6 unique winter sports to try
Skiing and snowboarding aren’t the only winter sports around anymore — yet you won’t find many of these at the Olympics! Whether you’re ready to jump in or just rather watch, Europe is home to many unique sports unlike the typical.
Snowkiting refers to skiing or snowboarding while being pulled by a large kite. These sports are typically done on frozen lakes due to ideal wind and surface conditions. Many find snowkiting to be easier than kitesurfing, since it is easier to balance on solid surfaces rather than water.
If you want to give snowkiting a try, consider taking lessons or visiting the Snow Kite School on the Simplon Pass (Sempione) in Valais, Switzerland. Here they can assist you if you are starting from scratch.
Not interested in trying snowkiting? Check out the annual snowkite festival and French championships in Col du Lautaret, France.
The Langjökull Glacier in Iceland is the second largest icecap in Europe and home to excellent snowkiting conditions. Consider taking a guided trip to the glacier, where you can kite in the shadow of volcanic mountains.
Looking for an easy-going winter activity? Look no further than Bavarian curling, or Eisstockschiessen. Similar to shuffleboard, curling is played by two teams who slide polished stones on ice, hoping to gain points by hitting their targets. This sport can be enjoyed in a rink or on a frozen lake.
Eisstockschiessen is typically played in southern Germany, Austria and northern Italy. Additionally, in Interlaken, Switzerland, Ice Magic rents out a rink for curling. You can enjoy a low-key match while taking in views of the Swiss Alps. The Salzburg lake district in Austria also offers numerous curling rinks.
You may have seen the sport in the Olympics (or just in Cool Runnings) — either way, bobsledding (or bobsleighing) is a high-speed adventure accessible in Europe. The Bob Experience in La Plagne, France has four different options for the winter sport enthusiast. Visitors can speed luge, raft or race down the icy track at speeds up to 120 kilometers per hour.
Alternately, the Sigulda track outside of Riga, Latvia offers bobsled rides with a professional driver. The Sigulda luge and bobsleigh track is a one-hour drive outside Latvia’s capital, Riga. Riders glide along the 1,420 meters of track, feeling a touch of Olympic glory.
This 4,000-year-old sport is prevalent in northern Europe, where dog sledding adventures can be found in countries from Sweden to Iceland. Guided trips are available in Iceland, Finland, Sweden and Norway. Some itineraries even include overnight stays in
ice hotels. Adventurous travelers can tack on excursions like ice fishing or snow-shoeing. To combine your dog sled adventure with a natural phenomenon, consider taking an Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) dog sled trip in a Scandinavian country or Iceland.
Another way to get in on the action is to see a live race. The Finnmarksløpet is Europe’s longest and the world’s northernmost sled dog race. Held in Finnmark, Norway, the race challenges sled dog teams to a 1,000-kilometer route. Fourteen dog teams spend five to six days traversing Europe’s “roof.”
Initially a mode of transportation, skijöring has become sport for some and a serious competition for others. Originating in Scandinavia, skijöring (Norwegian for ski driving) is when a skier is pulled by a horse, dogs or sometimes even a small motor vehicle. A tow rope connects the skijörer to the lead, much like waterskiing.
Skijörers in St. Moritz, Switzerland showed off their sport in 1928 as part of a winter Olympics demonstration. The sport is competed in the glitzy town even today. Racers take to the “White Turf” every February. If you are looking to give skijöring a try, visit Serre Chevalier, France, where the Ranch du Grand Aigle gives lessons. Basic ski experience is needed, but no knowledge of horses is required.
Switzerland’s Saint Moritz, which hosted the 1928 Winter Olympics, is the winter vacation home of Europe’s rich and famous. The town’s winter sports are all high class; it hosts the Snow Polo World Cup in late January. Snow Polo is like polo but played on
a frozen lake covered in snow. The polo ball is larger and bright red, making it easier to see in the snow. The VIP spectators sip champagne while cheering on their favorite team. However, admission to view from the stands is free, and local chefs prepare many tasty morsels for the public.
Lake St. Moritz also hosts numerous winter sports, including ice cricket and horse races. Every February, horses race on the frozen lake while spectators place their bets. For a more low-key experience, try “Yoga on Snow.” St. Moritz’s Corviglia slopes have
four established points where snow yoga can be practiced independently or as part of a class. This mountain is hailed as the world’s first yoga piste.
Whether on fresh powder or slick ice, Europe’s winter season gives wild and fun outdoor activities for all.