Winter does not have to mean ski holidays. Be inspired
Time Out staff
Love the snow but can't ski? Then fear not - Time Out is on hand to suggest 10 great wintry holidays that don't require a mastery of the slopes.
Austria’s Lake Weissensee, located high up in the Gailtal Alps (at 930 metres), freezes in November to become the largest natural ice surface in Europe. Golfers can compete in the International Ice Golf Tournament held every February and, when thrashed by ice-hardened Greenland golfers, retreat to the fairytale hills. Watch out too for dazzling speed skating contests and horsedrawn sleighs. Weissensee’s tourism website (+43 0 4713 22200/www.weissensee.naturarena.com).
Glacier walking: If you’re feeling brave – or cool and hard – hike across the glaciers of southern Norway. The largest mainland ice-sheet lies in Jostedalsbreen National Park, its arms stretching into smaller glaciers hanging above the rivers that wind through the valleys beneath. Don’t try this alone – gorges dozens of metres wide, and deep enough to look very dark indeed, open up into the moving glaciers and may be thinly disguised by fallen snow. Visit Norway (+47 22 00 25 00/www.visitnorway.com).
Dog sledding: In Finland’s remote wilderness, along its border with Russia, lies an expanse of ancient, silent forest and frozen lakes. From your base at the Border Inn (+358 400 202 270, www.theborderinn.com), a team of dogs and a wooden sled will lead you to the heart of the landscape, covering up to 100 kilometres in a day and racing after wild reindeer and elk. Back at the lodge, saunas and Lappish stone fireplaces will keep you warm and cosy. Visit Finland www.visitfinland.com.
Horseriding on ice: Icelandic horses were brought to the country by Vikings in the ninth century and have remained pure-bred ever since. Icelanders have a special affection for horses – they say the ratio of horses to people here is the highest in the world – and there are strict rules relating to the animals. One is that no horse leaving the island can ever return. One recommended ride is up to the Mrdalsjökull glacier; you may want to avoid hoof-skating but Icelanders love performing tricks on horseback on the ice. Catch a show if the opportunity arises. Icelandic Mountain Guides (+354 587 9999/www.mountainguides.is.
Ice skating: Go ice skating in Central Park’s Woollman Rink, where the crisp winter sky and illuminated skyscrapers are a perfect backdrop to a romantic evening. If you get carried away, you can book to arrange a proposal at the rink: you’ll get dinner in a private tent, a customised soundtrack and lots of champagne all for just, erm, $1,500. +1 212 439 6900/www.wollmanskatingrink.com.
Wolf watching: From terrifying children’s bedtime stories to the wonderful world of Jack London novels, few creatures have inspired as much awe and mystery as the wolf. Penetrate the fir- and pinetree forests of Canada’s Prince Alberta National Park on dog sleds, and venture deep inside the wolves’ realm. Chill – or freeze your crampons off, more like – by spending a night under the stars beside a bonfire, listening to howls blown in from the darkness. Windows on the Wild www.windowsonthewild.com.
Icy adventure park: If the closest you’ve come to ice art is pretty shaped cubes in a fancy bar, the ice festival of Harbin in China will blow your mind. Soft pinks, blues, yellows and more illuminate a vast adventure park built from blocks of ice, with precipitous slides and steps and soaring turrets. Endlessly intricate sculptures rise up in the park during the festival, held in February. Travel China Guide www.travelchinaguide.com.
Snowmobiling: Between the old villages of Jukkasjärvi and Kaupinnen, the Arctic Circle becomes a playground for adventurous travellers. Day excursions on snowmobiles pierce deep into the Swedish wilderness, but you can also learn to build an igloo and drive your own dog sled. A night at the ice hotel made from 40,000 tonnes of snow and ice that melts into the river every year is included on this tour. why don’t you…www.whydontyou.com.
Rock climbing: If you’re feeling slightly suicidal, scale the icy peaks in the Alps on a rock climbing tour that will lead you up the daunting ascents of Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn and the Eiger. Seasoned climbers take on the vertical drops and hairraising views of the North Face. Entry-level courses designed for complete beginners are available for first-time alpinists. Alpine Guides www.alpine-guides.com.
Wilderness trekking: A 20-mile mountain trail – or, rather more probably, a boat ride – leads to Knoydart, a Scottish wilderness where quiet mountains roll into peaceful lochs and overlook the sea. On the peninsula, the Old Forge serves scallops, hake or ‘whatever makes it from the lochs and hills’ with wholemeal bread. Relax in the evening after exploring the icy trails with a whisky before a roaring fire. Wilderness Scotland www.wildernessscotland.com.