Winter Adventures in the Northwest
In the Northwest, adventure doesn’t stop when the snow falls and the temperatures drops. It’s quite the opposite, as many of the most beautiful areas in this part of the U.S. come alive during the colder months. In states like Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, and parts of Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming, the world of winter sports and activities come alive during this time.
Snowboarding, skiing, sledding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice fishing, cross-country skiing, ice-skating, dogsledding, festivals, snowball fights, and building snowmen are some of the popular pastimes for snow lovers.
With weeks of snow still remaining, here are a few ways you can get out and enjoy what is left of the season.
Participating in snow sports is possibly the best way to enjoy the extreme side of the season. Whether you’re skiing or attending a snow sport event, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the experience. Winter sports are not just for adrenaline junkies, but can be great for families and powder enthusiasts of all ages.
Arctic Man Snowmobile Race
The Arctic Man race in Alaska combines a downhill ski race and a snowmobile race in one. The race starts with a skier dropping into a canyon where they meet up with their snowmobile partner, grab a tow rope and the snowmobiler tows the skier at speeds of almost 90mph, after which they separate, and the skier goes over the second drop to the finish line. Thousands of spectators from around the globe come to watch this extreme event.
Park City, Utah
Just 40 minutes outside of Salt Lake City, Park City, Utah has become a hot spot since the ski town hosted the 2002 Winter Olympic Games and annually hosts the Sundance Film Festival. It’s a small town with top ranked ski and snowboarding slopes for every skill level.
One of the fastest growing winter sports in the world, snowshoeing is essentially being able to hike through the snow. Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Beaver Creek Resort in Avon, CO are great locations for this activity as they have great trails designed for this sport.
Get Snowed In
Staying in a cabin is another great way to experience the beauty of the cold months. Whether you want to rough it, relax in luxury, lodge for skiing, or just explore the majesty of the mountains, there are many options to create a tailor-made experience.
If your looking for an authentic wildness retreat, there are many Forest Service cabins available to rent around the Northwest at extremely affordable rates. However, expect a bare bone dwelling which you will have to fill with heat and food. Be sure to bring layers!
If you’re the kind to pass on The Revenant-like accommodations, home rentals or ski resorts are abundant in the region. Most places are pet-friendly too, just be aware of the necessary safety measures for your pup in low temperatures.
Some lodging options to consider:
Yurting in Idaho
A tradition yurt is a portable, round tent covered with skins or felt and used as a dwelling by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia. Now popular in the West, yurt rentals are available throughout Idaho, especially in Donnelly, and provide a fun and unique way to experience the winter months.
Caldera Springs, Oregon
Near Bend, Oregon, Caldera Springs offers a luxurious option for cabin rentals. Most bungalows come with hot tubs, fireplaces, and comfortable sleeping quarters. The golf course is transformed into a great snowshoeing trail during the winter and the homey feel of their cabins make for a cozy time curling up in front of the fireplace while sipping hot cocoa.
A snow crawl is similar to a pub-crawl but really takes the shape of whatever winter sport that interests you. A snowy adventure that takes you from place to place (sometimes half a day’s drive away), you’ll be able to build your own trek skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, or doing a bit of everything.
Snow crawls combine a Northwest road trip with a few different winter destinations instead of rooting yourself in one location. Strap your skis to the roof, find a rad playlist, and discover these winter wonderlands made for snow. Drink the local microbrews, stay in cheap hotels, and wake up early to get the powder.
Here are a few suggested snow crawls:
Pacific Snowmobiling Trek- Idaho, Washington, Oregon
The Northwest is filled with a ton of magnificent places to take your sled, or rent one. Unlike skiing or snowboarding you don’t need a ski hill or chair lifts, the wilderness is basically yours to discover.
This crawl starts in McCall, Idaho, which has over 500 miles of groomed snowmobile trails, head to Chelan, Washington and ride over Washington’s best powder. End up in Diamond Lake, Oregon where snowmobiling is one of their most popular winter sports due to their amazing trails.
Four Corners Ski/Snowboard Trek – Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana
Start in Vail, Colorado, which is one of the most renowned snow sport areas of the west, head to Park City, Utah to ski the slopes of the Olympians, navigate your way to the Grand Targhee Resort in Wyoming that received over 24 feet of snow this season, and finally get to Bridger Bowl in Bozeman, Montana to enjoy Montana’s famed winter conditions.
Panhandle Cross-country ski Trek- Montana, Idaho, Washington
This snow crawl goes across Idaho’s panhandle from Montana to Washington experiencing the best cross-country skiing along the way. It starts in Glacier National Park in Montana where the scenery is breathtaking and unmatched, then drive to the Prairie Trail by Coeur d’Alene Idaho along the former Union Pacific Railroad, and finally stop in Winthrop, Washington which is home to the largest groomed Nordic ski trail system in North America with 120 miles of trails.
For those that aren’t into the extreme side of winter, there are plenty of winter festivals in the Northwest that draw big crowds and provide an array of leisurely experiences.
Winter festivals combine seasonal food and drinks, microbrews, and snow inspired activities. You’ll see ice carving contests, ice skating, sled dogs, and chili cook-offs. A trip to a winter carnival is great for families, couples, or solo travelers looking to get away and do something fun.
If you’re traveling to these destinations be sure you take some winter driving precautions and have your trip lined out ahead of time. Research road conditions, give your itinerary to someone at home, and keep some emergency supplies in your car.
McCall Winter Carnival
The McCall Winter Carnival in McCall, Idaho is extremely popular and features snow sculptures, a mini horse named Snowflake, fireworks on the lake, ice hockey, snowshoe golf, and winter beer tasting.
Whitefish Winter Carnival
The Whitefish Winter Carnival celebrates Nordic legends by crowning royalty, jumping in the freezing waters for a Penguin Plunge, having a parade, and ending with a themed party.
Leavenworth, Washington is a Bavarian village outside Wenatchee that has been ranked as one of the best Christmas destinations in America. Their Christmas Lighting Festival is three weeks long and lights over half a million Christmas lights around the city. The town touts their German heritage with lederhosen, Gluhwein, and musical performances set along a winter wonderland.
Sled Dog Racing
The famed sled dog race, Iditarod, is not the only sled dog race to witness in the Northwest. The 1,000 mile Yukon Quest sled dog race is said to be the most difficult in the world because of the harsh conditions on the route.
When the snow falls and the days get shorter in the Northwest it’s time to break out the winter toys and warm sweaters. Instead of sulking inside and counting down the days until summer, many people in the Northwest relish the light powder and activities available to them. There are many places in the U.S. that don’t have the wilderness backdrop and limitless possibilities for winter adventure, so it’s best to take advantage of the snow in this corner of the States.
Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree in 2012 from the University of Montana. She loves embarrassing television, listens to talk radio, and likes her cat more than she likes most people even if the feeling isn’t mutual.