Winter is the best time to enjoy the outdoors with a fresh perspective. Rather than shutting yourself indoors to binge the latest Netflix series, grab your favorite people and head outside for an exhilarating winter adventure.
Enjoy your favorite landscapes as they morph into a veritable winter wonderland. Or explore new places on your bucket list. Let the crisp wintry air fill your lungs with new beginnings as you soak up the scenery and fall in love with nature all over again.
The world is your snow globe, waiting for you to give it a shake. Start your new year with a bang by making the most of the winter months. These are the best winter activities for everyone in your family.
Whether you want a relaxing getaway or a thrilling adventure, these outdoor winter activities will leave you feeling refreshed and ready for the new year. No matter your age or skill level, these are the best winter activities to relish the beauty that only winter can bring. Try one or try them all, and let us know which one is your favorite.
1. Snow Camping
Snow camping comes with a host of unique benefits. It’s the perfect opportunity to advance your camping and survival skills and a great way to see familiar landscapes in a new way. Camping in the winter provides the perfect conditions for a quiet retreat. We recommend starting at a developed campground if you’re new to snow camping.
Many national and state parks provide year-round campsites where you can master the art of camping in the winter. If you’re a snow camping connoisseur, head to the backcountry and pitch your tent on your favorite snowbank.
Camping in the snow requires special gear and knowledge to ensure comfort and safety during the winter months. At a minimum, you’ll want to invest in a reinforced four-season tent—like the Alpha Wall Tent—to keep the elements at bay. You’ll also want a cold-weather sleeping bag rated for sub-freezing temperatures.
2. Skiing or Snowboarding
Skiing is one of the most popular winter activities for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. There are roughly 500 ski areas in the United States, offering a variety of conditions and scenery. If you’re an experienced skier or snowboarder, you can also shred backcountry pow in an avalanche-safe area. Skiing (or snowboarding) is an excellent way to enjoy breathtaking scenery, test the limits of your body, and get a great workout.
There are a few different types of skiing, each one offering a unique experience. Downhill skiing and snowboarding are great choices if you’re an adventurous thrill-seeker. Cross-country skiing is a practical, low-impact way for skiers of all levels to traverse your favorite landscapes.
Either way, you’re sure to find a slope or trail that’s perfect for your skill level. Most ski areas offer gear rentals, lessons, and relaxing après-ski activities. Cross-country skiers can find rentals at ski shops and touring companies.
If you like hiking, you’ll love snowshoeing. It’s an affordable way to get exercise and enjoy your favorite trails during the winter months. Snowshoeing is easy to learn, making it an accessible winter sport for people of all ages and abilities. You can buy an inexpensive pair of snowshoes at your local gear shop or rent them for the day.
One of the most significant benefits of hiking with snowshoes is the ability to navigate a variety of terrain. Since you’re floating on top of the snow, you’re not limited to trails or pathways.
For an exceptional snowshoeing experience, you’ll need a pair of snowshoes and a set of ski (or hiking) poles. It’s best to use poles that have snow baskets on the bottom, as they help you maneuver and prevent falls. It’s just like walking, with a little more space between your feet.
You can learn some basic snowshoeing techniques for traversing hills and other topography. Since you’ll be walking in cold temperatures, make sure you pack extra layers and gaiters to keep the snow out of your pants.
4. Ice Fishing
If you’re looking for a novel winter activity, try your hand at ice fishing. You can catch all kinds of fish species in the winter, including trout and bass. It’s a great way to catch up with old friends and a novel experience for kids. Head out to your favorite pond or lake, find a frozen spot at least four inches deep, and enjoy the time outdoors.
Since you’ll be sitting idly in the cold, it’s a good idea to bring extra layers and a hot beverage to help keep you warm. You can also build a cozy ice shanty with any of our cotton canvas wall tents.
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5. Sledding or Tubing
Sledding is a fun, family-friendly activity that’s a favorite with kids. It’s easy, inexpensive, and exciting. All you need is a snowbank, warm clothes, and a sled or snow tube. You can sled the snowy hill in your backyard or glide down a mountain slope.
Sledding is a classic winter activity that offers incredible benefits with minimal investment. If you don’t own a sled, you can make one with household items or rent one at your local gear shop or sledding area.
