Turbo-Charge Your Winter
Skiing in the Chugach Mountains will change the way you look at skiing. The maritime snow sticks to 90-degree faces and is far more consistent than continental snow—which translates to you looking and feeling like a pro all the way to the bottom. Go with Points North Heli, and you’ll have a mountain range the size of Delaware at your disposal.
The Engadin Ski Marathon, held every March in St. Moritz, Switzerland attracts 13,000 skate- and cross-country skiers who come for the competition, the scenery and the parties. The start of the race is notoriously chaotic—a melee of broken poles and swinging arms—but if you survive the first two miles, it’s mostly downhill from there. Stay at the Kulm Hotel St. Moritz for a taste of fine Swiss hospitality.
The best time to surf the Land of the Midnight Sun is January. “Everything is bigger in winter,” says Ryan Murdock of Bone Yard Surf Company (907-952-1072) in Kodiak. “We’ll get 60 mile-per-hour winds, and the next day have 20-foot swells rolling in.” The weather patterns are similar to Hawaii’s North Shore, but the number of surfers in the lineup isn’t even close. Murdock recommends a six-millimeter wet suit.
The fastest bobsled track in the world, at Canada’s Whistler Sliding Center, has only killed one person and is open to the public. The track is nearly a mile long, drops 1,000 feet, and sliders reach 70 miles per hour. You’ll feel momentarily weightless as you bank g’s on a 270-degree turn. Three amateurs share a bobsled with a professional. If you want to try the skeleton, you’re on your own—solo and headfirst.
The dogs will actually be resting at night, but you can sit in the snow with a mug of akvavit and enjoy the show of neon curtains. Several guide services based out of the town of Kiruna, home to an Aurora research center, offer trip accommodations varying from huts and hot meals to tents dug in the snow. Nearly all outfitters assign you a team of Siberian huskies to semi-control while hurtling through the Lapland wilderness.
The nomadic Sami people of northern Norway move their herds of semi-domestic reindeer to the Arctic coast every March. You can help with the migration through the outfitter Turgleder. For eight days you’ll work as a reindeer cowboy, taking part in a centuries-old pattern of transhumance. Far more than just a wilderness journey, the trip is a glimpse into a fading culture.
The most popular route takes nine days and covers 68 epic miles of rock, ice, and snow. Catch a flight from Atlin, B.C. to the Llewellyn Glacier. Head south, navigating by landmarks and GPS, camping pretty much anywhere you please, and eventually descending through temperate rainforest into downtown Juneau. Treat yourself to a pint or two at the Alaskan Hotel and Bar, the oldest watering hole in town.
You should definitely wear a helmet. And bring a shovel, an avalanche beacon, and a pair of snowshoes. Use a high-performance sled, one that’s light enough to haul to the summit and robust enough to handle steeps and drops. You’ll want a method of self-arrest in the event you part with your ride. Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert are good options because of their low grades. Throw in an extra granola bar. This could be a workout.
You’re not a bad ass. But the guides at Whistler-based Extremely Canadian can help. Their Backcountry Adventures program, led by president of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides Keith Reid, is your ticket to the goods. “Whether it’s someone stepping into walk mode for the first time or the seasoned veteran, we have the unique ability to give them exactly what they want,” says guide Peter Smart, one of EC’s three founders. “We’ve been doing this for 20 years.”
Two weeks of dragging a pulk through the fjords and ice fields of Greenland’s east coast should quench your thirst for adventure. Trip aggregator Responsible Vacations hires environmentally conscious guides to lead a north-to-south transect of Liverpool Land. The trip finishes at a cozy guesthouse nestled in the largest fjord in the world. A helicopter extraction the next day affords views of the coast sea ice and the distant ice cap.