Lots of places are cold and snowy, but few have the reputation for extremes that Alaska does—which makes it the perfect place to try out an extreme sport. Forget summer’s comforts—the short, chilly days of winter are where much of Alaska’s adventure awaits. If you’re up north for the winter season, why not try your hand at one of these adrenaline-pumping sports?
Like downhill skiing or snowboarding? Snowkiting is a lot like both of those sports, but doesn’t require the hill or the lift. Just like kiteboarding on water, snowkiters use a kite to power them across snow or ice. As long as there’s a significant amount of wind, you can pick up the speed for a fun ride. It takes a bit more work to balance than regular snowboarding because you can’t use your arms—you’ll be using them to control your kite.
Climbing a frozen waterfall might seem absurd, but if you add in crampons and ice tools, it becomes a beautiful dance with the ice and a full-body workout. Crampons are metal spikes you strap onto your feet and kick into the ice to gain purchase. You use a pair of curved ice axes to thwack into the ice and pull yourself upward (if you watch Game of Thrones, you’ll have seen an approximation of this in the middle of season 3 when the wildlings and Jon Snow climb the Wall). It can be a slow, cold, wet process, but the thrill of topping out above a graceful ice floe keeps many climbers coming back.
If the idea of cavorting with a pack of fuzzy malamutes sounds more appealing to you, check out dog mushing. Even though it’s a longstanding tradition [link to history of dog mushing post] used for transportation and cargo since before Europeans arrived in Alaska, the gear has made leaps and bounds, and now the sleds are lighter and easier to maneuver. But you don’t have to enter the Iditarod to get a taste of it—you can try it out with a variety of dog mushing tour companies.
You know it’s extreme if it involves a helicopter, right? Some of the most beautiful skiing scenery and most fun lines to ski are nowhere near a ski lift. Unless you plan on packing all your own supplies and skinning up the mountain yourself, the best way to access it is via helicopter. You’ve seen the footage in IMAX films or clips on Teton Gravity Research—shots of peaks so wild there’s no way to get there other than to fly. Alaska’s peaks are next-level, huge and remote. Heli-skiing is a way to pack a massive punch of adventure into your ski season.
Feeling the need for speed? Snowmobiling might be the sport for you. Even if you’re not hucking jumps like athletes in the X Games, speeding through the snow as stunning scenery whizzes by can be a real thrill. Snowmobiles are also a way to get to landscapes in the backcountry that would take hours or days by snowshoe or ski.
Whether it’s wind-, machine- or man-powered adventure you’re craving, Alaska has it. When the land is covered with ice and snow, the tenacious sports people come out. The state’s winter sports are extreme—and extremely fun.
Looking for after-work activities for the warmer months? Check out other adventures to be had in The Great Land.