Ice skating, ice climbing & co.: alternatives to skiing at a glance

24/08/2021 - SnowTrex

Skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing – the list of leisure activities for your winter holiday is far from exhausted with these classic sports. SnowTrex has put together a list of winter sports that definitely offer an alternative to skiing and round off your winter holiday.

Ice climbing: Ice climbers venture to dizzying heights.


Ice climbing

This ice sport requires strong nerves: climbers are no longer only drawn to the rock faces of the world’s mountains. They have long since found their territory in winter too. Fascinating territories. After all, frozen waterfalls are a breathtaking sight in winter. And it makes climbers’ hearts beat faster. Equipped with crampons, ice tools and ice screws, climbers venture into the world of ice. Nobody should underestimate this type of climbing. The skills required are the same as for alpine climbing. Climbers have to use the ice screws to secure themselves in between and to secure their position. Inexperienced climbers should therefore not venture into these top-class climbing areas. However, those who are able to do so will discover worlds that hardly anyone else can reach in winter.

Ice skating

Messengers in the Netherlands were already using the slippery surface of frozen canals for their purposes around 800 years ago. To deliver urgent messages to aristocratic recipients, they glided across the icy waterways. What the messengers wore on their feet back then was not even remotely similar to today’s ice skates. But the movements remained the same. Today, however, nobody has to wait for canals, rivers or lakes to freeze over – even if these natural ice surfaces are still the most attractive. Many places offer artificial ice rinks so that young and old can do their laps on blades. Ice skating is an ice sport for the whole family.

Ice skating is great fun for young and old.

Ice stock sport

Especially in many smaller towns in the Alpine region, ice stock sport or “Bavarian Curling” is not just an ice sport, but a popular sport with a long tradition. People used to play on frozen lakes and ponds. This is where people meet and swap stories. And this is also where tourists learn a lot about village culture. Ice stock sport is a sociable sport. Teams try to shoot their sticks as close as possible to the stave. The stick is a round metal body with a rubber sole and a handle. The puck, on the other hand, is a small puck with a diameter of 12 cm, which lies in a marked target area measuring 3 x 6 metres. From a distance of approx. 25 metres, the players from each team take it in turns to place their stick in the best position in relation to the puck. A game that everyone quickly understands.

Ice sailing

The fastest motor-free sport is ice sailing. With streamlined sailing boats, adrenaline junkies can quickly glide across the ice surface of a lake at more than 100 km/h. This is made possible by the long runners and large sails, which convert the wind power almost without loss. Maintaining control is not easy at all and therefore pushes many ice sailors to their nervous and physical limits. The best conditions for the speed rush are found in particularly cold regions such as Poland, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Baltic States.

Ice diving

Ice divers don’t go onto the ice, but under it. A test of courage – even for experienced divers. As with cave diving, it is not always possible to surface – there is only a hole that the divers have cut into the surface with a saw. Added to this is the literally icy cold of the water. But their courage is quickly rewarded underwater – with fascinating images. Sunlight penetrating through the layer of ice and leaving unique patterns in the water. Ice formations that have formed under the layer. Only a cord connects the divers to the outside world and ensures that they can find the hole in the ice through which they have dived. Of course, a diving licence and the necessary experience as a diver are essential prerequisites for this ice sport.

The equipment keeps ice divers warm in icy temperatures.

Ice hockey

Originally from Canada, ice hockey is fast, physical and offensive. The first game took place at the end of the 19th century and ice hockey has also been gaining popularity in Germany in recent years. In addition to athleticism and precision, the fastest team sport in the world requires above all team spirit. The black hard rubber disc, the ‘puck’, is played to (and in the best case into) the opponent’s goal through clever teamwork. It is not uncommon for the puck to reach speeds of 150 km/h. Good protective equipment is therefore essential for every player.

Curling

In curling, granite stones weighing around 20kg are placed as close as possible to the target circle ‘house’ or as an obstacle for the opponent’s stones by one of the team members. With the right technique, the stone rotates and makes a corresponding arc on the ice: ‘curling’. The other players accelerate the stone by wiping the ice and can thus influence the course of the stone. A very tactical sport that is extremely similar to curling and is enjoyed by curlers of almost all ages.

Bobsleighing

Bobsleighing is a very special sport. Whizzing through the ice channel in a so-called ‘guest bob’ or ‘taxi bob’ – an absolute thrill! Of the 20 or so bobsleigh tracks worldwide, four are located in Germany. In Winterberg in Hochsauerland, for example, three guests and one pilot race through the 1.6-kilometre-long tube at speeds of up to 130 km/h in a 4-man bobsleigh. Guest bobsleighing in Oberhof involves around 1.3 kilometres of 15 bends, in Altenberg 11 and in Schönau am Königssee even 18. In Austria, on the artificial ice track in Innsbruck-Igls, where Stefan Raab once whizzed down in a wok, there is a choice between a 4-man racing bobsleigh (2 guests, 1 driver, 1 brakeman) and a very special guest bobsleigh (5 guests and 1 pilot). The slightly more expensive classics include the Olympic bobsleigh run in St. Moritz in Switzerland and the track in Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy.

Tobogganing

Who says that sledging is only for children? Adults can have just as much fun sledging as the little ones. Sledging in the ski area also has one big advantage over sledging on the hill at home: the sledges can be conveniently transported up the mountain by ski lift or gondola.

Tobogganing is one of the most popular family fun activities.

The great thing about sledging is that everyone can take part, from young to old and from beginner to advanced. So everyone can spend a great, varied day in the snow together.

Of course, not every slope is suitable for tobogganing. Some ski resorts have special toboggan runs. If you are not sure which slope is suitable for tobogganing, you should ask the ski lift operator beforehand to be on the safe side.

