Beyond Skiing: The World's Finest Winter Experiences
We have previously looked at some of the finest ski resorts from across the world. However, there are many other thrilling and unique experiences you can enjoy in the winter that don’t involve the slopes. Here are some of the world’s best luxury winter experiences.
Ice Sailing in the United States
Contrary to what the name might imply, ice sailing doesn’t involve enjoying snowy scenery from the comfort of your private yacht. Rather, it is a dynamic combination of sailing, jet skiing and snowboarding where sailors ride on boats known as ‘ice rockets’ and glide along frozen lakes at speeds of almost 97 km/hr. Probably the best place to experience this adrenalin-pumping activity is Michigan, which is home to its own ice yacht sailing association.
Winter Safari in Finland
The snow safari is the seasonal companion to jungle and desert safaris. Swapping out lions, elephants and grassy terrains for reindeer and frozen tundra, these safaris are day-long trips offered in Finland with a few different options to choose from. With the Reindeer Safari, you can feel like Santa Claus for a day as you ride a reindeer-pulled sleigh, while the Husky Safari puts you in charge of your own team of sled dogs as they guide you through the snow. You might catch sight of some authentic local wildlife along the way, or you could head to the Ranua Zoo, which is known as the world’s northernmost zoo and houses a collection of elk, wolverines, wolves and polar bears, among other species.
Ice Hotel in Sweden
One of the most intriguing and highly sought-after winter experiences in the world, the Ice Hotel Sweden is built out of the ice formed on the Torne river. It is re-built every year in a different shape and layout, meaning no two experiences there are the same. The hotel offers a complete sense of tranquility unlike any other resort and is open for weddings and other events. Because of the unique nature of its design, it is also a popular art exhibition.
Hot Air Balloon Over Mount Everest
Climbing Mount Everest is an impressive feat that only the hardy few have accomplished. An alternative experience that is less gruelling but certainly not less impressive is taking a hot air balloon to the summit. The journey, which lasts for several weeks, begins in Nepal and takes you up above the highest peak in the world, ending with a day-long balloon ride. While it doesn’t require the physical intensity of a climb, the altitude will still take a toll on your body, and you are required to commit to a month of training before taking this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Climbing Waterfalls in Canada
This is an experience you can try in several parts of the United States and in Canada, or any place that has a waterfall and an icy winter. The steepness of the waterfall makes it a unique challenge and the light reflecting off the frozen water is truly a sight to behold as you’re up close. There is no experience required for ice climbing, though several institutes do offer classes and provide all the gear you will need. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can head to the town of Banff in Canada, where you can even go on an ice climbing excursion with no training at all. You will be attached to a rope and have an expert guide on hand, however.
Try the ‘California Double’
Our list is meant to be for non-skiing winter activities, so this entry is technically a cheat but does half-qualify. The ‘California Double’ may sound like the name of a gourmet sandwich but in fact refers to the seemingly impossible act of surfing and skiing on the same day. The experience begins with surf lessons at Huntington Beach where you will learn to master the waves. Later in the day you will be taking a bus to Snow Summit Resort in the resort city of Big Bear Lake, where you can spend the afternoon hitting the slopes.
Ice climbing image courtesy of Yamnuska Mountain Adventures. Everest ballooning image courtesy of Outside Online. Ice yachting image courtesy of Northern Express. All other images belong to the official Facebook pages of the entities and organizations mentioned.