When I started this list I thought it might be a struggle to find 10 ways to enjoy/survive the cold weather (especially in Minnesota), but as it turns out it wasn't that hard to think of outdoor activities that are entertaining, active and fun, even when winter is in full effect. I even threw in a bonus idea. For those of you living in warm weather, I'm envious. However, you just might find this list makes you wish for a vacation to the north!
As I write this, the weather channel has issued a severe snow storm for the Minneapolis area (for the next three days!). As the flakes start to fall, there is nothing better than having an all out snowball fight.
Sometimes the snow launching starts spontaneously, sometimes a pre-emptive attack is planned long before the first snowball is thrown. Regardless, it's a light-hearted way to pass an hour (or 10 minutes) depending on the cold and how badly you are getting your butt kicked!
One very necessary element: wet, heavy, sticky snow.
I used to ice skate all the time as a kid. It was fun with an element of imminent danger. You never knew when you were going to lose all sense of balance and stability and smack onto the ice. Part of the fun is trying to conquer your fear of falling so that you can look like you're gliding across the ice gracefully.
The great thing about ice skating is that it truly is age-less, anyone can get out there and do it. I plan on bundling up this winter and making a go of it!
Growing up I lived on a golf course, and as such, I had a huge hills (perfect for sledding) at my quick disposal. Which meant hours of sledding down hills, running up hills, stopping for hot chocolate breaks, daring a friend (or my brother) to go backward down the hill and so on til I was spent.
So, sledding seems somewhat reminiscent of childhood to me, which makes it all the more fun to do when you're an adult. You need: Snow gear, a plastic or metal sled (metal is usually faster), and at least one friend to push you (if you want that extra rush of speed and adrenaline), and motivation to climb back UP that big hill (it's surprisingly much harder than it used to be!). :)
If sledding seems too childlike to you, then you might try your hand at tubing (which seems to be the increasingly acceptable adult version of sledding). In my area we have a place called Green Acres that for $10 provides tubes, snow covered hills, and a ski-lift to get you back up the hill. Night tubing can be a lot of fun, especially with a large group of friends.
Most people I know either ski or snowboard. Personally I prefer skiing because it's what I know, I feel more in control and it's much easier for me. However, boarding also looks like fun (I'll talk about that in a minute). For the last two years I have missed the ski season, my equipment is out of date and it has seemed like such a hassle to pack everything up and be ready early enough to evade the crowds. However, my first New Year's Resolution this year is to spend some time skiing. It's great exercise and fun for all ages.
As I said before, snowboarding looks like a lot of fun. But when I tried it for the first time, I fell so many times, I was literally covered in bruises, which isn't much fun. So, if you've got the guts and the stamina to endure some initial pain, I think this is a great sport to take up and good way to pass the wintry days. I'll stick to skiing.
I've never gone ice fishing. It seems like a very Minnesota thing to do though, and I have certainly seen many people out on one of our ten thousand lakes trying to catch fish. Most of them are smart enough to have a tent-like structure (a little fishing hut) out on the ice, where they have a heater inside to keep them from freezing. I personally don't like the idea of walking out onto a body of water where the ice could potentially break. But to each their own. I'm always up for trying something new!
Talk about great exercise. Snowshoeing is really, really hard, especially if the snow is deep. You essentially attach a racket shaped frame to the bottom of your boot and it creates enough surface tension to keep you from falling into the deep snow. Most people use poles to help them balance and gain momentum from pushing off the packed snow. This would be a fun activity after a fresh snow fall in an area with pretty scenery. I'll be curious to hear if anyone else has done this and if they enjoyed it.
I really like cross-country skiing. This is a challenging sport, one that gets your heart going and burns serious calories. A great workout if you want to be outside instead of stuck on a treadmill. Cross-country skis are much lighter than normal skis but do require a cross-country ski boot that snaps down on the front and attaches to the ski. Poles are also a must, because you won't be going anywhere without them. Great exercise, and gives you time to enjoy your surroundings.
The bonus activity! Yes, people really do horseback ride in the winter. Though I have not, it looks like a lot of fun. Sounds like an innovative and romantic date idea (as long as both parties know how to ride).