You should also be in good physical condition and be able to control the sledge, as you will be travelling at quite a high speed. A helmet should therefore always be part of your equipment. Tobogganing alone is therefore not recommended for small children. It is safer for them to sledge together with an adult. Gloves, a scarf, hat and sturdy shoes (and snow trousers if necessary) are also a good idea for a speedy descent.

If you pack a tasty snack for a break between runs, you can recharge your batteries with hot tea (or mulled wine) and snacks such as bread rolls, sausages, cheese and muesli bars.

To summarise: tobogganing is fun, provides plenty of speed and is a great activity for the whole family if you take the appropriate precautions.

Snow zorbing

However, sledging is not the only way of travelling down the mountain at high speed without skis. Snow zorbing is also becoming increasingly popular.

Everyone should try snow zorbing at least once.

Snow zorbing involves getting stuck in a giant plastic ball and rolling down the mountain. Some ski resorts already offer snow zorbing as an adrenaline-fuelled alternative to skiing. Snow zorbing requires top fitness and very good body control, otherwise you will quickly be thrown off course.

It is therefore quite clear that snow zorbing is prohibited on the regular ski slopes and is only offered on special slopes.

You also need safety equipment consisting of a neck brace, a support harness and gloves. There are also physical requirements: if you want to roll down the slope like this, you must not be taller than 1.85 metres and weigh no more than 85 kilograms.

Conclusion: While snow zorbing can be a lot of fun, not everyone may be able to take part and the fast rolling may be too dangerous for small children.

However, watching can certainly be just as much fun as taking part.

Airboarding

If you like the unusual plastic ball from snow zorbing, an airboard could also be a lot of fun. The airboard is an inflatable air cushion that you can use to speed down the mountain. Incidentally, you lie on your stomach, which should particularly appeal to adrenaline junkies. If that’s not enough, there is also airboard freestyle, where you can do jumps with the airboard, for example.

Some ski resorts offer these new airboards as an alternative to skiing. However, you have to take a basic course beforehand to be able to whizz down the slopes.

Conclusion: Airboarding is ideal for anyone who wants to try something unusual and isn’t afraid of speed.

Snow biking

Another great alternative to skiing is a ride on a snowbike. Here you swing into the saddle like on a bike – but instead of two wheels, the snowbike has runners like a sledge. You also strap small runners under your own ski boots – and you’re ready to whizz down the slope. The great thing about the snowbike is that it is also suitable for non-skiers. What’s more, the snow bike is easy on the joints.

However, you should also have a certain level of fitness and body control for the snowbike and you usually have to complete a basic course before your first descent.

Conclusion: The snow bike is a nice and exciting alternative to skiing if you want to invest the time in a basic course. But especially for a winter holiday with a group that includes non-skiers, this can be a fun activity for the whole group.

Snow kiting

Snow kiting is also very unusual. Just like kiting on a surfboard, snow kiting involves a kite pulling the rider forwards with the force of the wind. However, while kitesurfing takes place on the water, snow kiting involves floating over the snow. Floating may sound a little slow. In fact, snow kiting can reach speeds of up to 100 kilometres per hour.

Experienced and hungry for something new? Then why not snowkiting?

If you are looking for an even greater challenge, you can also incorporate jumps into snow kiting. To be able to do all this, you need to be very fit, in good physical condition and have the strength to withstand the wind. Ski resorts where snow kiting is possible offer appropriate courses.

Conclusion: snow kiting is recommended for anyone who loves a sporting challenge and is in good physical condition. It may take a little while before you have mastered snowkiting, but then the fun is great.

Snowshoe hiking

If you prefer to slow down a little for a day on your skiing holiday and enjoy the idyllic landscape, magnificent views and great, fresh air in peace and quiet, then snowshoeing is the perfect activity for you. Simply strap on a pair of snowshoes and off you go. Snowshoeing in fresh powder snow is particularly fun. Some ski resorts also offer guided snowshoe hikes. This way, you can enjoy the winter wonderland in a completely relaxed manner while hiking off the typical ski trails and learning lots of interesting facts about the surrounding area.

Conclusion: Snowshoeing is a relaxing activity for the whole family. What’s more, there’s always the opportunity to warm up in between with a hot chocolate and tasty snack in the ski hut.

FAQs on ski alternatives

What alternatives are there to skiing on a winter holiday?‘Imported’ sports that originally come from summer sports and have now been adapted to the ski slopes are becoming increasingly popular. These include airboarding, snowbiking, kiteboarding, snow zorbing and ice diving.

Are these sports suitable for everyone?No. For some sports, such as ice diving, you need a diving licence. Airboarding, snowkiting and snow zorbing require at least participation in a basic course. There are also height and weight restrictions for snow zorbing. With children, you should always check beforehand whether the sport in question is really suitable for the little ones, as they all take place at high speeds. However, if you fulfil all the requirements and are not afraid of fast speeds, you will have a lot of fun with these sports.

What is a child-friendly alternative to skiing?If you are looking for an alternative to skiing for the whole family, you will have a lot of fun sledging. As the speed can be high, you should be fit and protect yourself with a helmet. Very young children are best accompanied by adults. This way, tobogganing is great fun for everyone.

What can you do if you’re looking for an alternative to skiing but want to take it easy?A snowshoe hike can be a good option here. Here you strap snowshoes under your feet and explore the fantastic winter landscape in peace and quiet, away from the busy pistes. Some ski resorts also offer tours. A snowshoe hike is a relaxed excursion for everyone – but you need to be in good physical condition. With a plastic bag or a simple toboggan in your luggage, every hill is twice as much fun.

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