Instead of skiing, check out these unusual winter sports!

Many of us love alpine or downhill skiing which, in any normal year, is equally fun and healthy. But, let’s face it, it can also be a bit repetitive and, given COVID-19, the skiing season 2020/21 is nothing but a distant dream anyway. So, for the ones among you looking for different and exciting experiences, here are favourites of unusual winter sports which you can to try out now.

Read on and decide if you’re ready to spice up your winter sport fun (this or next snowy season):

Snowshoeing in the French Alps

There are many reasons why snowshoeing is great. For us though it’s mostly the mix of being able to enjoy an untouched, beautiful winter landscape and not having to deal with any crowds – which makes for a calming experience. And, from a practical perspective, it is inexpensive and you can snowshoe pretty much wherever there is snow!

There are many locations across Europe and the USA where you can snowshoe but Morzine-Avoriaz in France is a great place to start exploring the mountains on snowshoes, away from the usually busy pistes.

Photo by Leslie Cross on Unsplash – thanks!

Yukigassen in Northern Europe, Canada or Japan

Yukigassen is is a snowball fighting-competition originally from Japan but, today, the sport is played in many European countries as well as in Australia and Canada. Yukigassen is a team sport played between two teams each with seven players. The game is played on a specially designed court and comes with several small wall-like barriers. For each match, each team gets to use 90 snowballs. The objective for each team is to get all the players of the opposing team out (i.e. hit by a snowball), or capture the opposing team’s flag. The team that wins two sets first is the winner of the match.

Curious? Here are some tips on how to get started with some serious snowball fighting at home or wherever you are.

Skijojring in the USA or Finland

If you haven’t heard of it yet, skijoring is a winter sport in which a skier is pulled by a horse, one or more dogs or a motor vehicle. Essentially, skijoring is about finding balance and harmony between the skier and, for example, their dogs’ running and pulling power. Skijoring even had its Olympic debut at St Moritz 1928 but, unfortunately, never appeared on the Olympic programme again. You can go skijoring in various locations across the USA and in Europe.

Ready to skijor with your own dog at home? Here are some great tips on what you need and how to get started!

Fat biking in the Alps

Fat bikes are bicycles which are optimised for an off-road experience through its oversized tires. There are quite a few reasons why fat biking is great. One reason is that it is a great and challenging workout which can help burning up to 1,500 calories – in just one hour that is! “Because it’s not weight bearing, the recovery time is less despite the balance and core strength it requires,” adds Andrew Gardiner, a former ski coach. Also, fat biking can take you into terrain which is otherwise simply unaccessible. Bikepacker Joe Cruz agrees by saying that “for me, the fat bike is for the 10 percent of terrain on my trips that can’t be ridden on any other kind of bike; it’s for the realization of the absolute limit of what bikes can do off road. They’re perfect”.

Ready to give it a try? Then check out this awesome video or this helpful start guide put together by our friends at Men’s Journal.

Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash – thanks!

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And, please enjoy this ski ballet video just for its technical skill and beauty:

3 reasons why you should try cold-water winter surfing

Many think of the hot summer months as the best time for surfing and, true, many of the places we here at EarPro personally love offer a great summer surfing experience. So, why would anyone face up to the challenge and choose cold water and icy winds over warm sandy beaches and sunshine?

Most people have heard of the classic surf film The Endless Summer, but what surfers like myself chase is actually the opposite,” says professional big wave surfer Mark Healey. “We spend the Northern Hemisphere Winter in the north and when spring arrives we turn our focus to Fall/Winter in the Southern Hemisphere.”

There are many reasons why cold-water winter surfing is great: the waves are at their best, the crowds are smaller and it’s even good for your health.

Here are our top three reason why you should give cold-water winter surfing a try:

Reason #1: Cold-water winter surfing offers better waves

In many locations, swells become greater during the winter. So, forget the sometimes seemingly never-ending flat spells and only ankle-high waves that accompany so many summer surfing experiences. Simply put, winter waves are more reliable than summer swell and less northerly winds also mean the swell is smoother. And, as there are less surfers out in winter, you have a greater choice of what swells to surf and, in turn, this can make you a better surfer.

Reason #2: No crowds mean the waves are yours

Can you imagine a surf spot where you can keep riding great swells without any other surfers in sight? Many do not think of surfing as a year-round sport and, more often than not, there will only be very few surfers during the winter period. And that is exactly why surfers in the know are very much looking forward to this time of the year. Patrick Gudauskas, a professional surfer from Southern California, fully agrees with us that winter is the best time to surf, saying that ‘in California it’s much colder, and with the larger waves you can often times find less people in the water and score magic windows all over the coastline.’

Reason #3: Cold-water winter surfing is healthy!

Unless you spend your days in the slopes snowboarding or skiing you will definitely get too little sunlight during the winter months. Going winter surfing will definitely help with getting that extra and much needed dose of vitamin D. Also, it can boost your immune system as studies show that the cold water acts as a mild stressor activating the immune system. The cold water also gets your blood pumping which may improve your circulation, in particular to extremities. As if that weren’t enough, the large winter swells are great to practice your paddling, burn calories and also build up core strength!

But, always remember that winter surfing is not without risks. The Irish Surfing Association has published a very useful guide for the winter surfing sessions a summary of which you can find here.

As always, let us know about your cold-water winter surfing experiences but, above all, stay safe and have fun!

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We’ve compiled our favourite cold-water winter surfing videos on our YouTube channel – Enjoy!

Did we make you curious? We recently wrote on why winter swimming is good for you – similar applies for winter surfing.

If you have cool pictures of your winter surfing experiences, please share them with us on Facebook or Instagram. Looking forward to hearing from you!