Powder-Free Playtime: 10 Epic Winter Activities for Non-Skiers

Post originally Published December 29, 2023 || Last Updated December 30, 2023

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Powder-Free Playtime: 10 Epic Winter Activities for Non-Skiers - Sledding and Tubing Bring the Thrills

Powder-Free Playtime: 10 Epic Winter Activities for Non-Skiers

For those who don’t ski or snowboard, sledding and tubing bring winter thrills without the steep learning curve. Flying down a snowy hill on a plastic saucer or inner tube delivers speedy fun for all ages. From busy tubing parks to neighborhood hills, options abound to get your adrenaline pumping.

Sledding requires little more than a slope and a sled. Traditional wood and metal sleds evoke nostalgia, but plastic toboggans offer smoother speed. Inflatable tube sleds add bounce to the ride. Seek out hills free of obstacles like trees or rocks. For extra velocity, look for runs over 100 feet tall. Local parks and golf courses often open hills to the public when covered in snow.
Tubing ramps up the sledding experience with groomed lanes, tube lifts, and higher speeds. Tubing parks operate in mountain resort areas across the country. Attendants help with tube transportation so riders simply enjoy the descent. Multi-lane courses allow friends and family to race together. Night tubing under lights provides a unique winter experience.
Vermont’s Cochran’s Ski Area offers an excellent tubing hill with a 700 foot run, 8 lanes, and a magic carpet lift. Riders report reaching speeds over 30 mph. The park provides tubes or sleds can be rented. Nearby food and drink make it an ideal evening activity after a day on the slopes.

Utah’s Gorgoza Park operates over 20 tubing lanes with protected sides walls. A covered magic carpet ensures transport up the hill even during snowfall. Yurts provide warm spaces for breaks and companies can reserve private lanes for team building fun.

For a big city tubing escape, head to New York’s Polar Bear Tubing Park. Just 25 miles from Manhattan, the hill has 18 lanes serviced by two conveyor lifts. A lodge offers warm drinks along with shareable snacks like nachos and hot pretzels. Night tubing options make it easy to mix in an adventurous winter activity during a city getaway.

What else is in this post?

  1. Powder-Free Playtime: 10 Epic Winter Activities for Non-Skiers - Sledding and Tubing Bring the Thrills
  2. Powder-Free Playtime: 10 Epic Winter Activities for Non-Skiers - Ice Skating Offers Graceful Fun
  3. Powder-Free Playtime: 10 Epic Winter Activities for Non-Skiers - Snowshoeing Explores Winter Wilderness
  4. Powder-Free Playtime: 10 Epic Winter Activities for Non-Skiers - Relax in Natural Hot Springs
  5. Powder-Free Playtime: 10 Epic Winter Activities for Non-Skiers - Ride a Dog Sled with Husky Power
  6. Powder-Free Playtime: 10 Epic Winter Activities for Non-Skiers - Winter Hiking Reveals Snowy Scenes
  7. Powder-Free Playtime: 10 Epic Winter Activities for Non-Skiers - Indoor Rock Climbing Tests Your Mettle
  8. Powder-Free Playtime: 10 Epic Winter Activities for Non-Skiers - Experience Horseback Riding Among Snowy Pines

Powder-Free Playtime: 10 Epic Winter Activities for Non-Skiers - Ice Skating Offers Graceful Fun

Gliding across an ice rink brings grace and exhilaration whether you’re a seasoned skater or wobbling beginner. Indoor and outdoor options abound to experience this iconic winter pastime. The soothing swoosh of blades on ice along with upbeat music creates a festive atmosphere. Dress warmly and grab some skates for an active way to revel in the season.

New York’s Rockefeller Center Rink needs little introduction after decades of movie cameos. The sunken rink sits amid the towering skyscrapers and the lit up tree serves as a perfect holiday backdrop. Arrive early to avoid long lines during peak times. Whizzing around with strangers makes for a quintessential New York experience. Grab a photo in front of the golden Prometheus statue for proof of your skating adventure.

Escape the city rinks in Vermont’s quaint mountain towns. The Jackson Gore Outdoor Center at Okemo Mountain converts their Ice House to a rink in winter. Skate under the stars surrounded by snowy evergreens and warming bonfires. Indoor options like Ludlow’s Black River Arena offer day and evening sessions. Group lessons provide tips if your stops and starts need some polish.

