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What does a cyclist do when the snow hits and the roads are impassable? Grab a Skibob, of course. Also referred to as Ski Biking, these unusual contraptions were first conceptualized in Europe -- albeit not fully developed nor put into significant use -- well over 100 years ago as a means for practical winter transportation. Today, the modern adaptation of the bike built on skis is enjoying a bit of a contemporary renaissance. Riders are drawn to the exhilarating new take on the mountain experience: a speedy, high performance combination of skiing and mountain biking that is easier on the knees but can be taken to speeds of up to 125 mph (not to be attempted by novice riders, of course). Want to see what these things can do? Each year the Durango Mountain Resort (www.durangomountainresort.com) hosts an international ski bike festival in Colorado's Rocky Mountains.
When a sport is entered into the Winter X Games but pulled due to safety concerns, you know it has to be good. Competitive shovel racing has its roots in New Mexico, where ski resort workers back in the 1970s used shovels to move quickly between locations. Today riders are known to reach up to 70 miles per hour racing down snow-covered hills atop well-waxed shovels (leaning back, positioned with face toward the handle). Although many racers grew accustomed to modifying and personalizing their shovels for competitions such as the annual World Championships happens at Angel Fire Resort, New Mexico each winter, this practice is now banned due to safety concerns. Sticking with the typical snow shovel will have to suffice. But with the good time these racers seem to be having, the change doesn't seem to be slowing anyone down.
Much like its canine counterpart, reindeer sledding has historic roots in the transportation needs of frozen locales. In northern Lapland, this is the oldest form of transportation and an ancient part of the native Sami culture. Less demanding than mushing, reindeer sledding can be a fun "soft" adventure suitable for sports enthusiasts of all ages, particularly because it typically involves driving in pairs (two people for every reindeer). A great option for families and less adrenaline oriented winter explorers.
POLAR BEAR SWIMMING:
It's said there's no better way to awaken your senses than an icy dip. For some, the wacky tradition of submerging onself in freezing cold water is part of a normal wintertime practice (we're looking at you U.K., Finland, Belgium, Russia and China!). But the trend is spreading. Polar Bear clubs have become all the rage in countries worldwide as adventure seekers and alternative health afficianados take to the sea. In Busan, Korea, a Polar Bear swim competition in the cold water of the Korea Straight each January has become part of a chilly new tradition for welcoming in good health in the New Year.
Cut a snowboard in half, add handlebars and off you go! Snow scooting is essentially as simple as that. Similar to ski bikes but with a more board-like base, these new winter toys came on the scene in the 90's and have since taken off, particularly in France, as a fun alternative for winter sports fanatics. The U.S. market has yet to adopt a passion for the ride, but as with most trends, it's just a matter of time.
One again a summer sport has been converted into extreme winter fun with the potential for injury running sky high. What's needed? A paddle, wax, a kayak and helmet are all that's required other than some serious strength and the tenacity to haul all your gear up a mountain. Of course, you'll also need to bring alone a mighty good bit of courage and some seriously honed paddling skills before plummeting this updated take on the classic sled back down. Speed is the name of the game and the rock laden trails of the backcountry can be very unforgiving (typically this is the only place the sport is allowed!). So not a sport for the amateur. To see the experts perform, visit Monarch Mountain in Chaffee County, Colorado where closed-course competitions are held annually.
Sailors have always been known as a hearty breed. But now we can also think of them as diehard creatives committed to their sport. Frozen lake? No problem. When you need to sail, you just need to sail. And thus, a new sport is born. Something akin to a sailboat on a large pair of ice skates, ice yachters glide across large frozen landscapes at record speeds. The sport dates back centuries in Europe, but today's modern clubs have come into great popularity in a variety of winter-heavy locations in North America as well. These days there's serious competition arising among annual regattas from Canada and the United States to Poland, Russia and beyond.
So often there seems to be a connection between water sports and snow sports. Enjoy one? You will likely take a shine to its winter sister-sport in the off-season. This point is proven once again with snowkiting. Similar to kitesurfing, the basic requirement for this airborne sport is a power kite (complete with harness, etc.). From there, as long as you have cold weather gear and an appetite for excitement, the mountain can be yours (the choice between a board or skis -- or none at all! -- will depend on the rider's preference). The joy and adrenaline is found in the air, as snowkiters float upward then glide back down the slopes, picking up great speeds and heights along the way. Lessons are beginning to pop up at ski resorts worldwide. But just like on the water, there is much to learn. Be sure you learn the basics before taking to the air.
When winter arrives adventure junkies seek a new challenge and the thrill of danger, but on ice. Many summertime mountaineers and rock climbers have translated their love of the climb and experience in high altitude ice-heavy environments into hours and days upon the treacherous ice walls created by frozen waterfalls or glaciers. Using specialized tools and gear, ice climbers navigate icy, slippery surfaces using the same skills they've honed on rock faces before. Although the true scaling of walls should be left only to the experts, many would-be ice-climbers are stepping out onto icy formations outfitted with crampons, ice axes, ropes and skilled guides. Traveling with the right experienced crew and leader, even a novice can get a taste for this next step in the evolution of mountain sports.
What happens when downhill skiing becomes passe, the backcountry is old news and even heli-skiing no longer provides enough of a rush? Speed riding. A new winter sensation in mountain oases like the Alps, ski and speed addicts have come up with a unique way to get their fix: a blend of paragliding and skiing that allows you to "fly" the slopes at incredible speeds -- up to 100 mph! -- with exceptional maneuverability. This relatively new sport is gaining a lot of attention as it's a surefire way to excite both participants and spectators on the slopes. But it's certainly not for the faint of heart nor the untrained.