While some may look forward to the warm days of summer, others look forward to the first crisp and clean snow fall. Winter sports not only get your adrenaline pumping, they make those cold winter months enjoyable. If you find yourself looking longingly at your skis, snowboards, or other winter sports gear slowly gathering dust in the garage, these destinations will surely peak your interest.
Whether you’re a winter enthusiast looking for an adventurous, off-piste destination like the Appalachian Trail in the Smoky Mountains or a popular winter playground like Wisconsin Dells, there are several Outdoor Traveler destinations for snow bunnies and winter sports lovers alike. Here are the top three destinations to keep you occupied during those frosty, cold months:
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Wisconsin Dells, situated in the heart of Wisconsin, is known as “The Waterpark Capital of the World.” However, the water parks, though they may be a blast, are not the only reason to visit this charming Midwestern destination.
Taking its name from the Dells of the Wisconsin River, a glacially constructed, breathtaking gorge with incredible sandstone formations, Wisconsin Dells has plenty of natural beauty to offer. Because of its landscape and diverse climate—averaging about 10 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter months and about 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months, the small city is ideal for both summer and winter sports of various kinds.
From November until March or April, there are several hills open for skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and tubing. Cascade Mountain Ski, Snowboard and Snow Tube, just 15 minutes from the Dells (the downtown hub of the city), is open from November until March. Featuring over 36 trails, Cascade Mountain offers both challenging trails for skiing experts, and fun, mile-long trails for beginners. With four terrain parks, 10 lifts (which includes the swift and speedy Mountain Top Express), and the Snow Tube Park with five different 800-foot-long chutes, Cascade Mountain is the perfect place to spend the day indulging in exhilarating winter sports.
Christmas Mountain Village is a resort dedicated to snow sports, primarily downhill skiing (from December until late March) and snow tubing (from December until early April). With 16 downhill runs and an array of exciting trails, skiers will love what Christmas Mountain Village has to offer. From black diamond slopes to beginner slopes, there are terrains for the whole family. Between slopes, everyone can enjoy a cup of hot coffee or a snack from the resort’s restaurant, Jolly’s Burgers, Brats, and Fun.
Smoky Mountain, Tennessee
The great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee are not only gorgeous, they are also a perfect place to experience a bit of winter fun. You can enjoy sunny high winter temperatures of around 65 degrees Fahrenheit or snowy high temperatures of about 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Though the winter season is somewhat fickle temperature-wise, at higher elevations and on the mountain peaks, the temperature is cold enough that snow remains long after falling. Snow on the lower elevations of the Smokies typically melts within a few hours of falling, but with ample opportunity to enjoy the snow on the higher peaks, this is not too much of an inconvenience. This, perhaps, is actually the perfect balance as you can enjoy moderate temperature while in town, and cold, snowy weather on the peaks.
Adventurous outdoor lovers will enjoy the offbeat atmosphere that the Appalachian Trail provides. This renowned trail runs more than 71 miles through the Great Smoky Mountains and features notable landmarks such as the Rocky Top, Charlies Bunion, and the historically-significant stone fire tower that sits on top of Mount Cammerer.
During periods of snowfall (however infrequent), there are a few ski slopes and recreational areas that offer skiing, snowboarding, and even cross-country skiing, including Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area and Amusement Park.
Boyne Falls, Michigan
Situated in Northern Michigan, Boyne Falls is known for its chilly northern climate and beautiful, picturesque landscape. Featuring an abundance of natural lakes and towering mountains, this cozy town makes an ideal winter getaway.
With 60 ski slopes of varying intensities, winter sport enthusiasts will find Boyne Mountain slopes to be more than sufficient. There are also many lakes and rivers in the area, where you can easily indulge in other winter activities, such as ice skating. Some places offer tube rentals so you can whoosh down the slopes at Boyne Mountain. For something a little different, you can go snowshoeing, ride a horse, or enjoy a trip in a snow cat. Those who are looking for an intimate, romantic adventure can also explore the tree-lined, snowy trails by horse-drawn sleigh.
One of the most exhilarating attractions Boyne Falls has to offer is the Zipline Adventure, where you can fly past the mountain range at speeds of 25 mph. Zooming past the treetops in the chilly air might arguably be the most adrenaline-inducing winter activity there is.