Red lighthouse and floating ice in The Sea of Okhotsk
Observe incredible scenery aboard an icebreaker cruise across the frozen expanse of the Sea of Okhotsk.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

6 Awesome Winter Vacations for Adventurous Spirits

These Activities Will Warm Your Blood in Even the Chilliest Settings!

Frank Loesser’s 1944 standard “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” earned its place in history by combining oh-so-slightly suggestive lyrics with an utter antipathy for winter. In fact, the song treats a dip in the mercury as though it’s sure to bring on pneumonia and death.

And to judge by the popularity of places such as Palm Springs and Fort Lauderdale from December on, it seems as though many share its dislike of winter’s chill.

But not everyone shies away from the swirl of snow or the frigid beauty of ice. Indeed, true adventurers know that the Old Man Winter saves his best treasures for those willing to bundle up and brave the elements. Read on to learn about six worldwide adventurous winter vacations for those unafraid of the cold.

Japan: Take an Icebreaker Cruise Across the Sea of Okhotsk

Hokkaido is something of a red-headed stepchild among Japan’s four main islands, a rugged landmass that was only settled in the past 100 years and boasts astonishing natural beauty. Even during the frigid period from January through March, tourists can suss out unique winter adventures.

And one of the most unique involves taking a day cruise from Abashiri or Monbetsu on an icebreaker cruise across the Sea of Okhotsk.

Near the end of January, freshwater runoff from the nearby Amur River causes meter-thick slabs of pack ice begin to form upon the Sea of Okhotsk, and adventurous tourists from across Asia flock to any of the small, well-appointed icebreakers that plow through the floes.

Watch seabirds swoop and dive, glimpse seals surfacing and hear the ice snap and splinter as the ship forces its way forward.

An orange tent and bikes lies on the surface of frozen lake at night.Lake Baikal is the perfect place to safely bike or any number of activities on the ice.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Russia: Bike Siberia’s Lake Baikal

The world’s deepest lake. In Siberia. During the nadir of winter. Such elements hardly seem ideal for long-distance bicycling, but there’s a reason why an annual extreme race dubbed Ice Storm has chosen Lake Baikal for its yearly setting.

Solidly frozen by subzero temperatures and scoured by high winds, the lake’s surface is so solid and free of snow that locals drive cars on it. (There are even marked-out lanes and stop signs.)

Winter adventurers won’t need internal-combustion vehicles to traverse Baikal’s beautiful barren winterscape. Bicycles with specially studded tires will serve just fine. Outfitters such as Baikal Adventure or the management at Baikaler Hostel in Irkutsk can help arrange your tour.

Just don’t be surprised if you hear cracking sounds while on the ice. Though the ice is solid, fluctuations in temperature can cause cracks to suddenly appear.

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A cheerful snow kiter grins for the camera.Partake in snow kiting for a wild ride across the snow.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Norway: Harness the Wind with Snow Kiting

In south Florida, there’s a peculiar sport called kiteboarding, a blend of surfing and parasailing that has participants zipping over the waves at high speeds. Well, Norway has its own version — and it takes place on land.

Dubbed snow kiting or ski kiting, it sees the adventurous strapped into snowboards, connected to kites, and let loose to zoom over (or sometimes up) slopes at speeds nearing 70 miles per hour.

If you want to harness the power of the wind so you can leap 80 feet above the earth, plan on making your trip any time from November through March. Oslo, Geilo or Varanger are all popular snow kiting spots, but most agree that you’ll have the best experience at Hardangervidda National Park, a 3,000-square-mile space utterly devoid of obstacles.

There are also a number of nearby lodges.

A musk ox stands stoically in the winter snow.Hunt or simply admire incredible creatures in Greenland.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Greenland: Hunt at the Top of the World

When it comes to Nordic tourism, Iceland is (pardon me) hot right now, but hardly anyone talks about its chillier cousin Greenland. That’s not surprising given its rugged geography and tiny population. However, its geographical isolation offers unique opportunities for outdoorsmen, particularly big-game hunters.

In western Greenland’s Kangerlussuaq area, you can find the musk ox, a giant horned mammal that’s the largest animal of its kind on the island. Numerous local and international outfitters can arrange outings, and if you’d rather wield a camera than a rifle, many also plan safaris. There are also opportunities to hunt smaller game such as Arctic hares and ptarmigan.

A joyful mountaineer holds onto an ice axe while smiling at the camera.Tackle frozen waterfalls for the experience of a lifetime.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Canada: Scale the Frozen Waterfalls of Jasper National Park

Situated in the midst of the Canadian Rockies, Jasper National Park boasts plenty of superlatives, including being the largest national park in its particular mountain chain and containing the only icefields accessible via road. It’s those icefields and the breathtaking Maligne Canyon where you’ll find this particular Alberta adventure.

When winter falls like a hammer on Alberta, all of Jasper National Park’s waterfalls freeze solid, making for ideal ice climbing. Although you can strap on your own crampons and tackle the falls by yourself, novices should definitely consider hiring a guide service such as Rockaboo Mountain Adventures to help them learn the proverbial ropes.

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A fly fisherman stands in a river with snow-covered mountains standing on the horizon.Winter surprisingly makes for a great time to go fly fishing. Photo Credit: Getty Images

USA: Fly Fish at Missouri Headwaters State Park

Fly fishing conjures up images of Robert Redford’s Oscar-winning film A River Runs Through It, all shining coils of line whipping through sultry summer air. But true aficionados of this leisurely sport know winter can be one of the best times to break out your flies. The crowds are down, the water is clear — and the fish are hungry.

Missouri Headwaters State Park offers a unique setting for fly fishermen willing to brave the elements. Situated where the Jefferson, Gallatin and Madison Rivers combine to become Big Muddy (i.e., the famous Mississippi River), the Park provides a surprisingly placid place to pull on your waders, land a few trout and enjoy the mountain-studded horizon.

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