I think I suffer from some kind of seasonal amnesia, made worse, I think, by the fact that I live in Chicago where the summers are scorching and the winters are enough to make me want hibernate from January until May. When I’m dealing with the excess of one season, I tend to forgive the faults of the other.
In winter, I reminisce about the glorious days of summer (forgetting about that time it was 110 °F and I would have killed for a snowstorm). In summer, I complain about the sticky heat and dream of wrapping myself up in a cozy sweater (neglecting to remember that feeling of freezing to my bones while walking to the bus stop in a blizzard). While this may mean I have some deeper issues, it also means that for me, summer is a perfect time to start thinking about planning cold weather trips.
- Skiing is, of course, the first thing that comes to mind in terms of winter activities. You can ski year round virtually anywhere in the world, from hitting the the ski resorts of Greece to snowboarding in New Zealand, there are ski travel deals to be found all over. To try something a little different, why not ski down one of the most active volcanoes in the world (and the largest active volcano in Europe), Italy’s Mt. Etna? Or go all out and stay at one of the most luxurious ski resorts in the world (and one of the top places for skiing in France), Val d’Isère in the French Alps. If that’s a bit out of your budget, you could choose to work in one of the most beautiful places in Australia, the Snowy Mountains, where you can earn some money for your travels while you hit the slopes. For the ultimate ski bragging rights, hitch a ride up Hawaii’s Mauna Kea and then ski down this volcano on the Big Island. Skiing is definitely something few visitors to Hawaii can say they have done.
- Put your body to the test in the coldest places on earth. While some of us prefer to snuggle up to a fire when the temperatures drop, there’s something to be said for seeing just how much cold you can withstand. And telling your friends that you survived Verkhoyansk, Russia – the coldest place in Asia – and its average temperatures of -50 F , may have a certain appeal for the more daring travelers. I prefer a more comfortable way to challenge myself, so I’d love to stay in one of the ice hotels around the world.
- Get off the beaten path…way off, by going to Antarctica. It won’t be cheap, but exploring this final frozen frontier is a bucket list item for many travelers. No matter which Antarctic cruise you choose, your Antarctica adventure into the land of penguins, seals and icebergs will be worth every penny.
- Wildlife sightings are just one of the reasons to visit Antarctica, and they provide inspiration to visit other remote areas as well. Many visitors come to Churchill, Manitoba, just to see the local polar bears (from the safety of a special vehicle), but you don’t have to travel too far to see wild animals out in winter weather. Many US resorts that are popular in summer stay open in colder months and shift their focus to winter activities, including searching for moose, wolves,and bears in the snow. Several National Parks are also ideal for wildlife viewing all year round. I think a weekend at Montana’s Paws Up resort – horseback riding and dogsledding in the snow – sounds magical.
- Take in a light show. During the winter months, the Northern Lights become visible in the Northern Hemisphere in Iceland, Alaska (and sometimes other northerly parts of the US like Michigan’s Upper Peninsula), Russia, Scandinavia, and northern Canada. The times for best sightings vary by location, and you’ll need a very clear night for the best views.
- When you’ve had all the cold you can take, head for the hot springs to warm up. There are great hot springs all around the world, including the US and Canada. While I’m partial to Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, a soak in one of Japan’s onsen also sounds heavenly.
Where do you like to go for a cold weather adventure?
Photo by: obloum