Why you should care
This original OZY series takes you out in the cold for some extreme action.
Hey, who cares about the polar vortexes and frost quakes? When you live in a place where winter means toque-ready temperatures, Snowmageddon and super slippery slopes, you can’t wait for spring to get your outdoor sports face on. Winter warriors, you already know about hockey, skiing, skating and snowboarding. But there’s a new crop of winter activities — some of them extreme — coming to North America that will make even
curling competitive snowshoeing look boring.
From sprinting up an ice cliff to skiing down a mountain with a parachute, these new winter sports offer big thrills in the chill.
Imagine yourself climbing up a frozen waterfall. Crazy, maybe, but that’s what rock climbers all around the world do for fun during the winter months. So much so that the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) holds the ice-climbing world championships for top performers. There are two disciplines to this icy sport: speed (a vertical version of the 100-meter sprint) and lead (technique and masterful moves). Climbers, brandishing an ice ax in each hand and picks on their shoes, make their way up the man-made icy face collecting points as they go. Imagine acrobatics on a snowy, contorted wall 300 feet in the air. Now you have to see the pictures.
Bandy is a high-action Scandinavian sport that crosses soccer with hockey — with a little field hockey thrown in — that is catching on in North America. But this isn’t a bunch of guys in cleats slipping and sliding around an ice rink. Instead, imagine the aesthetics of hockey, with players skating on an ice surface — over three times bigger than an NHL rink! — and holding short rounded sticks. Played with a small orange ball (not a puck), the goal is to score in the huge net where the goalie has no stick. But despite being hugely popular in several countries, if you’re from North America, you likely haven’t heard of bandy. Until now.
The saying goes something like this: “When the skiing is bad, the fat biking is good.” That’s because this sport allows riders to take on the worst that winter has to offer. A fat bike looks like a bike on steroids: a regular frame with larger tires designed to take on ice and snow as you fly down a mountain course. Cyclists participate in competitions to keep up on their sport during winter. And it’s not just a pro thing: Amateur competitors dress up in goofy costumes and stop for whiskey shots. Welcome to the best new winter sport taking over North America and Europe.
What do you get when you cross freestyle skiing with paragliding? Answer: the craziest, fastest, most extreme mountain sport adrenaline junkies can dream of. Speed riding is a high-speed, high-intensity and high-stakes mountain sport that allows for superfast speeds — we’re talking up to 90 miles per hour— and access to terrain otherwise inaccessible to regular skiers or paragliders. A five-pound canopy-like “speed wing” strapped on the back permits skiers to take off and touch down onto smooth snow and glide over any rough and steep spots on the slope. Of course, the intensity doesn’t come without risks — potentially lethal ones.