Love snow but don’t fancy downhill skiing or snowboarding? Take your pick from these alternative wintry pursuits.
Snowmobiling in Yellowstone, Montana, USA
Possibly the best way to explore the magnificent Yellowstone National Park in winter is by snowmobile. The park is a veritable winter wonderland, peppered with steaming hot springs and bubbling mudpots amid magical snow-caked trees. Expect to spot elk, bison, moose, trumpeter swans and eagles. Be sure to stop off at Old Faithful, the park’s best-known geyser, which erupts on average every 91 minutes, reaching heights of 30 to 55m (106 to 184ft). Jackson Hole Snowmobile Tours runs multi-day trips.
Cost: From US$1,600 (US$2,400 for a double snowmobile) for four days/three nights excluding flights.
Winter walking in Switzerland
You don’t have to strap yourself to two planks (or one) to enjoy Switzerland’s snow-covered slopes. Winterwanderwege (winter walking paths) are strung across the Swiss Alps and kept in immaculate condition by small grooming machines which pack the trails – so you needn’t worry about sinking into three feet of snow. (Although tackling ungroomed routes with snowshoes is fun too.) A good choice is Davos, in the southeastern canton of Graubünden, which boasts a whopping 84km (52 miles) of winter paths, while at Grindelwald you can saunter beneath the mighty Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains on an impressive 80km (50 miles) of trails. Many resorts produce special winter walking maps marking all the routes.
Switzerland Tourism can provide information on travel and accommodation.
Dog sledding in the Yukon, Canada
Team up with a pack of huskies and venture into the Canadian wilderness along the Yukon Quest Trail. Historically, the trail was used by gold prospectors, trappers and as a mail delivery route. It now hosts a 1,600km (1,000-mile) dog-sled race each February between Whitehorse in western Canada’s Yukon Territory and Fairbanks, Alaska. This is regarded as the world’s toughest dog-sled course, with competitors crossing four mountain ranges and enduring temperatures in the minus 40s. For a less extreme option, sign up to a Yukon Quest Trail husky safari, available through responsibletravel.com, where you’ll have the chance to bond and train with your dogs in Sky High Valley before spending three days on the trail itself.
Cost: From £1,325 for nine days/eight nights excluding flights.
Snorkelling with orcas in Norway
Each October to January, orcas (or killer whales) journey up Tysfjord in northern Norway in pursuit of herring. On Explore‘s Killer Whale Weekend trip you can watch the spectacle of the whales using the ‘carousel feeding’ technique, directing the fish into a closely packed bunch before stunning them with their tails. On the first day, you’ll observe this from a boat, then the following day, weather permitting, you can don a drysuit and snorkel and join the whales in their own territory.
Cost: From £999 for four days/three nights including flights from London.
Ice climbing in France
If you have a good head for heights and some basic rock climbing experience, why not transfer your skills to a winter environment? From December to February, Alpine Guides runs introductory ice climbing weeks in La Grave in the southern French Alps. You’ll learn all the essential skills, scaling local frozen waterfalls from day one, before progressing further afield later in the week. (There are over 1,000 icefalls in the region.) Alpine Guides caters for more experienced alpinists too, splitting participants into groups of two climbers to one instructor according to ability.
Cost: £675 for five days excluding flights and accommodation.
Ice diving in the White Sea, Russia
Forget the balmy temperatures of the tropics. Between February and April, Dive Worldwide introduces divers to the inland White Sea in northern Russia, a 28-hour train ride from Moscow. Here, the ice can become up to 1.5m (5ft) thick and temperatures regularly plummet to minus 40°C (-40°F). Underwater, you might spy wolf-fish, cod or sea perch and gaze at soft corals, sea stars or sea anenomes, with visibility of 30 to 40m (100 to 130ft). You’ll require more than a few days’ diving off Phuket to take part in this adventure however. Only dedicated coldwater enthusiasts need apply, as you must have at least 20 drysuit dives under your belt plus an Advanced Open Water certificate. You’ll also have the chance to gain your PADI Ice Diver certification.
Cost: From £1,275 for 10 days/nine nights including flights from London, transfers, six nights’ full-board dive lodge accommodation and five days’ diving.
Multi-activity break in Finland
Try a bit of everything on Exodus‘ new Flexi Activity break in Finnish Lapland. Take your pick from a selection of wintry pastimes, including a guided husky dog safari, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or a trip to a reindeer farm, complete with sleigh ride. Hole up in a private cabin for the week, and if you’re feeling brave, wrap up warmly and cuddle up in an igloo for the night – there’s a cabin to dive into if the you can’t handle the cold.
Cost: From £855 for eight days/seven nights including flights from London (extra charge on arrival for activities).