It doesn’t get any colder than this. Trek to the Pole—or fly there, or waft there in a hot air balloon. Arctic Kingdom Polar Expeditions offers customized North Pole visits, while Nunavut-based NorthWinds Polar Expeditions offers both guided trips and the specialized training to let you take your own shot at it.
When Canadians talk about cold-water surfing, we don’t mean NorCal cold. Tofino, on the west coast of British Columbia's Vancouver Island, is Canada’s designated surf town. It’s home to at least a dozen surf schools and surf shops, and most of them operate year-round, winter weather be damned.
A long ways further north, there’s a small but growing surf scene on Haida Gwaii, the cluster of rainforest islands just west of the B.C.-Alaska border. The waves are best here from October to May, when the snow flies and the aurora borealis lights up the long nights. North Beach Surf Shop has rentals and lessons.
Welcome to the True North. Canada’s Quttinirpaaq National Park is on Ellesmere Island, way beyond the Arctic Circle, and more than 400 miles north of the country’s most northerly community, Grise Fiord. From here, you’re within a few hundred miles of the North Pole. The only way in is to charter a Twin Otter from the park’s gateway community of Resolute Bay—a cool 600 miles away.
Ski touring in Quttinirpaaq requires total self-sufficiency, and if you’re looking for powder, forget about it. Says Parks Canada: “Those who seek an alpine powder snow ski experience will not find it in Quttinirpaaq National Park. Windslab is common, snow cover is variable, and deep powder is very rare. However, if you think of ski mountaineering as an alpine adventure involving skiing, exploration, and climbing, Quttinirpaaq National Park offers unlimited possibilities. The rock is rough granite, the ice is steep and solid, and many peaks have never been climbed.”
Intrigued? Start saving your pennies: Parks Canada estimates that a one-way, four-hour flight into the park will run you $15,000.
The numbers are staggering: Last year, Alaska’s Chugach Range had received more than 700 inches of powder by late February. Yep, we’re talking upwards of 60 feet, with months of winter to go. Add in the state’s thin population, plus the presence of just one resort in the area—Alyeska, 25 miles outside Anchorage—and the result is an absolutely silly quantity of untouched mountain snow to play in.
For flexibility, you can’t beat Chugach Powder Guides. The outfit partners with Alyeska to allow back-up resort access or cat-skiing days when the weather tanks and the helicopter can’t fly. The resort partnership also allows for a la carte heli-skiing: rather than being locked into a longer package, you can purchase a single day. A full day of heli-skiing goes for $1,175; multi-day packages start at $3,800, including resort lodging, and climb toward five figures from there.
This one’s for the sufferfest crowd. Regular ol’ ultramarathon not challenging enough for you? Try running one at 20, 30, or 50 below.
One of the toughest winter races out there is the Yukon Arctic Ultra, which begins in Whitehorse, capital of the Yukon, each year. It’s choose your own adventure: You can run, snow-bike, or cross-country ski, and you can go for a regular marathon distance, 100 miles, 300 miles, or 430 miles, all the way to Dawson City. The route follows the Yukon Quest sled dog trail a day after the dogs come through, so mind where you step. This year’s race begins on February 3, 2013.
Another extreme Yukon option is the 6633 Ultra, named for the latitudinal coordinates of the Arctic Circle. The race runs along the Dempster Highway and the Tuktoyaktuk ice road from just south of the Circle to the shore of the Arctic Ocean. Runners can go for either 120 or 350 miles. This year the 6633 goes on March 22, 2013.
Slightly saner is the Tuscobia Winter Ultra, which took place in northern Wisconsin from December 28-30, 2012. Racers can run, bike, or ski through 35, 75, or 150 miles of a Great Lakes winter. Totally reasonable, right?