Alternative Winter Sports
If you're looking for something beyond skiing, ice skating, sledding and other typical winter sports, try something new
Just playing in the snow is fun, sure, but if you want to try something new or different, read on…
Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean that you have to give up your biking season. In fact, that’s why fatbikes are around — to extend the time you can pedal around. Unlike a mountain bike, a fatbike will not easily sink in snow. It’s more than slapping fatter tires on a mountain bike body, though. According to Arlon Chaffee of LOCO Cycling in Newmarket, fatbikes are a “relatively new type of bicycle specifically designed around wider rims and tires. You actually have to redo the bike geometry; everything’s wider.”
Mountain bikes have a suspension system, but on a fatbike, the tires are the suspension. Chaffee says it can be like riding on a donut. “They’re basically mountain bikes on steroids,” Chaffee says. Last year, Chaffee introduced a fatbike race series at Stratham Hill Park. This year, he’s expanding; there will be a variety of races across New Hampshire, including night races at Gunstock. Chaffee seems excited as he talks about adventure races and the grand finale at Stratham Hill where there will be numerous bike vendors and demonstrations. “We’re infecting the planet,” he says. Visit fatbikenh.com for race details.
The rules are the same, but the “greens” are called “whites.” The nine-hole course game has become popular in Canada, Sweden and Finland and has made its way to New Hampshire ski resorts. This year marks the 15th Annual Snowfest at Loon Mountain, a snow golf tournament that raises money for CASA of New Hampshire, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing volunteer court advocates for mistreated and abused children in New Hampshire. While still a tournament, Snowfest is a fun, energetic affair that is more like an extreme game of mini golf. “They’re just really light-hearted and happy to be on the snow trying something new,” says Greg Kwasnik, the communications manager for Loon Mountain.
This year's Snowfest is Feb. 6 and the entry fee is $400 for a team of four or $105 per person. Included is a full day lift ticket, continental breakfast, lunch from the Common Man and an event goody bag and winter hat. This is a great day on the slopes and it helps a great cause at the same time. Click here to register a team of four or just as an individual.
With skijoring, taking a ski day doesn’t have to mean leaving your favorite canine at home.
A hybrid of dogsledding and cross-country skiing, skijoring connects a skier and their dog using two harnesses and a rope. Like dogsledding, the skier directs their dog using verbal commands. A Norwegian word translating to “ski driving,” skijoring originated in Scandinavia where it was most commonly done with reindeer and horses.
“It’s a great thing for those people who really do take their dogs everywhere with them,” says Bill Quigley, director of marketing and sales at Gunstock Mountain.
Skijoring is best fit for intermediate to advanced cross-country skiers who have dogs weighing at least 30 lbs.
“It gives a whole new dimension to playing with your dog in the winter,” Quigley says.
Private lessons are offered at Gunstock Mountain. If racing is your thing, check out the New England Sled Dog Club skijoring race schedule.
Imagine that instead of walking on wintry streets and sloshing in fallen snow, you’re zipping through the tops of ancient hemlocks. At Bretton Woods, you can do just that on a zipline canopy tour, descending more than 1,000 feet of elevation.
You wouldn’t think that hanging in treetops midwinter would be enjoyable, what with the freezing air and wind. But for canopy tour guide Bobby Wisnouckas, who’s been a guide at Bretton Woods since 2009, it’s the best time. He loves zipping through snow-covered trees. “When you’re zipping up through that, you have this nice coating on everything.” He says it’s unique because you zip over ski trails and skiers’ heads, whereas in the summer, you see wildlife.
You can also find winter ziplining at Loon Mountain and Alpine Adventures.
It’s everyone’s favorite slow-burn Olympic sport. Nicknamed “chess on ice,” curling involves two teams, each comprising four members: the lead, the second, the third and the skip. Each position helps guide a 40 lb. polished granite stone down a 146 ft. curling sheet into a three-ringed target marked in the ice known as the “house.”
The closer the stone is to the center of the house, the more points a team is awarded. According to Leo Lambert, the president of the Merrimack Valley Curling Club, a successful curling delivery is contingent upon understanding the curling sheet’s surface.
“It’s about the ability to read the ice,” he says. This is where the sweepers come in. After the stone is initially launched, two team members move quickly in front of the stone’s path to brush away any ice or debris that would derail the rock from its intended path.
The game draws a diverse membership from middle schoolers to retirees. “We have curling members in their 80s,” Lambert says, “It’s a game you can play your whole life.”
While the Merrimack Valley Curling Club’s league is currently full, the Mount Washington Valley Curling Club will be hosting a “Learn to Curl” event on January 31 at the Ham Arena in Conway. The event is open to the public.