Downhill skiing isn’t the only way to get a thrill during the winter months. Hotels and tour operators are luring guests of all adventure-thresholds into the snowy wilderness with activities ranging from ice climbing to skijoring. Here’s a mix of fresh, fun outdoor wintertime pursuits.
At Dunton Hot Springs, an 1880s mining camp turned luxury resort nestled in the San Juan Mountains, guests can play Spider Man and scale a frozen waterfall on an ice-climbing expedition. A professional guide offers instruction as guests don crampons, a helmet and a harness, and use an ice axe to climb up the frozen ribbons of water.
Skiers who crave more speed should try skijoring, a sport in which a skier is pulled by a galloping horse. The wacky winter activity has long been popular in Finland, Norway, Russia and Sweden, but more recently it’s caught on in the U.S. – particularly in Montana, where the sport’s world championships have been held for several years. The Resort at Paws Up, a 37,000-acre playground in Greenough, Montana, has two dedicated skijoring trails: a beginner’s course for guests and a competitive course, where serious winter cowboys navigate gates, jumps and rings at high speeds.
One of the most magical ways to explore the valleys of Italy’s Dolomite Mountains is on foot – and not just during the summer months. Swap your hiking boots for snowshoes and trek from rifugio to rifugio on a seven-day trip with outfitter Dolomite Mountains. Guests overnight in charming mountain huts, where they’ll experience the region’s distinctive food and wine. During the day, routes wander past spectacular vistas, as well as relics from the First World War.
Cyclists of all levels, from hardcore mountain bikers to novice road riders, can take in the winter wilderness on two very fat wheels. The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philibsburg, Montana, has a fleet of fat bikes with 4.5-inch-wide tires that float over snowy terrain. Newbies can take an easy riverside pedal along Rock Creek, while experienced riders can tackle six miles of groomed trails.
Channel your inner Formula One driver behind the wheel of an ice kart in Cervinia. Luxury alpine experts, Allure Alps, can arrange a high-speed driving experience around a naturally iced track with views of the Matterhorn. Karts are powered 270 cc 4-stroke, the tires are snow-ice studded and electronic equipment clocks lap times to provoke friendly competition.
The Little Nell’s Snowcat Academy in Aspen, Colorado, puts guests behind the wheel of a state-of-the-art Prinoth Bison. The souped-up snowcat has been likened to a cross between an F-15 fighter jet and a Lamborghini. The three-hour class starts with one-on-one instruction on handling, before you take the helm and lay lines of corduroy across Buttermilk Mountain.
Nestled on 15 acres along Mile 198 of Alaska’s Iditarod Trail, Winterlake Lodge is the perfect rustic-luxe base to try your hand at dog sledding. Owners Carl and Kirsten Dixon offer a four-day dog mushing school where you’ll get to know their 20 Alaskan huskies and learn to drive your own team through the Alaskan tundra.
If you think the view of Georgia’s Caucasus Mountains is spectacular from the deck of Rooms Hotel Kazbegi, wait until you take it in from above. The chic alpine retreat in northern Georgia has its own fleet of helicopters to give guests a bird’s eye view of the valley’s glaciers and rugged mountains. For the ultimate adrenaline buzz, have Alex (the hotel’s in-house adventure specialist) arrange a tandem paragliding experience, where you’ll soar through clouds and around snow-capped peaks.
Set in Italy’s South Tyrol region, White Deer San Lorenzo Mountain Lodge has access to incredible pristine wilderness. Owners Giorgia and Stefano Barbini are known for their exceptional hospitality, as well as their fantastic meals and deep wine cellar. To work up an appetite, sign up for an introduction-to-biathlon course. The sport combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting, making it the ultimate winter workout.
Jen Murphy is a Colorado-based writer whose work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Outside, Men’s Journal and Departures.