For many, typical cold weather adventures — snowboarding, skiing, ice fishing — are good enough. However, if you’re after something a little outside the box, you’re in luck. Here are four of the weirdest winter sports worth traveling for this season.
Shovel Racing in Angel Fire, New Mexico
If you spent any winter in the northern United States as a child, you’ve no doubt experienced impromptu sledding in a cardboard box or atop a metal trash can lid. That childlike ingenuity (or “stupidity,” depending on your worldview) is what spawned shovel racing. The “sport” — make no mistake, the athletes take this vocation seriously — arose in New Mexico in the 1970s as a way for lift operators to expedite the trip back down the mountain at the end of a long workday. Fast-forward a few decades, and it’s grown into a full-fledged annual championship event. The only requirements are, of course, a shovel, a bit of ski wax, and an athletic cup. Lest you think this is a silly redneck event, hardcore shovel racers in the Rockies have topped 70 miles per hour.
Best time to go: The World Championship Shovel Races at Angel Fire Resort every February.
Skijoring in Whitefish, Montana
Ask any Montana local, and they’re likely to agree their state is a beautiful and (proudly) strange place. So, it’s a fitting home for one of the more curious winter sports in the United States: skijoring (from the Norwegian skikjøring meaning “ski driving”). The concept is simple: competitors strap on a pair of skis, harness themselves to a horse, a sled dog, or even a car, then race around a timed track. Various events are held throughout the country. However, Montana may be the sport’s unofficial U.S. home. Its roots there date back to the ‘60s and, since 2009, the town of Whitefish has held the World Skijoring Championships. Today, the competition focuses on equestrian skijoring. If you’ve never seen a man pulled by a mule off of a ski jump, it’s truly a sight to behold.
Best time to go: During the annual Whitefish Winter Carnival in early February.
North Pole Marathon at the Top of the World
It’s a marathon. At the North Pole. Need we say more? The annual event is among the most grueling marathons on earth for obvious reasons. The 42-kilometer race pits contenders from all over the world who compete by running across the (mostly) frozen Arctic Ocean, meaning it’s the world’s only official marathon run on water. The ever-changing terrain means runners must contend with icy, uneven ground that often requires they run in snowshoes. Doctor-staffed medical tents at various checkpoints help keep frostbite at bay.
Best time to go: The sole event takes place every year in April. Contenders must register well in advance and pay a €15,000 (approximately USD $18,000) entry fee.
Wok Racing Wherever You Want
Some people really love cooking with a wok; then there are those who really love riding in a wok. Wok racing is like a sideways version of shovel racing, but without the pesky, and potentially ball-breaking handle. The sport started on German television as a joke in 2003 but was quickly popularized and ultimately professionalized. Wok racers don hardcore protective gear (similar to hockey players) before barreling down traditional bobsled tracks at up to 75 miles per hour. Athletes can compete individually, but team wok racing provides a more exciting option in which four woks are affixed together with a wooden frame forming a “woksled.”
Best time to go: The World Wok Racing Championships officially wrapped in 2015. However, amateurs need only a wok, a snow-covered hill, and a dream to join in the fun.