California dreaming? Head to The Rink in San Francisco. The pop-up experience constructs a circular rink right on the waterfront plaza. Take in sparkling city views as you make your way around the ice. Night skating feels magical with the lit up Bay Bridge in sight. When your feet get cold, duck into the nearby warming hut for Irish coffee or hot toddies.

Boston Commons becomes a wintery scene once Frog Pond opens for the season. Skating under the trees with the State House in the background feels quintessentially New England. Treat yourself to hot chocolate or candy from crispy crème afterwards. Due to popularity, Frog Pond now requires timed-reservations so book your slot early.

Looking for Olympic inspiration? Visit the epic outdoor rinks in Lake Placid, NY where the 1980 games took place. The Olympic Center Rink lets you glide across the same surface as medal winners. The new Lake Placid Toboggan Chute nearby offers another Olympic experience as you pick up speed on an icy run.

Powder-Free Playtime: 10 Epic Winter Activities for Non-Skiers - Snowshoeing Explores Winter Wilderness

Snowshoeing opens up hiking opportunities when trails are buried under winter snowfall. Strapping on a pair of snowshoes allows you to explore favorite routes or discover new vistas only accessible during the colder months. The oversized skis evenly distribute weight, allowing you to walk atop deep powder that would swallow normal boots whole. It’s an ideal way to take in the serenity of a snowy landscape.

Crisp air carries the clean scent of pines and smoke from distant chimneys. Your own measured steps and the whisper of shifting snow provide the soundtrack. A blanket of white transforms familiar forests and meadows into new terrain. Without distracting leaves, open views emerge and new discoveries await around each bend. It’s you and the wilderness without another soul in sight for miles.
Snowshoeing offers a chance to witness the quiet beauty wrought by winter. Flocking birds and scurrying squirrels leave ornamental tracks documenting their passage. Evergreen boughs bend under the weight of accumulated snow. Delicate ice crystals transform bushes and branches into glistening works of art. The interplay of light through barren trees creates ever-changing patterns.

At Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, snowshoeing opens up over 40 miles of trails once heavy snowfall arrives. The park provides rentals and guided tours highlighting winter ecology and adventure. Groups have noted the powerful silence found only in snowy landscapes. Even busy routes feel serene blanketed under a hushed white expanse.
Utah’s Bryce Canyon sees 90% less visitors in winter but those snowshoers that show up meet amphitheater rock formations dusted in snow. Icicles hang from crimson rock walls while leftover snow accumulates in nooks and crannies. The orange spires popping up from the white landscape create an iconic western scene only accessible by snowshoe.

Powder-Free Playtime: 10 Epic Winter Activities for Non-Skiers - Relax in Natural Hot Springs

If tense muscles and chilly extremities have you longing for warmth and relaxation, seek out a natural hot springs. Heated geothermal waters offer the ideal remedy when cabin fever sets in. As an added winter perk, many hot spring venues remain open and less crowded during the colder months.

Slipping into a steamy pool as snowflakes drift down feels like a little slice of heaven. The over 100-degree waters loosen up tight shoulders and knees achy from shoveling walkways. Blood circulation accelerates to warm frigid fingers and toes. The mineral-rich waters rejuvenate while steaming rivulets unwind mental knots.

Colorado's Glenwood Hot Springs Pool keeps its enormous pool open year-round by heating with the nearby Yampah natural vapor cave. At over 900 feet long, even during peak times you can float undisturbed and gaze up at the snow-dusted Rockies. The therapy pool provides even warmer waters for targeted relief.
Idaho's Kirkham Hot Springs dazzles with sparkling geothermal pools nestled amid snowy evergreens. After trekking a mile through pristine wilderness, reward those snowshoe-clad feet in the 104-106 degree pools. Rotating between the upper and lower pools creates a soothing hot-cold cycle.
California's Esalen Hot Springs perches dramatically on a cliff over the Pacific Ocean. Arrange a stay at the retreat center to access the clothing-optional hillside tubs and enjoy sweeping coastal views. Nighttime soaks under the starry Big Sur skies provide perspective and relaxation during stressful times.

Seeking total winter immersion? Head to Oregon’s Breitenbush Hot Springs deep in the Willamette National Forest. A variety of springs and tubs tucked into the forest remain open for day use or overnight stays. The tranquil setting encourages visitors to slow down and be present. Yoga classes harmonize movement with the soothing environment. Unwind even further with a massage enriched by the peaceful forest.
Rustic appeal awaits at Idaho’s Goldbug Hot Springs outside the revitalizing town of Salmon. A 2.5 mile hike or snowshoe leads through unforgettable geology to the pools. visitors should respectfully share the three terraced pools hidden in the hillside. The stunning views and remote location ensure a meaningful and intimate soaking experience.

