10 Outdoor Winter Activities that Aren’t Skiing

As soon as the snow falls, most people turn their attention to the slopes. But not everyone skis or snowboards. So what is an outdoorsy person to do when the temperatures grow cold and the days short? Here’s a look at a few of our favorite outdoor winter activities that don’t involve a chairlift.

Go Dog Sledding

Does getting pulled by a team of super-dogs sound like a fun way to spend the day? Dog sledding offers a thrilling way to enjoy the landscape with our best four-legged friends. You don’t need to live in an epic mountain town to enjoy dog sledding, there are tons of clubs and dog sled guides sprinkled throughout the US, all you need is some snow.

Plan a Staycation

The holidays wear everyone out and the endless congo-line of social obligations can leave you exhausted. This year, plan a staycation. Put your phone on airplane mode and venture off somewhere nearby. If you’re feeling extra spicy, stay at a nearby hotel in a new part of town. Explore a nearby trail that you’ve always wanted to hike, check out a new neighborhood restaurant or just Netflix and chill. The point is to turn off the tech and enjoy a weekend off the grid, close to home.

Book a Hut or Yurt Trip

America has a wide range of huts and yurts available year round. These cozy retreats offer up a chance to truly experience the magic of winter. You don’t need to be a crazy backcountry skier to enjoy a hut trip. Bring a few libations, tasty snacks and some board games to enjoy a cozy weekend in nature.

outdoor winter activities

Take a Winter Wander

Just because there’s snow on the ground doesn’t mean you can’t hike. Rent a pair of snowshoes and hit the snowy trails or stay on warmer trails and wander. Be sure to pack a warm drink and a map (trails are often buried, making it hard to navigate).

Get Outta Dodge

If you truly despise winter, save up your cash and ditch the season entirely. Book a trip out of the country and explore some of our warmer neighbors. Sometimes all it takes a good rattle of the cage to shake the winter blues. We’ve got an array of exciting adventure destinations to choose from.

Escape to the Desert

Although it’s still cold, the deserts of the American Southwest still offer plenty of sunshine. The rocks keep the landscape warm and you’ll have the place to yourself. Most areas are still open to visitors so head to the desert for outdoor winter activities this year. Plus, who doesn’t want to see sandstone monoliths dusted in snow?

winter activities

Strap on Some Skates

Remember ice skating as a kid and trying not to fall over? Well, bring back the kid in you by strapping on some skates and going ice skating! Most frosty cities have urban rinks, or you can take your skate game to the outdoors (just be sure to understand how to check if the ice is safe to skate on).

Climb a Frozen Waterfall

If you’re the intrepid type and you don’t mind the cold, then give ice climbing a go. Hire a guide or take a class on how to climb using crampons and ice tools (special axes). Frozen water creates some stunning scenery and climbing up it is a true challenge.

Go Indoor Climbing

Okay, so technically this isn’t outdoors, but it will help you with your summer projects. Keep your mind occupied with a new sport this season. Indoor rock climbing offers endless amounts of fun and challenge for everyone. Gyms usually offer a quick class on how to top rope belay and you can entertain your muscles all winter long pulling plastic (climber slang for indoor rock climbing). This challenge is also family-friendly so your entire clan can get in tip-top shape over winter.

winter activities to try

Build a Gear Room

Perhaps you like to nest over winter, there’s nothing wrong with that. Organize your gear on the cheap with an outdoor gear storage room. Go through your outdoor gear, give it a good cleaning and get organized for the upcoming summer season. Remember to donate gently used gear so it can still clock in miles.

What are your favorite ways to enjoy the winter season without hitting the slopes? We hope you’re inspired to get out there this winter and enjoy the season.

About the Author

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Meg Atteberry

Meg ditched the 9-5 world as an architect in pursuit of adventure. Now a freelance writer for the outdoor industry, she’s made it her life’s work to inspire others to say “yes” to adventure. From the remote wilderness areas of Colorado, to exploring a foreign country, Meg specializes in off-beat destinations for the intrepid soul. You can find her in the backcountry searching for the perfect camp spot in her home of Colorado.