Who says you have to ski to have fun?

If winter’s cold, white blanket stifles you, here are cool things to do to lighten up

Not for skiers is the 600-foot hill at the Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center in Vermont. You don’t even need your own tube. Not for skiers is the 600-foot hill at the Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center in Vermont. You don’t even need your own tube. (Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center)
By Patricia Harris and David Lyon
Globe Correspondents / January 17, 2010

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

  • E-mail|
  • Print|
  • Reprints|
  • |
Text size +

Around here, waiting indoors for the daffodils to pop gets old pretty quickly. If you want to make it to spring with your sanity intact, it’s time to embrace your inner Inuit and relish the white stuff. Snow isn’t just for shoveling. Here are 10 ways to have fun in the snow without strapping on a pair of skis.

Grab the pommel
The stout and shaggy mounts of the Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm “really like the winter,’’ says owner Karen Winhold, which means that trail rides in the Mad River Valley continue in all seasons. Descended from Viking horses taken to Iceland 1,000 years ago, the purebred steeds are shorter than many riding horses (13-14 hands high), but easily carry full-size adult riders. The horses grow beards in winter, which combine with their flowing manes and tails to make them look dashingly dressed for the cold. The farm welcomes riders with all levels of experience, including novices. 3061 North Fayston Road, Fayston, Vt., 802-496-7141, By reservation, $50-$70.

All call ‘Gee!’
“If these dogs were horses,’’ says Steve Crone of New England Dogsledding, “they would be Secretariat’s grandchildren. Some of them are descended from dogs that won the Iditarod.’’ Crone has 55 running dogs for sledding either near North Conway, N.H., or in parts of the White Mountain National Forest west of Bethel, Maine. It helps to be in good shape if you’re going to join the musher standing on the sled runners, but riding takes no exertion at all. 591 Kings Highway, Mason Township, Maine (off Route 2 west of Bethel), 207-836-2703, By reservation, $125-$325 per sled for up to three people.

Shack attack
If you enjoy the silence of the woods more than rushing along with a dog or horse, winter sport doesn’t get more contemplative than ice fishing. Guide and outfitter Willy Dietrich of Catamount Fishing Adventures offers the whole package in the Stowe, Vt., area. Not only does he supply snowshoes, fishing equipment, and the all-important heated ice shack, but he also teaches how to place tip-ups and how to jig for warm-water fish like yellow perch, or cold-water predators like northern pike. 802-253-8500, By reservation. Four-hour trip, $100 for one, $130/two, $165/three, $200/four, plus $15 per person 15 or older for one-day Vermont fishing license.

Go figure
Calling all mountainside Michelangelos: On Jan. 29-31, Granite State sculptors demonstrate their chops on packed cylinders of snow at the New Hampshire Sanctioned Snow Sculpting Event in Jackson. Teams of up to four people compete, with the sanctioned event limited to those who live or work in New Hampshire. (The winner represents the state in the national competition.) Invitational teams from out of state also demonstrate their frosty artistry. Sculptors begin at 1 p.m. on Friday and must finish by noon on Sunday. “The sculptures really come to life on Saturday,’’ says Kathleen Driscoll of the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce. A bonfire, a warming tent, and hot chocolate moderate the northern exposure. Jackson Village, 603-383-9356, Free.

Best foot forward
One of the things we like about snowshoeing is that you can do it anywhere you could otherwise walk. But there’s a lot to be said for a glorious country estate with almost 9 miles of groomed trails that snowshoers share with Nordic skiers. Robert Todd Lincoln, the president’s son, built Hildene, the Lincoln family home, in 1905, and the trail pass includes admission to the house and the grounds. (The current exhibition features Lincoln’s Second Inaugural.) 1005 Hildene Road., Manchester, Vt., 802-362-1788, Trails open daily 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., weather permitting. Trail pass $12.50, youth $6.50. Snowshoe rental $15.

Formidable not forbidden
It’s always a hoot to watch New England TV meteorologists talk about the winter weather atop Mount Washington, usually the coldest and windiest spot in the Northeast and one of the more forbidding spots on the planet. You can go a long way up aboard the Mount Washington SnowCoach, a four-wheel-drive vehicle with tracks instead of tires, that goes from the Great Glen Trails base lodge up the Auto Road above the treeline. Intrepid winter adventurers can choose to ski or snowshoe back down. Stage Office, Auto Road Lodge, Route 16, Pinkham Notch, Gorham, N.H., 603-466-3988, Daily 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., weather permitting; no reservations. Adults $45, children ages 5-12 $30.

Inflation to embrace
Newcomers to the Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center can be forgiven for having their doubts about the 600-foot run for snow tubing. After all, there’s no lift to get to the top. “Pretty soon people are having so much fun that they don’t mind the climb,’’ says staff member Jahna Ferris. While many ski resorts have tubing runs, this facility is especially family-oriented. “We’ve had people up to age 80,’’ says Ferris. “We have a blast here.’’ Think of it as the downhill rush where your fall is already cushioned. 783 Townshend Road, Grafton, Vt., 802-843-2400, Daily 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tube rental $15 for two hours.

Feet feeling Nordic?
This brisk activity using specialized poles works your body like a blend of yoga, cross-country skiing, and aerobics. By adding snowshoes to the mix, the winter version engages upper body muscles and simultaneously tones the abs. Chad Couto leads classes throughout the week on the groomed cross-country trails at Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa, but he gets really juiced about the 90-minute Saturday Nordic Walking Adventure excursion that goes beyond the resort to the Stowe Recreation Path and wooded trails. “If we are lucky,’’ he says, “we even get to spot deer and other critters.’’ 1746 Mountain Road, Stowe, Vt., 800-253-2232, Nordic walking classes $15, includes snowshoes, poles, and instructor; see website for schedule. Nordic Walking Adventure at 10 a.m. Saturdays, $20.

Bell, hoof, and jangle
You’re forgiven if you start humming “Jingle Bells’’ as you go dashing through the snow over open fields along the woods and a river adjacent to conservation land. Rockin’ Horse Stables has eight coach horses and three sizes of sleighs to replicate the Currier & Ives experience. Drivers pass out blankets before you take off, and you warm up at the end of the ride with hot chocolate by the fire in the 1905 barn. (Marshmallows optional.) 245 Arundel Road, Kennebunkport, Maine, 207-967-4288, Group rides Saturday 11 a.m. Adults $10, children $5; by reservation. Call to schedule private rides starting at $100.

Like frozen desserts
“All the town beaches from Portland to York are good for surfing,’’ says Mark Anastas, co-owner of the Liquid Dreams surf shops in York and Ogunquit. “Surf is best in the winter because the storms produce the biggest waves.’’ Winter surfing on the Maine coast might sound a little extreme, but Anastas says wet-suit technology has advanced to the point “that it’s always summer inside.’’ One thing you can count on: little competition for space on the beach. On hanging ten in the icy spray, Anastas says, “It’s really peaceful. Sometimes it’s snowing.’’ 171 Long Beach Ave., York, 207-351-2545, and 761 Main St., Route 1, Ogunquit, 207-641-2545, York: Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Ogunquit: daily 10-5. Board rental $8-$30, wet suit rental $5-$70.

Patricia Harris and David Lyon can be reached at