Depending on where in the world you live, winter can be a very long season. But winter doesn’t have to be a season to dread. Instead of bundling up inside, trying to quell your shivering by a fire, try heading outside and participating in some fantastic outdoor winter activities!
February is widely known as the most lonely month, the month in which most people are melancholy or experience some sort of seasonal gloom. With the exception of South Florida and Southern California, most of the country gets to experience the winter season in some shape or form. Even the desert gets those frosty nights. The freezing temperatures, crummy weather, and icy windchills keep a majority of people indoors, festering boredom and causing increased anxiety.
If you’re one of these people experiencing seasonal depression or lethargy, let me introduce you to nine fun winter outdoor activities that will pull you from your couch to the great outdoors this winter!
9 Fun Outdoor Winter Activities
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own. Thanks so much for your support!
Snowshoeing is a method of exercise that allows hikers to tread on deep snow. This activity is pretty straightforward to learn, is a great way to stay in shape even after the snow falls, and is significantly cheaper than skiing or snowboarding.
Some ski resorts, winter parks, or outdoor outfitters even have snowshoe rentals so you can try out the sport for a low rate instead of purchasing the gear from the jump. The boards that slip under your boots evenly distribute your weight, which is why you’re able to walk on the snow instead of sinking into it.
While it’s easier to walk on groomed trails found at ski resorts and winter parks, you can actually take your snowshoes on any trail, in any park, extending your hiking season and making your winter hiking options limitless!
PRO TIP: It’s handy to keep a pair of snowshoes in your emergency vehicle kit in the winter. In the event that you get stranded on snow-covered roads, you’ll be able to tread through the snow and get help.
2. Snow Tubing
Snow tubing is essentially sliding down a steep slope, hill, or mountain in an inner tube. Think water slide but instead of running water and a plastic slide, you’re coasting down a snow-covered mountain or hill in pre-determined lanes.
But you actually don’t need to visit a ski resort or winter park to participate in this activity; just find a hill in your local area or even in your backyard! You won’t have separated lanes as the resorts have so you might be playing bumper tubes on the hills, but that might make it even more thrilling!
This sport can be enjoyed by all ages and thanks to all of the snowmaking technology we have nowadays, can be done in any part of the country and in any season. While some say it’s not as fun to snow tube when the air temperature is above freezing and fake snow is shooting from machines, I think it’s even more enjoyable. So wherever you live in the country, I’m sure you’ll find a snow tubing spot near you! Real snow, optional.
Best Places to Snowtube in the USA
- Ober Gatlinburg – Tennessee
- Hawksnest – North Carolina
- Camelback Mountain Resort – Pennsylvania
- Wintergreen Resort – Virginia
3. Ice Skating
Ice skating is the sport of gliding across an icy surface on skates affixed with a narrow blade. This is a fun, affordable winter activity with a copious amount of options and thrill levels.
You can choose to coast across temperature-controlled indoor rinks year-round where you can enjoy the sport with the comfort of the ground below you (instead of water) and without the risk of red-tipped extremities. You can skate around exposed outdoor rinks that are maintained but involve a more natural winter experience. Or you can glissade on “wild ice,” any frozen unmaintained lake, or river with beautiful natural backdrops like mountain peaks and trees, and the thrill of knowing you’re skating over water.
Ski vacations are popular in the USA for a reason! This winter sport allows you to glissade down snow-covered mountains and experience the thrill of gravity pulling you down hills and through the snow. Whether you’re competing for a prestigious medal or recreationally skiing, this sport is a fun way to enjoy the snow and winter months!
Places like Breckinridge, Jackson Hole, and Aspen house ski resorts with all-inclusive packages. So whether you’re a beginner looking to learn the ropes or a seasoned Black Diamond vet, hit the slopes this season!
If the downhill part of skiing intimidates you, try cross-country skiing! If you’re at a ski resort or winter park, you’ll use the same groomed trails that the snowshoers use, so the terrain will be mostly even – maybe a little hilly but with no drops.
Cross-country skiing is essentially gliding your feet across the snow using your own motion with the help of poles and narrow skis to propel you forward. You’ll need exemplary balance and some practice, but this activity is fairly beginner-friendly, less intimidating than downhill skiing, and significantly cheaper.
While backcountry skiing is feasible, it’s best to stick with groomed trails that are often found in winter parks or ski resorts if you’re a beginner because you’ll be able to move through the snow painlessly. Once you get those cross-country ski legs, venture onto any trail in any park and see what it’s like to maneuver over rough, uneven, and unmaintained trails.
Best Places to Ski in the USA
- Lapland Lake – New York
- Rikert Nordic – Vermont
- Fort Kent Outdoor – Maine
- Northfield Mountain Rec – Massachusetts
Snowboarding is a sport that involves descending on a snow-covered slope while standing on a board strapped to a rider’s feet. Snowboarding differentiates itself from skiing by its lack of poles and its riders’ side stance, but just like skiing, the sport can be pricey and difficult to learn but extremely rewarding once mastered.
With different types of snowboarding ranging from freeriding on alpine peaks to half-piping in urban areas, it’s a pleasurable way to enjoy the outdoors in the winter, no matter what region you live in.
