You might see temperatures dropping and snow falling and assume that extreme sports lovers have hung up their gear for the winter. Some have—but for a lot of others, the season is just getting started!
In fact, many extreme athletes double down and head into a new period of adventure in the winter. To get their adrenaline fix, they pour themselves into wild new winter sports, pushing their bodies to the limit just as much as they do in the other three seasons of the year. If you’re looking for a new thrill for the winter season, these eight sports might be just what you need.
Halfway between motocross and snowmobiling, snocross is the winter Powersports crossover you didn’t know you needed! Riders race highly tuned and specialized snowmobiles through motocross-Esque tracks with the same big-air jumps that thrill motocross riders. It’s guaranteed to get your blood pumping, and the sport has its own championship racing circuit–the AMSOIL Championship Snocross Circuit–for those whose dream is to compete at the highest level.
#2 Winter Swimming
Fancy stripping down to your summer swimming gear and taking a dip in a frigid lake in the middle of January? To many folks, this sounds like a great time, and there are hundreds of winter swimming clubs recognized by the International Winter Swimming Association (IWSA) to prove it. Most swims last only a few seconds to a minute because although a dip in ice-cold water is thought to have some substantial health benefits, it can turn into hypothermia quickly when it goes on too long. Maybe the most important aspect of the winter swimming tradition is its community and camaraderie—swimmers typically swim in large groups, cheer each other on and celebrate afterward with hot beverages.
#3 Ice Climbing
High on the list of “things that used to be an unpleasant ordeal that people now do for fun” is ice climbing, a sport in which intrepid mountaineers work their way across huge ice formations using ice picks, crampons, and rope. Ice climbers usually work in pairs, with one acting as the anchor. You’ll typically find them climbing frozen waterfalls or glacier formations. If you plan on tackling big-time mountaineering challenges, ice climbing is an essential skill to master, and the combination of sub-freezing temperatures, avalanche danger, and extreme physical demands guarantees a body-shredding workout and an intense psychological experience.
#4 Snow Kayaking
One of the newest sports on our list, snow kayaking has just started to take hold in the extreme sports community, but it’s already growing in popularity thanks to how it combines the thrills of kayaking with snowboarding or skiing. Snow kayakers race their boats down slopes similar to ski or snowboard runs, but in—you guessed it—kayaks! Specifically, they typically use flat-bottomed kayaks like creek boats and playboats, waxed to the hilt with Rain-X to reduce friction. Snow kayaking is a great option for expert whitewater kayakers who are looking to put their boat skills to the test in a new sport, but beginners should master basic whitewater techniques before they attempt snow runs.
You want quirky? Skijoring has you covered. Another sport originating in Scandinavia, skijoring is named after a Norwegian word that means “ski driving” and is something like waterskiing on snow. Sounds normal enough—until you learn that it’s often not snowmobiles pulling skiers, but dogs or horses! If you’re an animal lover, this sport may be for you, as skijorers say that their connections with their animals become stronger and deeper thanks to their working together as a team while they’re racing or on the trail together.
If you’re looking for the winter sport to give you the ultimate in speed, athleticism, and opportunity for awesome tricks, snowkiting is hard to beat. In snowkiting, a skier or snowboarder uses a huge windsail kite (similar to a kiteboarding kite) to pull them along as they explore frozen landscapes, pull off tricks, and/or race their competitors. Snowkiting has the unique advantage of being a fast way to get skis or a snowboard uphill, although it’s unwise to rely on the wind in mountainous conditions that can easily block winds when you need them the most.
If you’ve got some cash to burn and a desire for a vacation unlike any other, heli-skiing could be the ultimate adventure that you’ve been dreaming of. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: A helicopter takes you and your friends to a remote location (usually the top of a mountain) and drops you off for some of the world’s most incredible skiing. Heli-skiing allows expert skiers to attack routes that they could never access through traditional means like a chairlift, which is why many of the world’s best extreme skiers count on heli-skiing to give them new challenges.
#8 Ice Yachting
The word “yachting” might make you think of sipping a glass of champagne off Martha’s Vineyard, but ice yachting couldn’t be more different. Ice yachting is a sport for wintertime speed demons that happens on frozen-solid lakes. You’ll strap yourself onto a sleek and extremely simple boat outfitted with just ice skates, a control line, and a tiller and then race other ice yachters across the lake at terrifying speeds. It’s a high-stakes sport—hit one obstacle on the ice at top speed, and your boat could very well be destroyed (to say nothing of your body). But the thrill of rocketing forward across a frozen lake is something that’s hard to come by anywhere else.
As always, extreme athletes need to make all of the right safety moves, no matter what sport they’re doing. Wear all of the protective gear that experts recommend for your sport, group up with friends, use devices like Powersports helmet communication systems and Bluetooth helmet communicators to stay in touch, and be realistic with yourself about what you can handle. As long as you’re willing to take risks (while using all of the right safety gear) and you’re up for some serious adventure, there’s no way the winter can stop you!