Powder-Free Playtime: 10 Epic Winter Activities for Non-Skiers - Ride a Dog Sled with Husky Power

Riding behind a team of bounding huskies lends a truly novel winter perspective. While downhill sports rule snowy months, mushing offers an active alternative that connects you with nature. Hearing husky paws scritch across the snowy terrain accompanied by excited yips and howls makes for a multi-sensory adventure.

Dog sledding originated in the Arctic as a mode of transportation and endures today as a beloved pastime. Breeds like the Alaskan and Siberian Husky live for pulling a sled. Their double coat and snowshoe paws suit them perfectly for the task. Spending time with these pack animals provides insight into the synergy between human and dog. The mutual trust and communication creates a one of a kind bond.
Jessica Rae, a Minnesota musher, explains that beyond the scenery, it's the dogs themselves that make the experience so meaningful. “To see the pure joy in their faces when they are doing what they love is so rewarding. They jump and leap with excitement to be out on the trail pulling you along." She adds that it's amazing to witness the intelligence and teamwork. "Huskies each have their own personality but out on the run they come together as a cohesive pack. It’s beautiful to be a part of.”

The sport isn’t limited to Arctic regions either. Outfitters across the northern U.S. offer sled dog adventures that immerse you in the lifestyle. Both Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks groom trails for dog sledding through snowy forests. Jess offers an insider tip for new mushers, “Make sure to dress ultra-warm and bring hand and foot warmers. You’ll be amazed at how cold air movement makes the temperature feel exponentially colder.”

Dog sledding provides both peaceful interludes gliding through the wilderness as well as adrenaline rushes careening around corners. The key is trusting the dogs’ directional instincts while providing supportive voice commands. You’ll quickly pick up phrases like “gee” for right turns and “haw” for lefts.

Powder-Free Playtime: 10 Epic Winter Activities for Non-Skiers - Winter Hiking Reveals Snowy Scenes

When the landscape transforms into a world of white, winter hiking reveals an enchanting new persona. Trails typically bustling with hikers grow quiet and trails less-traveled become newly accessible. The colors, sights, and sounds unique to the snow-covered months encourage us to bundle up and explore.

Crunchy, powdery snow underfoot provides a soundtrack distinct from summer hikes. Ice-encrusted branches tinkle and crackle overhead. Your steady breaths condense into puffy clouds with each exhalation. The clarity carried in cold air makes scents snap into focus – smoke from a faraway cabin, minty evergreens, damp bark. Each inhale energizes your senses.
Vistas open up as leaves drop from deciduous trees, exposing new angles on familiar panoramas. With colorful wildflowers absent, your eye catches smaller winter details. Delicate snowflake accumulations, animal tracks stitching across the path, shimmering webs adorning icy meadows.
Philip, an avid winter hiker based in Vermont, notes that in addition to unique views, snow hiking guarantees more solitude on the trails. “You generally encounter only the most committed outdoor enthusiasts during the winter months. The peaceful feeling of having a trail all to yourself makes bundling up worthwhile.”

The serenity of snowscapes resonates most poignantly in national parks. During winter, iconic parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone hush from their summertime clamor. Lori, a Minnesota native, describes her first winter visit to Yosemite as surreal: “I’ve backpacked Yosemite in the summer several times but I was stunned by how profoundly different the winter personality of the park felt. Seeing Half Dome dusted in snow looking across a silent white meadow felt like walking into a painting.”

Beyond scenery, many winter hikers praise the unique exertion required as excellent training. Philip explains, "Hiking on packed snow requires attention to footing and steady effort. I’ve found winter hiking leaves me feeling stronger once summer trails open up.” Snowshoeing or wearing traction devices allows you to traverse deeper powder or icy sections.
As with any winter sport, preparation and caution help ensure an enjoyable outing. Lookout for trail markers and cairns that can disappear under deep snowbanks. Check local avalanche warnings and trail conditions. Dress in warm, moisture-wicking layers and wear waterproof boots. Bring microspikes, snowshoes, trekking poles, and navigational aids.

