Best winter adventure trips

While many of us spend wintertime dreaming of a sunny beach escape, some travelers have discovered that there’s only one real secret to enjoying the season: getting out in the cold and embracing it.

Sure, braving the ice and snow requires a little gumption (and a lot of layers). But for travelers willing to try it, winter outdoor adventure offers some truly unique opportunities for communing with nature. What makes wintertime so magical, says Morgan Bruemmer, a founding partner of the Jackson Hole–based property management company Clear Creek Group, is "the calming hush surrounding pristine blankets of snow, the abundant wildlife and the soft glow of alpine sunrises."

Slideshow: See where the best winter adventure trips are

Many of the most thrilling outdoor pursuits can, quite simply, be experienced only in wintertime. Of course, there are the always-popular snow sports of downhill and cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and snowboarding. But there are rarer winter pleasures, too. Like dog sledding through the mountainous terrain around Aspen, Colo., a sort of wild fun–meets–endurance competition experience. Or tobogganing along an almost four-mile-long descent in the French Alpine resort of Val Thorens. Or polar-bear watching in Manitoba, Canada—which occurs only during a small window of time (usually November) when the animals congregate in preparation for the seal-hunting season.

Some winter pastimes can even surpass their summertime counterparts. Why go hiking in Yellowstone Park in summer, for example, when the hordes of tourists (almost a million during July alone) ruin any chance of a clean snapshot of Old Faithful? Take a cross-country-skiing excursion six months later, and the park transforms into a quiet place of contemplation, where you can confront nature one-on-one.

As long as you're properly prepared, guided and outfitted, says Dan Austin, founder and director of Austin-Lehman Adventures, there's no reason that even a sun-worshipper wouldn't be dazzled by a winter adventure. "There’s no such thing as bad weather," Austin quips. "Only bad gear."

Still not warmed up to the idea of winter adventures? Check out our list; we bet you'll change your mind.

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