The Non-Skiers Guide To Winter
The winter months are an exciting time for many with the coming days seeing in the next winter ski season. However, these wonderland winter months are not only for those who enjoy skiing . There are numerous ways to enjoy a winter snow holiday.
Relish some incredible frozen adventures without clipping into a pair of skis or snowboard. Swap skis for dog sledding in Japan, a snowboard for tubing in Pittsburgh or enjoy roaming around powder-dusted forests on snowshoes in Yosemite. Here’s a sneak preview:
The illuminated ice falls of Oirase Gorge, Hachinohe
Oirase Gorge are located just an hour and 20 minutes from the Hachinohe Region. This gorge is one of the most beautiful river valleys in Japan, with vibrant and fast flowing waters that freeze over during the winter months. With numerous waterfalls, including Choshi Otaki Waterfall, visitors to the Oirase Gorge can gaze at rare ice falls and witness the beauty of icicles and frozen streams, all of which have been carefully lit with LED lamps that don't melt the ice. During the winter months, Hoshino Resorts Oirase Keiryu Hotel, located alongside Oirase Gorge, runs night tours for visitors to view the spectacle of the frozen waterfalls. www.visithachinohe.com
Yuki Daruma (Snowman) Festival, Ishikawa
Each year during the month of February, Hakusan city located in Ishikawa Prefecture, puts approximately 3,000 snowmen on display. These snowmen are handmade by the villagers in all shapes and sizes. They line the streets of Shiramine and Kuwajima and, in the evening, the insides of the snowman are illuminated with candles creating a magical atmosphere. Brilliant for children and adults alike, this is a snow festival not to be missed. www.ishikawatravel.jp/en/
Nanto Fukumitsu Snow Illumination Festival, Three Star Road
Nanto is a city in Toyama Prefecture located in the three star road region and is in a mountainous area in the south-west corner of the prefecture just north of Gifu Prefecture. Each year the Nanto Fukumitsu Snow Illumination Festival takes place, an event where roughly 50 massive paper balloons are released to float up to the heavens with Kuwa Mountain serving as a backdrop. As they float into the air, they release red banners, creating a marvellous effect. Those visiting the festival can eat hot pot, enjoy a mochi making competition, write messages on the paper balloons, participate in a picture contest and enjoy a number of other fun activities. www.mitsuboshi-kaidou.com
View dustings of snow on Mount Aso
View the amazing sights of Mount Aso in the Aso-Kuju National Park. Covering an area of 726 square kilometers, Aso-Kuju National Park stretches across Oita and Kumamoto prefectures. The unique landforms and other geographical features of the park, sculpted by volcanic activity, make Aso-Kuju a must visit. Mount Aso Nakadake Crater is one of the most popular attractions on the mountain. Its central crater is filled with an acidic blue pool with rising steam, often known as the ‘Blue Lake’ as a result of its gorgeous colour and natural beauty. The crater here can be approached on foot, by car, or by ropeway. Visitors can also stop and explore the Aso Volcano Museum and Kusasenri, a spot famous for its double crater and rural landscape where cattle and horses graze. www.visit-kyushu.com/en/
Husky sledding - Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan
Dog-lovers can enjoy the thrill of being transported along scenic winter wonderland trails and absorb the breath-taking views of the Japanese mountains while being led by well-trained huskies. With trails more than 10km long, set sight on Japan’s lesser-known backcountry routes with tours ranging between 2-6hrs. Tour prices vary according to the provider. www.japan.travel.com
Ice climbing – Mammoth Lakes, California
On the outskirts of Mammoth Lakes, in California's Sierra Nevada, lies the Lee Vining Cascade, an internationally-renowned ice climbing destination. Whether visitors want to experience the thrill of climbing a frozen waterfall or enjoy an accessible training ground for high peaks with top quality instructors, there’s an ice program for it. There are plenty of routes to climb, allowing climbers of any level to be challenged. The area receives shade nearly all day with ice forming around early November. www.visitmammoth.com
Cross-country skiing – Yosemite Mariposa County, California
For those who believe that the perfect winter retreat is to head into a beautiful and isolated backcountry, and retire to a rustic ski hut at the end of the day, then this is the activity for them. While technically skiing, cross-country skiing is when skiers rely on their own locomotion to move across snow-covered terrain, rather than ski lifts or gravity - making it more of a means to get spectacular, back-country views than a sport. Glide through one of the main cross country ski trails in Yosemite to fully appreciate its majestic, wintery beauty. Yosemite offers some of the best cross-country skiing in California, with more than 90 miles of marked trails and 25 miles of machine-groomed track. www.yosemite.com
Hiking trails in Yosemite’s Tuolumne County
