Winter fun – cool new combo sports

From backcountry snow camping to snowshoeing, there’s more to winter than skis and ice skates.

As the snow begins to pile deep, take the time to  embrace some new cold-weather activities. With the proper gear, along with great outdoor clothing, you’re set to have some real fun:

Cross Country Skiing With origins in Scandinavia 4000-4500 years ago, cross country skiing has come a long way from being the sole method of transportation for snow and ice-bound Northerners.

Today, cross country skiing (aka Nordic Skiing or XC Skiing) is, in the opinion of many, the world’s best aerobic fitness activity. The sport involves simultaneous use of arms and legs utilizing ski equipment including boots, poles, and skis. Because you can XC Ski just about anywhere with snow, you can match the terrain to suit your fitness level and interests.

Dog Sledding It’s that time of year, many distance mushers are focused on training for the Iditarod – the “Last Great Race”. Of the 71 mushers who have already signed up for this dog sled race, 56 are veterans, 15 are rookies, 15 are female and 56 are males. Mushers have until Dec 1st to sign up for the 2008 race.

Ice Sailing Ice sailing, or hard water sailing—is navigating a frozen surface in a sailboat outfitted with runners. The fundamentals of this exhilarating sport can be learned in just a day or two. The most proficient sailors can adapt to rapidly changing ice and wind conditions but novices often exceed their limits and get in trouble. For those who master the sport, ice sailing offers the best of summer and winter pleasures.

Skijoring Cross country skiing has gone to the dogs. A popular sport from Scandinavia called “skijoring” can be a great workout for you and your canine. Fido is outfitted with a special harness and leash so he can pull you, wearing your XC skis, along pristine trails. Once your and your pooch are proficient you can search out races and more.

Snow Kayaking Know of a pristinehillside covered with newfallen snow? If sledding or tobogganing seems old hat, grab the kayak from your garage and improvise. A kayak will work fine if the snow is really cold, so the kayak doesn’t stick. You can get some speed going and use the paddle to carve out snow and stick the paddle behind to use as a rudder. It’s not as accurate as a sled but about the same as a toboggan and a lot more fun.

Snow Kiting Fast growing and simple to learn, skiers and boarders across the world are discovering the fun of snow kiting. All you need is snow and a power kite and you can turn a cold winter’s day into a blistering, adrenaline-soaked experience. Speeds of over 60 mph have been recorded as snow kite riders blast themselves along with just the power of the wind.

Wind power is one of life’s few free rides and already snow kiting enthusiasts have achieved incredible things. From a ground breaking unsupported journey to the North Pole and back to huge kite-powered adventures through Alaska, the world of winter sports is embracing this fantastic new sport.

Try winter’s fastest growing adventure fitness craze – snowshoeing!

The sport has grown in popularity among female Americans since 1998. The participant level has increased 163% to 2.1% of females 16 and older. Source: Outdoor Recreation Participation Study 2003

It’s easy to see why snowshoeing is the trendiest and friendliest on-snow winter activity considering anyone who can walk can snowshoe. Until the 1970’s, snowshoes were used primarily for survival rather than recreation. Today, enthusiasts who strap on a pair of snowshoes range from casual snowshoers who hike trails for pleasure, to those who trek through the backcountry, and competitors who race. One of the best things about snowshoeing is just about anywhere you hike or mountain bike in summer, you can snowshoe in winter.

In addition, snowshoeing can help enrich your health. Known to help maintain or improve cardiovascular fitness, the sport helps burn more than 600 calories per hour. Snowshoers can burn more than 45 percent more calories than walking or running at the same speed, according to Snowsports Industries America (SIA).

Telemark – Get off the groomed trails and experience backcountry skiing! For most, tele skiing is all about the stoke, the sensation, that feeling of excited exhilaration that comes from getting into the groove of the tele turn.

Norwegian Sondre Norheim, recognized today as the father of telemark skiing, popularized this new style of turn where one ski is advanced in front of the other and the heel is raised on the rear ski, with the skier in a very bent knee position . The telemark turn is ideally suited for the moderately steep mountains and the soft, deep snow found in the Telemark region of Norway.

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