Interested in learning how to snowboard? REI wrote a great article highlighting snowboarding basics!
Best Places to Snowboard in the USA
- Park City Mountain Resort – Utah
- Mount Hood Meadows – Oregon
- Telluride Ski Resort – Colorado
- Jackson Hole Mountain Resort- Wyoming
6. Exploring Ice Caves
Ice caves are a wild phenomenon often found in arctic, high-elevation, glacial, or northern regions. There are many different types of ice caves and different geological interpretations of what formations are actually considered “ice caves.” According to the NPS, some are formed in ice and some are formed in rock. Ice caves that are formed in ice are called glacier ice caves, and ice caves formed in rock that contains year-round ice are called ice caves. Both are beautiful!
Ice caves vary in size, shape, and formation. Some are grandiose, roomy, and can be walked around in while others are smaller in size and have to be explored on hands and knees. Some contain dagger-like stalagmites that drip from the ceiling. Some are encased in sharp, massive sheets of icicles. Others boast that swirly blue ice and cool glow that results from glacial ice.
While more grandiose ice caves might be in formation most of the year, some caves in milder regions form just for the winter season. The most spectacular ice caves are often a result of glaciers. Glacier melt can cause small caves to form between the ice and the sediment beneath it, creating frigid conditions and icy water dripping from their roofs. Explorers in ice caves are often seen wearing helmets because of rock and debris that the glacier has picked up can melt and fall from the ceiling.
Whether you choose to explore a small or large ice cave this winter, here are some fun ice caves that are worth seeing inside and outside of the USA!
Best Ice Caves in the USA
- Crystal Ice Cave – California
- Mendenhall Ice Caves – Alaska
- Big Four Ice Caves – Washington
- Apostle Island Ice Caves – Wisconsin
Best Ice Caves Outside the USA
- Fox Glacier – New Zealand
- Mer De Glace – France
- Eisriesenwelt – Austria
- Kangerlussuaq – Greenland
A snowmobile is essentially a motorized sled and allows passengers to commute or recreate on snowy roads. Winter travel that might otherwise be treacherous in a standard vehicle suddenly becomes a breeze in a snowmobile as it glides over the snow and ice effortlessly.
Roads aren’t required to enjoy this activity, but most people use trails, streets, or open terrain of some sort. Many states groom trails specifically for snowmobile travel and tend to offer rentals or guided tours for this recreational activity, so check your state’s guidelines on how to snowmobile legally and safely!
Best Places to Snowmobile in the USA
- West Yellowstone – Montana
- Heber City – Utah
- Upper Peninsula – Michigan
- Priest Lake – Idaho
8. Ice Climbing
Ice climbing is the activity of ascending ice formations such as frozen waterfalls, icefalls, cliffs, and frozen rock slabs with the use of tools like ice axes, ice picks, ice screws, ropes, and crampons. With the introduction of mountaineering, explorers had to discover a way to navigate the icy conditions since the tops of mountains are almost always covered in snow and ice.
This sport is particularly exciting due to the inconsistent, ever-changing elements: snow and ice. Ice can shrink, grow, melt, vanish, or change in some way at any time, even on the same day. You can climb moderate-angled glaciers or attempt a vertical ascent on a waterfall. You can climb on hard ice, soft ice, or plastic ice. Every minute is different, and that’s part of the thrill of ice climbing. The other thrill is that you’re ascending formations in places and at times that wouldn’t normally get explored and seeing things that others wouldn’t normally get to see. Your vantage point at the top of a frozen waterfall or the peak of a mountain can take your breath away. And not just because of the altitude.
Interested in getting started on Ice Climbing? REI goes over the basics in this helpful article!
9. Fat Biking
Did you know you can bike in the winter? Sure, if there is no snow on the ground, you can take your regular bike for a spin on the road or on a trail. But as soon as the snow falls and dusts the pavement in a fluffy white coating, your tires will struggle to maneuver and eventually sink if it becomes too deep. So I introduce to you the fat bike!
Fat bikes are equipped with 4-5 inch tires, run on low tire pressure, and float on surfaces like snow and sand, whereas other “regular” bikes with “regular” road tires would sink. Think snowshoes but for bikes. Regular boots slip through deep snow while snowshoes float above the powder. The same goes for fat bikes. You can ride them in terrain where typical mountain bikes or road tires would plummet below the surface.
Exercise enthusiasts love these bikes because you burn more calories than you would on a regular bike. According to bicycling.com, you can burn up to 1500 calories per hour in soft conditions. Another advantage of these bikes is that you can use them year-round! Many prefer them over regular or mountain bikes because the stability and suspension on fat bikes are superior, and many accept multiple wheel sizes so you can switch the fat tires for skinny rubber during the warm months.
I hope you’ve found a least an outdoor winter activity or two that piques your interest on this list! Even if you simply build a snowman in your yard, play a round of ice hockey in your neighborhood streets, or sled down a hill in your backyard, enjoy your time outside this winter. And if you don’t live somewhere snowy, try venturing to the mountains or up north for a fun winter adventure!