News flash: humans don’t hibernate. While we may have the tendency to curl up next to a fire and eat pralines this time of year, we’re designed to keep moving. And winter sports give us the perfect opportunity to have fun while we work off the weight. Here are our favorite chilly activities, plus tips for exercising safely.
Winter Sports That Burn Calories and Build Muscles
If you love to surf or are an avid skateboarder, you may just find your favorite winter sport in snowboarding. Before investing $500 in snowboarding gear, try it out to make sure it’s a good fit. You can rent a board, binding, and snowboard boots (you’ll want about a size bigger than your normal footwear) from a resort for about $20-40 a day. You’ll also want to invest in a lesson before you hit the slopes.
Here are a few tips to know before you get fitted for gear. Pick what foot you’ll be leading with—you’ll have to know in order to set the bindings. It’s typically the foot you’d lead with on a surfboard or slide into first base with.
While bruises and broken bones, particularly the wrists and arms, are the most common snowboarding injuries, traumatic brain injury is the most serious and often deadly. Always wear a helmet with a hat plus helmet liner when snowboarding.
Once you pick up speed, you’ll be glad you protected your eyes with goggles. The skin is also super vulnerable to the winter sun, so be sure to wear sunscreen.
If you are a beginner, then don’t get competitive with the other snowboarders and be tempted to advance too quickly to more difficult slopes. Stick to the designated trails!
#2 Cross-Country Skiing
Snowboarding and skiing are the most popular snow sports, but we challenge you to take it up a notch and see how you like cross-country skiing. It might not be as fast and fancy as alpine skiing, but it works your entire body as you move across terrain, just you, your skis, and your ski poles. This complete cardio and strength workout is also gentler on your joints than running, and accessible to all fitness levels. The risk of injury is also far less.
You’ll warm up quickly so be sure to dress in layers. Stay away from cotton and wear moisture-wicking underwear, a lightweight fleece top and tights, and a weatherproof, breathable outer layer.
When going the distance, take a backpack with extra clothes, safety gear like a snow shovel, and glide wax or grip wax depending on the type of skis.
If you’re new to cross-country skiing, touch base with the staff before heading out to the trail. Be sure to warm up before and after, wear sunscreen, and drink plenty of water on your cross-country journey.
Think of skijoring like water skiing, but on snow. Instead of being pulled by a boat, skiers are pulled by horses, dogs, or vehicles. Skijoring, from the Norwegian skikjøring, or “ski driving,” was originally used as a mode of transportation, but is now a popular competitive winter sport.
You can try out equestrian skijoring at Triple Creek Ranch in Montana for $450 for a two-person sled or head on over to The Resort at Paws Up and hop on board a horse sled for $220 a person. Other ranches and resorts will rent you doggy-skijoring equipment so you can sled with your pup, provided it is more than 30 pounds, older than a year, and in good health.
If you aren’t much of a skier but the idea of traversing snow-covered terrain over long distances appeals to you, then snowshoeing may be a better fit.
All you need to get started with snowshoeing is a pair of snowshoes. Snowshoes are specialized footwear that distributes your weight over a larger area so your foot doesn’t sink into the snow. The raised toe increases movability, so you can hike or run through the snow safely, assuming you’re avoiding icy, steep terrain.
You’ll want to make sure you fuel your body for the long trek ahead. We recommend an antioxidant-rich meal of fruits, vegetables, and healthy carbs, along with an essential amino acid supplement designed to increase stamina and endurance. You’ll also want to pack healthy snacks and plenty of water for the road.
Take a preparedness course, as getting lost, altitude sickness, hypothermia, and frost bite are very real risks. Pack a safety kit that includes necessities such as a compass, ice grips, rope, crampons, an avalanche transceiver, LED headlamp, a first aid kit, a knife, mylar, matches, and tinder.
Snowmobiling may have started out as a way to get around on snow and ice, but it’s now one of the most popular recreational winter sports. Snowmobilers, or sledders as they’re known, enjoy drag racing, or snocross racing, at speeds of up to 60 mph on high-performance snowmobiles that can take banked corners, tight corners, and steep jumps.
As you can imagine, there’s a risk for injury and some snowmobile safety tips to follow.
- Don’t ride under the influence
- Ride with a friend
- Wear a face mask, helmet, and appropriate winter wear
- Don’t drive too fast
- Stick to the trail
- Don’t ride on iced-over lakes or rivers—stick to the snow!
#6 Ice Hockey
If ice sports are more your thing then let your athletic spirit shine by joining a local ice rink...assuming you live in colder locales like New York, Minnesota, or Michigan. Of course, make sure you have plenty of lessons under your belt first!
A popular youth sport, ice hockey frequently results in collisions. To stay safe you’ll need the proper gear:
- Mouth guard
- Face shield
- Elbow pads
- Shoulder pads
- Pants (girdle and shell)
- Shin guards
#7 Speed Skating
Watch a speed skating event at the Winter Olympics and see if it doesn’t make you want to strap on some skates and break into a racing stride.
Before you learn how to speed skate, you will require some finesse with regular ice skating. You’ll need to know how to take a fall and get back up, how to stop and go, and how to perform:
- Forward sizzles
- Forward crossovers
- One foot glides
- The straightaway stroke
- The corner stroke
Once you’ve mastered those basics, it’s wise to invest in a speed skating class or join a speed skating club. When you feel like a pro, test your skills at a speed skating race or event!
Winter Sports to Enjoy with the Kiddos
The winter sports season brings with it lots of opportunities for play. Bundle up against the cold weather and enjoy activities like bobsleigh sledding and snow tubing. Take a figure skating class together or go ice fishing. Kids at least 6 years old and 110 cm tall can also ride the luge!
As for vacations, a ski resort comes with built-in activities that keep the kiddos entertained for hours. So, I think we can all agree that winter isn’t the season to hibernate...it’s the season to get out there and be active!