Mention winter sports, and curling and figure skating might come to mind. As for the rest of us who aren’t Olympic athletes, we go skiing and snowboarding instead. But don’t for a moment underestimate the intensity of recreational winter sports.
For starters, here are six extreme winter experiences to put on your list.
P.S. While you’re at that, don’t forget to compare prices across travel insurance including ski cover in Europe!
Most winter sports take place on downhill slopes, in environments that have been carved out by ski lifts and resorts. Snowshoeing, on the other hand, is an increasingly popular form of low-impact mountaineering that takes you out of the man-made and into the wilderness.
Even the folks who don’t ski or snowboard can snowshoe, but that doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park. These treks range from anything between two hours to a week long. With the help of experienced mountain guides, you could very well be sighting wildlife and traversing rugged terrain in national parks.
Where to do it: The French Alps
2. Ice Diving
Winter is no time to be telling your friends you’re going diving, unless it’s at the Shiretoko Peninsula of Hokkaido, where ice floes soften in the months of February and March. Ice diving may sound like a highly daunting feat meant for military rescue teams, but a basic open water certification will suffice.
The dives typically last less than half an hour, reaching only a depth of 15 metres where temperatures average around 3˚C. With a sharp eye and a clear day (when visibility is better), you’ll be able to spy sea angels, starfish and even nudibranchs!
Where to do it: Shiretoko Peninsula, Hokkaido
Even though snowmobiles are predominantly used for transportation, these powerful machines can be fast and furious in the hands of a skilled driver. They can fly at high speeds of up to 140 kilometres an hour, conquer jumps, and even zip through mountainous and backcountry trails.
If that doesn’t excite you, the sheer variety of adventures that await you in Finland will. There are snowmobile safaris that take you to the Russian border, as well as others powered by huskies and reindeer.
Come nightfall, you could even try to catch the elusive Aurora Borealis while on the vehicle for an experience like no other.
Where to do it: Finland
Contrary to what it sounds like, heli-skiing doesn’t require you to pull a James Bond and leap off a moving jet. Instead, a helicopter transports you to remote, pristine peaks with virgin powder snow aplenty.
This experience appeals particularly to seasoned skiers who hunger for untracked snow, or to simply deviate from commercial slopes. Needless to say, the flight to your destination is half the magic, promising 360-degree views unlike anything you’ll see from ski lifts.
Where to do it: Zermatt and the Swiss Alps
Like heli-skiing, the allure of snowkiting lies in crowd-free expanses of fresh snow that alpine resorts have set aside to prevent collisions with ski lifts. If kitesurfing is your kind of thing, this wintry alternative will take that to literally greater heights.
To get started, a large kite is strapped to the rider to catch wind, and he would use its momentum to manoeuvre across flat surfaces or ascend slopes of up to 45 degrees. Simply put, it’s like snowboarding or skiing, but with wings and absolute freedom to discover uphill terrains before cruising downwards again.
Where to do it: Norway
6. Glacier Bungee Jumping
When it comes to bucket list conversations, the debate is always between skydiving and bungee jumping. But if you fancy combining the thrill of free fall with alpine conditions, glacier bungee jumping is a less-known alternative that will give “cold feet” a whole new meaning.
Exclusive to a few places in the world, the winter Stockhorn bungy is available in Switzerland from January to early March. There, you’ll make your ascent in a mountain gondola for 134 metres to soak in all that snow-capped beauty, before taking a leap of faith towards the frozen mountain lake Stockensee.
And when it all ends, you could round up the experience with a celebratory glass of mulled wine at an Igloo Bar.
Where to do it: Switzerland
Staying safe even while going extreme
So if you’ve already tamed the powder factories in Niseko and the ski fields in Queensland, it’s time to conquer these extreme winter experiences.
As you “level-up” in your choice of adrenaline fixes, you should do the same with your insurance coverage. Thankfully, DirectAsia’s travel insurance policies are comprehensive enough to cover a variety of extreme sports and activities, and even sports equipment for riders who’re used to their own boards and skis. Now you can cruise the slopes with your mind at ease.