There’s much more to snow holidays than skiing, but to the uninitiated many non-skiing activities can seem pretty baffling. The good news is that ice canyoning is often much tamer than it sounds, kick-sledding isn’t that far removed from riding a scooter, and if you do want an adrenaline rush, you can get a quick and easy fix from snowrafting, no skills required. So, if you’ve ever wondered how to control a team of sled dogs, what type of raft is involved in ocean body rafting (none), and why it is worth having a go at ice fishing, read on.
One inflatable rubber dinghy + one snowy slope = a whole lot of fun. This is the simple equation behind snowrafting. Without wanting to turn this into a physics lesson, the combination of the low friction of the raft on the snow and the gravitational pull of the half-dozen or so passengers means that speeds of up to 50km/h can be reached on steeper slopes. There’s no means of braking, and only limited steering, but the good news is that it’s done on a specially prepared course with banked sides that guide the raft down to the bottom of the slope. Simply hold on and enjoy the ride!
Adrenaline factor: 9/10
Difficulty factor: 1/10
Where to try it: Beitostølen
If you’re the type who would normally eschew angling in favour of something more active, try considering ice-fishing as a chance to take in your surroundings fully. The principle is straightforward: choose a spot on a frozen lake, use an auger to drill a hole through the ice, insert your rod and sit back, preferably on a fold-away stool or similar. Provided you’ve wrapped up well – waterproof gloves are a must and a flask of hot tea or coffee is a nice little extra – you can enjoy soaking up the views and listening to the murmur of the breeze and the movements under the ice as you wait. Who knows, you may even catch a perch or a trout.
Adrenaline factor: 2/10
Difficulty factor: 4/10
Where to try it: Fefor, Ylläs
Play the word association game and a common response to ‘ice’ is ‘slippery’. Similarly, ‘deep’ or ‘steep’ would be perfectly acceptable responses to the word ‘canyon’. By this logic, ice canyoning sounds quite dangerous. However, like many sports, there’s a spectrum. Yes, it can involve helmets, crampons, ice axes and special clothing, but at the other end of the scale the only aids necessary are occasional rope ‘handrails’, making it more akin to winter walking. In this case, it’s the frozen waterfalls and the ice ‘caves’ that provide the wow factor, rather than navigating up/down/across them.
Adrenaline factor: 4/10 up to 10/10
Difficulty factor: 3/10 up to 10/10
Where to try (an easy version of) it: Hindsæter
Dog-sleds have largely been supplanted by snowmobiles, but dog-sledding has endured for the simple reason that it’s great fun. Before setting out, you’ll be taught the verbal commands – as a minimum you’ll need ‘start running’, ‘turn right’, ‘turn left’, ‘straight on’ and ‘stop’. ‘Faster’ is optional! The real fun starts when you set off – the dogs will pull you along at a steady speed of 12-15mph. Because they only require the occasional instruction, you can take in the scenery and look out for wildlife – with no noisy engine to scare them off, you may spot an elk or a fox as you glide along.
Adrenaline factor: 6/10
Difficulty factor: 3/10
Where to try it: Ylläs, Sollia, Fefor, Beitostølen, Geilo, Blitzingen
OCEAN BODY RAFTING
This should come with a warning. Not because it’s dangerous (it is, in fact, rather sedate), but because of the potential for none-too-flattering photos. You see, there’s no raft as such, just a bright red insulated suit. Besides making you look like a giant lobster, this serves two purposes, keeping you warm and effortlessly afloat (there’s even a ‘pillow’ on which to rest your head as you gaze at the sky). The only exertion required on your part is jumping into the sea; after that, the tide does the rest, carrying you on at speeds of up to 7 knots (13km/h) while the safety boat follows on behind. So lie back and go with the flow. Literally.
Adrenaline factor: 3/10
Difficulty factor: 1/10
Where to try it: Hamn i Senja
Best described as a wooden seat attached to two long metal runners, kicksleds may not look like scooters, but they’ll take you back to your childhood, as the technique is virtually identical – you put one foot on one of the runners and use the other to push down on the ground to propel yourself along, steering by twisting the handlebar. Kicksleds are a common sight in Norway, Finland and Sweden, and work best on compacted snow. Use one to go on your ice-fishing trip and instantly you’ve got somewhere to sit while you wait for a fish to bite.
Adrenaline factor: 5/10
Difficulty factor: 2/10
Where to try it: Ylläs, Røros (Vintage Norway journey) and Kongsfjord (Around North Cape journey)
The quiet side of the mountain
You'll find details above of where you can try specific activities, but opt for virtually any of our holidays in the snow and you'll be able to try a range of non-skiing activities, including winter walking, snowshoeing, curling and horse-drawn sleigh rides; a list is included on each holiday page.
More about our holidays in the snow >