Located 2.5 hours east of the San Francisco bay area lies Yosemite’s Tuolumne County; a destination consisting of three unique experiences in the Gold Country, High Sierra and north of Yosemite National Park. Those looking for a memorable winter activity should try snowshoeing the 2.5 mile loop in Tuolumne Grove in Yosemite National Park. This grove is quieter than its popular counterpart and due to that very fact, allows for a more peaceful time hiking amongst the majestic giants. If time is on side, a visit to the mighty Hetch Hetchy Reservoir to embark on one of five hikes taking visitors through forest and meadow terrain with spectacular views of waterfalls and vistas is a must. www.visittuolumne.com
Riding the Breathtaker mountain rollercoaster, Aspen Snowmass
Snowmass mountain is the largest of the four Aspen Snowmass ski areas and offers plenty of terrain for all standards, especially intermediates. For something a little different try the Breathtaker rollercoaster. It covers over a mile of terrain mid-mountain at Snowmass, zooming through the forest on an elevated track at speeds of up to 28mph. Ride during the day or for an extra thrilling winter ride to the tracks for a nighttime ride during Ullr Nights. www.aspensnowmass.com
A Snowcat Stargazing Tour of Winter Park, Colorado
Relax after a long day on the slopes with a scenic snowcat tour atop Winter Park Resort, Colorado. Catch the sun set over the Fraser Valley and see the stars come alive over expansive views as the snowcat makes its way to Vasquez Ridge. Atop Vasquez Ridge guests enjoy incredible views, s'mores and beverages, before heading back to the base. For the 20/21 season, all snowcat tours will be private and can accommodate up to 10 guests. www.winterparkresort.com
Colorado winter holiday ideas beyond the slopes-
Backcountry trails lead to fluffy-snow-covered valleys and peaceful stands of evergreen and aspen trees, where the only sounds visitors will hear are chirping birds and their own heartbeat. Rocky Mountain National Park maintains dozens of these sorts of trails. The Brainard Lake area west of Boulder also offers an array of well-marked trails, as do the state’s many ski towns. Experienced snowshoers and cross-country skiers can also make reservations for the state’s extensive backcountry hut system, the 10th Mountain Division.
Combine the thrill of a high-speed ride with the beautiful scenery of the snowy alpine environment to discover why snowmobiling is so popular in Colorado. With miles and miles of trails in nearly every region of the state, visitors won’t have trouble renting equipment and taking a ride. Some of the most popular areas include Grand Lake, Winter Park, Leadville, Buena Vista and South Fork.
Ice fishing in Colorado has grown in popularity in recent years. Sometimes the best parts of ice fishing have nothing to do with fish at all. Winter anglers reap some of the state’s most placid rewards: quiet landscapes, glimpses of early-morning light shimmering off a lake’s frozen ripples and solitary animal prints tracking across the surface. Visitors can take the basic route and just cut a hole, set up a chair and wait for a bite. Or for a more sophisticated approach, they can rent an ice-fishing cabin.
A number of waterfalls-turned-ice-walls can make for great winter climbing for experienced climbers, but the mountain town of Ouray is considered by many to be the ice-climbing capital of the world. Each year, thousands of ice climbers descend on Ouray to scale the imposing Ouray Ice Park and experience the world-famous Ouray Ice Festival in January. Other towns, like Lake City, Vail, Grand Junction, Glenwood Springs, Redstone, Boulder, Telluride and Silverton, are also popular with experienced ice climbers.
Tubing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh's unique environment makes for interesting outdoor winter activities for adventurers of any age and skill level. Located just 30 miles east of downtown lie three snow tubing parks in the Laurel Highlands: Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Hidden Valley Resort and Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. With fast-paced runs down the slippery chutes and a quick lift to the top, snow tubing makes for a great winter family adventure. Perfect for the outdoor enthusiast, Seven Springs Mountain Resort also offers snowmobile tours, horseback riding and snowshoeing. Dogsledding is also a popular activity at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Cruising at speeds of up to 20 mph through the powder, a team of Alaskan huskies pulls riders along for a heart-quickening adventure along winding trails through awe-inspiring, natural landscapes. www.visitpittsburgh.com
Heli-cave winter adventure – Whistler, Canada
Check into one of Whistler’s most luxurious properties, Fairmount Chateau Whistler, for the chance to explore the most remote glaciers via helicopter, offered exclusively by the hotel. Lift off from Whistler and fly over Canada’s southernmost ice fields and explore an evolving landscape of ice and snow by snowmobile, snow bike or snow buggy. Once at the top, guests can tee off for a little glacier golf while giving back to the environment – 3% of the profits go to the ‘White is Green’ Ice Cap Research Initiative which facilitates research projects and student learning opportunities in a real-world Ice Cap setting. www.whistler.com