the Gold Rush period), dogs have been used to assist in transporting goods and people for thousands of years. If you want to take a vacation to learn how to dog sled, you can do so in a host of locations, including Germany, Vermont and Wyoming. If you’re more of a sports spectator than a DIYer, don’t miss the ceremonial start to the Alaskan Iditarod, which begins in Anchorage, Alaska.

Ice Skating

Snowshoeing and dog sledding both take up a lot of time and energy. If you’d rather get your winter sports kicks over an hour or thirty minutes, strap on some ice skates and take a spin. Ice rinks are available in many cities around the world, though the ones in New York City might take the cake for being the most photogenic. Also, if you’re dreaming of snow but stuck in the sun, you can often find indoor ice skating rinks, even in hot cities like Singapore and Guangzhou, China.

Winter Swimming

Ready to challenge yourself but hate having to use extra gear for your sporting adventures? Taking a ‘Polar Bear Plunge” requires nothing but fortitude. In many northern cities, gearing up to take an icy swim is a rite of passage. Often held on January 1st or another significant day, Polar Bear plunges can be found in many many cities in the US, Canada, Europe and elsewhere. Vancouver, Canada has one of the most famous ones.

What are your favorite winter sports? Let me know in the comments!

(Top photo by Flickr user Anders Ljungberg/CC BY)

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Beth Green

Beth Green is an American freelance writer who has lived in Europe and Asia since 2003. She grew up on a sailboat and, though now a landlubber, still enjoys a peripatetic life. She writes blogs, articles and suspense about travel, expatriate living, and many other topics. A social media addict, she’d love to hear from you about your favorite travel experiences.
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