If you are up for trying something new this winter, here are five new things you could give a whirl!
- Ice climbing: Gaining in relative popularity in the recent years, ice climbing can seem a bit daunting to a beginner. Between the cost of the gear (a set of tools, which are more technical ice axes, alone can cost several hundred dollars!), the perceived uneasiness of ascending frozen water, and a lack of specialized knowledge, it's easy to see why a great deal of people think that ice climbing is something they will never do. I thought the same thing until I signed up for my first clinic at the annual local ice festival. I was able to use demo gear from a variety of brands and there were several climbing instructors on hand to show me the ropes (pun totally intended). An ice festival is an easy way to try out the sport without having to but the expensive gear AND you often have world-class ice climbers helping you learn techniques!
- Snowshoe backpacking: Are you a fan of backpacking in the spring, summer, or fall? Then why not throw on a pair of snowshoes and add winter to your repertoire? If you want to give snowshoe backpacking/winter camping and don't have the first clue about what snowshoes to buy, Sierra Trading Post as a very helpful snowshoe guide for you. Once you have your snowshoes, take them out on a few day trips to get accustomed to the feel of them. You will need to ensure that you have a sleeping bag that will keep you warm at the lowest temperatures you will experience during your trip. If you need a new bag, there is a guide for that too! For your first trial run, it would be wise to select an easy route/trail and only go a few miles away from the trailhead or your vehicle, should you decide you weren't well enough prepared after all! To help you prepare, check out some sweet winter camping hacks from Heather Balogh.
- Ice fishing: My first memory of ice fishing was sitting in my dad's homemade ice shack on the little lake in the town where I grew up. I am not sure how old I was, but I was miserable! The only thing that I remembered being fun about that day was trying to lure fish in by putting cheese puffs into the open water of the hole I was supposed to have my little rod in. This memory stayed with me a good 25+ years until I finally tried it again earlier this winter. The hardest part about ice fishing is cutting the hole in the ice. While you can buy hand augers for about $75 you might tire out fast, so you can also look for good used gas operated ice augers online. You can easily get a rod for $25 and tip-ups, which simply require you to put the line to the desired depth after baiting and follow the directions to set the spring-loaded system, can be as cheap as $10! I now understand that ice fishing can be a great way to spend time outside (in appropriate layers & attire to keep warm) and enjoy the day without too much expense. Oh don't forget to by a fishing license before you hit the river or lake!
- Snowmobile trips: Having grown up on a farm in WI, we did own a few older snowmobiles, which were the bane of my father's existence from time to time. When they were actually working, it was quite the adrenaline rush to cruise up and down our farm's hills. Over the past few years I have been lucky enough to find myself on a snowmobile a few times for work and also for play. If you are visiting a snowy location, you have several options such as renting a snowmobile for the day or taking a guided tour. For example, you can spend a day on a guided snowmobile tour seeing Yellowstone National Park in a new way for $200-$400 depending upon entrance and group size.
- Skijoring: Imagine being on skis as you traverse a snowy course; no big deal right? Well what if you are doing that while being pulled by a horse or dog??? Welcome to the Nordic sport known as skijoring! This sport puts a twist on skiing that may be fun to try or at least watch. There are plenty of viewing options for this sport such as the national finals in Red Lodge, MT.
There are many more options available to increase your enjoyment of the outdoors during winter, so why not give something new a try this year?!