Powder-Free Playtime: 10 Epic Winter Activities for Non-Skiers - Indoor Rock Climbing Tests Your Mettle

When outdoor adventures get put on hold during winter, indoor rock climbing brings the thrill inside. Climbing challenges both physical strength and mental determination, providing a workout that engages the whole person. Bodies need to stretch and twist in new ways while minds overcome the instinctive fear of heights. Top roping, bouldering, and lead climbing options at gyms allow beginners to learn while advanced climbers hone skills. The supportive community, full-body workout, and rush of standing atop a summit combine to make indoor climbing an exhilarating activity for any fitness enthusiast or adrenaline junkie.

Shane has managed an indoor climbing gym in Colorado for five years and explains the allure. “Experienced climbers love the physical intensity and problem solving needed to master a challenging route. But we also see lots of beginners surprised to find that climbing is a very attainable sport to pick up. Taking those first steps up the wall builds confidence to try things outside your comfort zone.” He explains the combination of physical exertion and mental focus creates a uniquely immersive experience. “You need your mind and body fully engaged in the present moment to climb successfully. All the stresses of work and life fade away up on the wall.”

Alissa, a mom of three based in Vermont, turned to indoor climbing for both a new challenge and social outlet. “My kids are finally old enough that I could pick up a new hobby that gets me moving. Climbing forces me to stretch literally and figuratively. Each ascent requires leaning into fear and trusting my ability.” She continues, “I’ve met incredible people of all ages at my local gym. We push each other to conquer new routes and celebrate the little wins along the way.”

Fitness experts praise rock climbing as a full-body workout. Gripping handholds strengthens arms and shoulders. Core muscles engage to maintain balance. Legs drive upward progress. Climbers cite increased endurance, flexibility, and confidence over time. Calluses build to protect hands. Chalk between climbs keeps hands dry. Crash pads below provide a soft landing for slips off boulders. Spotters offer support and encouragement. Varying route angles test different capacities. Indoor routes rotate frequently to keep climbers challenged. Beginners can practice skills while elite climbers train for outdoor ascents. Year-round access provides a reliable activity for all seasons.

Powder-Free Playtime: 10 Epic Winter Activities for Non-Skiers - Experience Horseback Riding Among Snowy Pines

When snow blankets the landscape, horseback riding takes on a magical allure. Frosty pines tower overhead while your mount’s breaths create smoky plumes in the crisp air. Crunchy powder kicks up with each clomping hoofbeat. The muffled quiet of an all-white world encourages shared solace between rider and horse. Meandering along trails reveals this intimate bond formed through mutual trust.

Vermont's Ranch has specialized in winter trail rides for over two decades. Herd manager Hannah relays that their gentle horses adapt wonderfully to the snowy months. “Our horses grow dense, fuzzy coats and are remarkably surefooted in snow and on icy patches.” She explains that their calm temperaments put novice riders immediately at ease. “People are often apprehensive that the cold weather will make horses flighty and tense. But our guys seem to find a tranquility in the peaceful winter landscapes.”

Visitors can opt for private rides or small groups to explore the ranch's hundreds of acres. Hannah finds that summertime guests are delighted to return and find a whole new perspective on horseback in the winter. “Riders are always shocked that our horses happily trek through deep snow without hesitation. They seem to enjoy forging fresh paths after a new snowfall.” She adds that settling into a peaceful wintery wilderness from the saddle provides a profoundly grounding experience for both humans and horses.

Vermont winters encourage slowing down to appreciate subtle beauties before they vanish come spring. Horses inherently embody a gentle presence and Hannah believes snowy months augment their soothing energy. “Without the busy hum of summer, people really focus on connecting with their horse. Riders have described feeling an enhanced oneness with the horse and the landscape.”

Beyond scenic rides, the ranch offers multi-day horsemanship clinics during the winter. Participants groom, feed, and bond with their selected horse while mastering riding skills. Hannah says spending full days together allows human and horse to truly sync up. “That deepened connection and communication is so powerful. Riders gain a lasting confidence in themselves and their relationship with the horses.”

The team carefully tests out trail conditions to ensure safe footing. Slow and steady is the name of the game. Hannah reminds that horseback riding requires tuning out distractions and tuning into your surroundings and your horse’s subtle reactions. “Winter trail riding teaches people to be fully present. Without other hikers or bikers passing by, riders immerse themselves in the experience.”

Riders bundle up in layers, cover extremities, and use saddle pads beneath them for warmth. But Hannah promises the exertion from a good horseback workout will keep you cozy. “Your cheeks get rosy and you generate plenty of body heat while riding. People are surprised that as long as you dress right, you stay nice and toasty.”

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