The options are always the same: skiing, sledding, ice skating. Why not try something a little more unconventional this winter? From weaving through trails with a team of dogs to flying through snow-covered canopies on a zip line, these eight ideas will mix up your season, whether you’re looking for family fun or adrenaline-pumping thrills.
Think water skiing with snow, cross-country skis, and a team of one to three dogs, attached by harnesses and a rope. Derived from the Norwegian term for “ski driving,’’ skijoring has popped up in a handful of resorts throughout New England. Peace Pups Dog Sledding in Lake Elmore, Vt., offers two-hour lessons and skijor treks, with equipment and ski rentals available. Participants have the option of bringing their own dog or using one of the company’s dogs. Call well in advance to schedule a tour.
Fun fact: skijoring, done both recreationally and competitively, can also use horses or motor vehicles.
239 Cross Road, Lake Elmore, Vt.
A complete list of skijoring locationsNew England states where it’s done: All but Connecticut and Rhode Island
This one’s pretty self explanatory: sailing across frozen bodies of water. Also known as ice boating and yachting, ice sailing requires a specially designed sailboat mounted on three stainless-steel runner blades. Ice sailing can be done on virtually any solid frozen lake or pond, and sailors can either build or buy their own boats. While there are no official venues, the New England Ice Yacht Association—based out of Southborough—serves nearly 200 members throughout New England, connecting them with safe locations and annual competitions for practice. The NEIYA Commodore, Jim “T’’ Theiler (pictured in his boat, DN 5224), told us that Sebago Lake in Maine, Lake Champlain in Vermont, and Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire are among his top choices. Call or visit their website to learn how to join.
Fun fact: Theiler says the ice boats can reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour, depending on the wind and the ice.
Watch a video of ice sailing on Lake Winnipesaukee.
New England states where it’s done: All six!
Thanks to the Winter Olympics, most people have probably heard of curling: that quirky event where players slide rounded “stones’’ across a sheet of ice. What many people don’t know is that there are curling clubs throughout the country, many dedicated to teaching the sport. The Cape Cod Curling Club in Falmouth offers lessons for adults and children, including training, introductory leagues, as well as regular leagues for the more experienced players. Call or visit their website to sign up for a lesson.
Fun fact: Approximately 1.5 million people in more than 33 countries curl, according to Cape Cod Curling Club’s website.
33 Highfield Drive, Falmouth
Find a curling clubNew England states where it’s done: All six!
It may sound crazy, but winter is a great time to ride a mountain bike. If you can adjust to the trails, biking on the ice and snow can allow more time for exploration in typically undiscovered areas during the offseason. Most riders stick to frozen lakes and snowmobile trails since cross-country skiing trails are usually off-limits, according to Eastside Bike Guides instructor Chris Krug. For those who want to learn snow biking, also called ice biking, EBG, located in in North Conway, N.H., offers professional guided rides throughout the season and can tailor lessons to any level. Call or check out their website to book a lesson.
Fun fact: “Fat bikes,’’ Krug said, are specialty bikes designed for riding in softer conditions, like snow, and are frequently used in snow biking. The tires and rims are nearly double the width: 4 inches as opposed to 2.3 inches.
PO Box 1501, North Conway, N.H.
A complete list of biking trailsNew England states where it’s done: All six!
Put away the sleds. Airboarding is a high-tech twist on mainstream downhill sledding. The Airboard is a small water raft-like structure: It’s inflatable, lightweight, and triangle-shaped allowing higher speeds than your standard snow tube. The grooves on the bottom provide traction, allowing the rider to make sharp turns and stop quickly with the shift of their body weight. Only a handful of resorts offer airboarding, including Smuggler’s Notch Resort in Vermont, which provides equipment, mandatory first-time lessons, and use of the chairlift to its one designated airboarding trail (pictured). Call ahead for reservations and trail conditions.
Fun fact: Airboard speeds far surpass the standard sled, reaching more than 80 miles per hour for experienced riders. The newcomer average tends to be in the 30–40 miles per hour range.
4323 Vermont Route 108 South, Smugglers’ Notch, Vt.
800-419-4615 or 802-332-6841
www.smuggs.comNew England states where it’s done: Vermont
Ever wanted to learn how to fly? Snow kiting comes pretty close. A variation of skiing, the rider uses wind power to propel themselves into the air and across snow and ice. The kite—a foil, parachute-like structure—acts as a sail. It features a harness and handles that allow the rider to steer and control it. Snow kiting can be done in any open space with enough snow and wind (such as New Hampshire’s Lake Chocorua, pictured). In New England, lakes are the best spots to try this sport. For snow-kiting newbies, Hardwater Kiting, based in North Conway, N.H., has more than 40 sites—called launch areas—and they offer certified snow-kite instruction, coaching, gear, and guiding services throughout northern New England. Some of the best places to try out are Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, Moosehead Lake in Maine, and Lake Champlain in Vermont, according to instructor Chris Krug. Call for more information on gear rentals and to set up lessons.
Fun fact: Experienced snowkiters can ride 100 miles or more in a single day, said Krug, and exceed over 70 miles per hour.
PO Box 1501, North Conway, N.H.
Watch a snow kiting video (HardWater Kiting)
New England states where it’s done: All six!
A popular activity throughout Canada, this quirky sport is loosely based on actual golf, played on snow or ice instead of grass. The courses feature nine holes and the balls and tees can come in bright colors to avoid blending with the “whites,’’ the snow golf term for “greens.’’ While there has yet to be a venue in New England that offers it regularly, the Loon Mountain Resort in Lincoln, N.H. (pictured on the Ox Trail), hosts an annual snow golf event, with proceeds benefiting New Hampshire’s 200 Court Appointed Special Advocates. This year’s event will be on Feb. 6 and all equipment will be provided. Go online to register.
Fun fact: Snow golf, also known as ice golf, is popular in Canada and throughout Europe. The annual World Ice Golf Championship has been held in Greenland since 1997.
60 Loon Mountain Road, Lincoln, N.H.
603-745-8111 or 800-229-5666
New England states where it’s done: Maine and New Hampshire
Nothing beats an aerial view of winter scenery. Get a group together and check out local ziplining canopy tours. Participants fly from tree platform to tree platform and test their strength with obstacle courses, all while taking in the snow-covered forests and mountains. Alpine Adventures in Lincoln, N.H., offers three tours fit for beginners to advanced thrill-seekers. Smuggler’s Notch in northern Vermont partners with ArborTrek’s Zip Line Canopy Tour to provide participants with a fully guided group experience, equipment provided, complete with tips, tricks, and local history. The courses are designed to progress, catering to both beginners and enthusiasts, starting with lower descents and ending with the highest and wildest. Call or go online in advance to book a tour.
41 Main St., Route 112, Kancamagus Highway, Lincoln, N.H.
1239 Edwards Road, Jeffersonville, Vt.
A complete list of ziplining tours
Watch the ziplining video (ArborTrek Canopy Adventures, LLC)
New England states where it’s done: All but Connecticut and Rhode Island