A thick coating of snow and ice throughout the city means it’s time for one thing: snow-ventures.

Whether you’re a veteran of winters in the great white north or if you’ve just moved from more tropical climates in Madison, it seems there is always something new to try.   Skiing and snowboarding are the most commonly loved winter sports. But as thrilling as it can be to fly down a mountain, dodging trees, and jumping off slopes, skiing isn’t for everyone.  There are so many other exciting winter sports to try!  Here’s a quick list of alternative winter sports available in Madison that are just as fun as skiing:

Madison Snow Shoeing

Many snow sports involve a hefty dose of adrenaline. But it’s not for everyone. Snowshoeing is safe, low-key, and easy to learn. It’s great for anyone who wants to feel cold winter air in their lungs. Or revel at the beauty of a forest coated in white snow and ice without having to worry about skill level or potential injury.

Fourteen parks in Madison have designated snow-shoeing trails.

If you’re interested in trying out the sport—before investing in all the gear, there’s an option for you!  You can rent snowshoes, trekking poles, dry bags, and more from the Wisconsin Union.

Madison Snowmobiling

Snowmobiling is one of the most action-packed, high-powered snow sports that exists. It’s like combining motorcycling with snow, ice, and wilderness. There are 25,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails in Wisconsin. And 500 miles of snowmobile trails, just in Dane County.

Snowmobiles can get up to speeds of 150mph. With this kind of acceleration, you can explore hidden wintry wonderlands. Places it would take you days to get to by snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.

Since snowmobiling is such a high-powered sport, you should not take safety lightly. Remember to wear a helmet and travel with a friend.  You should complete a snowmobile certification course before hitting the trails. The good news? You can complete the class online. And it’s only $25.

Madison Ice Skating

Ice Skating has the unique ability to bring out the child in us all.  Madison offers 19 ice skating destinations around town, ranging from indoor to outdoor to lagoon-style skating.  At indoor rinks, you can sometimes catch skilled skaters twirling and pirouetting.

If natural rinks are more your thing, make sure to check safety reports of local ice before trekking out. Ice that’s frozen 4 inches and above is safe for walking or skating. Anything below that is not worth the risk. 2 inches and below is always a danger zone.

Bring a hockey stick with you for a quick pick-me-up game. Or create a make-shift shuffleboard court.

Madison Ice Boating

Have you ever wondered what Nascar on ice would look like? Well, it’s a bit like iceboating. Envision a sailboat using the wind to speed across the icy lake at 100mph.

An iceboat hull attaches to a plank at the bottom of the boat. Three skates (or runners) are fastened to the bottom of the boat. That’s all they need to take wind and glide across the frozen lake at top speed.

The biggest iceboating supporters in Madison are members of the 4 Lakes Ice Yacht Club. Iceboating is not a sport you can just jump into; you need to acquire equipment and skill.

So how do you get started?

Attend a Wednesday night meeting at the 4 lakes yacht club. You can arrange a ride with an expert on a two-seater ice boat.

Don’t forget to wear layers! All winter sports are cold, but this one has a fierce wind chill too.

Madison Fat Tire Biking

Fat tire biking is a lot like mountain biking. Both are trail-based bike sports. Both enable you to explore vast chunks of wilderness in a mere afternoon. The namesake of this sport comes from its multi-terrain tires. These tires have excellent traction on dirt, float on top of snowdrifts. Vast terrain and low pressure make it easy to roll on soft surfaces.

Another pro of fat tire biking- it’s an AMAZING workout. Fat tire biking can burn up to 1,000 calories per hour.

Rent a fat tire bike for $40 a day at Wheel and Sprocket.

Madison Ice Fishing

Ice Fishing is a relaxed, easy-going winter sport. There is a lot to learn, but there’s no need to take a class or search for an ice fishing mentor. You can learn almost everything from experts on Youtube or read about ice fishing for beginners.

The community of ice fishers is known to be friendly and inclusive. It’s a great way to meet new people. Many ice fisherman will set up their own “ice camp,” even if just for a day of fishing. They’ll bring folding chairs, a propane stove for grilling, and a cooler of drinks. Fellow fishers will hop between camps while they wait for their lines to twitch.

If you’re after a prize-fish, winter fishing can offer the most fruitful bounty. Fish still feed in the winter, but the food is often scarce, and surface bugs are nonexistent. So they’re bound to look at your rod and reel with interest.

Here’s a list of places you can ice fish around Madison.

Gear Up Locally

New to the area and want to try any of these sports? I’d recommend purchasing a substantial winter coat, ski bibs, and some base layers first. Chalet Ski and Patio and GS Ski Tunes & Al

pine Race Shop are two excellent local outfitters that can help you prepare for your new activities. If all of this sounds a little too adventurous for you, we’re a big fan of just sledding down your neighborhood hill or starting an impromptu snowman building contest in the park. Whatever you choose— send us a photo of your latest snow venture!