Extreme sports don’t break for the season. They simply adapt for the conditions. While it’s about to roast heads in the southern hemisphere, the mercury’s already plunging hard in the north – no better time for a bona fide wintertime adrenaline rush. Don’t let the white powder and sub zero temps put you off: winter offers some of the most unforgettably visceral extreme sporting experiences on offer.
Keen to get the heart pumping through this years’ snowy stretch? Read on: we’ve got you covered with 2016 breakdown of some of the northern hemisphere’s most riveting and intense winter extreme sports.
1. Snow Kiting
It’s the ideal fusion of massive kite and snow ‘n ice: logical choice for those who dig downhill skiing, snowboarding and skateboarding. Think of snow kiting as more or less like windsurfing, but with a snowboard strapped to your feet.
It’s one of the easier extreme winter sports to get into, requiring only a base level of wind at any given time, and a humble stretch of ice or snow covered land to kite across (perfect excuse to baulk those expensive slope resort day passes).
Popular with the British, Scandinavians, Germans and Polish, revered winter pastime of countless North Americans, ice yachting is the sport of sailing and racing custom-built, lake-ready ice boats. Ice yachting is nothing new, and has been around for a couple of centuries, finding its feet on the iced lakes of northern New York State as far back as 1790.
These days, it’s a popular crew-based endeavour, with ice yachts of around 40 ft. (12 m) carrying up to six or seven riders barrelling upwards of 85 or even 90 miles (145 km) an hour in high winds.
Where to do it: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin / Gulf of Finland
3. Snow Kayaking
Snow kayaking, aka snow boating, involves plonking yourself in a kayak and going hell for leather down an icy slope – the steeper and more perilous, arguably, the better. When the white water freezes over, it’s slope time, folks.
Welcome to one of the fastest growing, and most accessible, winter extreme sports on the list.
Where to do it: Monarch Mountains, Colorado, USA / Lienz, Austria
Invented by a bunch of downhill pragmatists in the resorts of New Mexico during the 1970s, shovel racing offers a delightfully egalitarian take on wintertime extremity, demanding an effortless entry-level skill calibre.
Simply whip out your backyard ploughing shovel, clasp your legs around the shaft, and cosy your rear end in the shovelhead and you fang it downhill at a surprisingly hectic velocity (alleged top speed for elite shovel racers can hit upward of 70 miles per hour (112 km/h) – certainly not for the faint of heart, or soft of crotch).
Scuba diving has always been a year-round joy to be savoured. But for those searching for a little more intrepid beauty and danger, ice diving is the logical next step. Though it requires extra training, and, unless you’re truly extreme, a tethering rope to the surface given it’s single point of entry, a deep plunge into sub zero ice water can be one of the most invigorating things you’ll ever experience.
Keep on top of potential gripes, including hypothermia, frostbite and shifting ice that’ll compromise your exit hole.
Where to do it: Morrison’s Quarry, Wakefield, Quebec, Canada
One part motocross, one part snow: you get the picture. As one of the more satisfying winter ‘sportmanteaus’, Snocross involves racing high performance snowmobiles across naturally or artificially created outdoor tracks, and doing it in speedy style.
With a range of banks, turns, obstacles and jumps on typical courses, and typical vehicles opening up to around 60 miles per hour (96 km p/h) on a heady stretch, there’s little wonder Snocross has become today’s most popular body-sanctioned snowmobile racing form.
Where to do it: Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen, Colorado
7. Speed flying
Speed flying: it’s next level. As one of the most expensive and dangerous of the wintertime extreme sports, it’s not to be taking lightly. A fusion of skiing and paragliding, speed flying is an expert-only sport in the same league as skydiving and base-jumping.
Often compared to Blade Running and Swooping, risk of injury and/or death during speed flying is quite high – top speed flyers can coast at up to 100 km/h, with no safety parachute if anything goes amiss. There is truly nothing else like it (the GoPro vid here alone is enough to give you that menacingly quivery feeling in the nether regions).