If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can sign up for a dog sledding tour. Sit back and enjoy the winterscape while a team of adorable sled dogs guide you along. Most dog sledding tours last a few hours and leave you with lasting memories. Who knows, maybe you’ll fall in love with the sport and win the next Iditarod. You can also opt for a horse-drawn sleigh ride for an iconic winter experience.
6. Ice Skating
The image of an ice skater gliding gracefully over a lake is an iconic image of midwinter beauty. Whether you’re graceful or not, ice skating is an exhilarating winter sport that’s convenient and inexpensive. All you need is a pair of ice skates and a frozen surface. You can skate over a frozen pond or lake that’s at least four inches thick or join an outdoor ice skating rink. Many holiday markets include ice skating rinks, where you can practice your skills and take them indoors during the warmer months. They’re also great destinations for romantic dates and meetups.
You can find a cheap pair of ice skates in thrift stores and gear exchanges. Or, if you’re new to ice skating, you can rent a pair at your local gear shop or skating rink. Most skating rinks offer lessons for skaters of all skill levels, as well as inspiring music and hot drinks.
Skating on a natural, ungroomed surface, like a frozen lake, offers new challenges and adventures for experienced skaters
Snowmobiles are motorized off-highway vehicles designed to traverse snow conditions. They’re popular with professional guides, hunters, rural residents, and ATV enthusiasts. Snowmobiling is a great way to soak up vast areas of the winter landscape in one day. Many snowmobiles reach speeds up to 120 miles per hour, allowing you to travel long distances in a short period.
Whether you’re enjoying a casual tour or transporting your camping gear, snowmobiling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a variety of scenic adventures.
Snowmobiles can be pricey—averaging about $10,000—but they last a few decades and hold their value. They’re often a worthwhile investment for winter recreation. You can try it out first by renting one for the day or joining a snowmobiling or snowcat tour.
8. Ice Climbing
For a truly unforgettable experience, you can take a stab at ice climbing. It’s an exceptional winter sport for climbers who want to hone their skills and explore a new style of climbing. Ice climbing is a great way to build strength, balance, and mental serenity. You can try ice climbing even if you’re not a rock climber (though you will want to take lessons). Instead of using your bare hands, ice climbers use an ice ax and crampons to scale a frozen wall or waterfall. Ice climbing is excellent exercise and puts you at a unique advantage to enjoy sweeping vistas of snow-covered landscapes.
Ice climbing takes skill, making it a favorite winter activity for experienced climbers, mountaineers, and sports enthusiasts who love a challenge. You’ll need special climbing gear and training to ice climb safely, but the experience is rewarding and intoxicating. Respected organizations like the American Alpine Institute offer guided tours, custom excursions, and private climbing lessons which include gear rentals and professional instructors.
9. Build an Igloo
For thousands of years, indigenous populations built igloos to stay comfortable in extreme temperatures. But you don’t need to live in the arctic to reap the benefits. You can build an igloo or snow fort in your backyard. Making an igloo is a fun way to pass the afternoon. As a bonus, you can leverage the activity to teach kids about other cultures.
To create a solid foundation, you’ll need to build bricks out of the snow and stack them in the shape of a dome. Add a door that’s large enough to squeeze through, and you’ve got a functioning igloo. Building an igloo can be challenging; don’t be afraid to start with a snow cave or fort and work your way up.
A well-built igloo can last anywhere from one day to a few weeks, so feel free to make it extra cozy. Toss in a sleeping bag, foodstuffs, and some fun games.
10. Snowball Fighting
You can’t go wrong with a good old-fashioned snowball fight. They don’t require much snow, making them an excellent choice for light snow days. No matter how much snow is on the ground, it’s a great time to gather your friends or foes and duke it out over a cordial game. There’s nothing better than packing the perfect snowball and propelling it as far as you can. You can create elaborate battlefields and add fun rules to make the game even more challenging.
Making the perfect snowball is easy. Slip on your gloves and scoop out a handful of snow a few layers below the surface. Then cup your hands together and pack the snow into a spherical shape using a rotating motion and increasing pressure. Once your snowball is packed and ready to go, you can launch it immediately or set it aside and build up your ammo.
Don’t isolate yourself indoors this winter. Get outside and reap the rewards of winter sports and recreation. There’s no better way to ring in the new year. These fun outdoor winter activities are a great way to stay active, rejuvenate the soul, and bond with your friends and family. No matter which activity (or activities) you choose, make sure you dress for the cold, bring plenty of food and water, and check conditions before heading out.