After a week watching the Sochi Winter Olympics 2014, we’ve got a different winter bug to the one we usually get – instead of reaching for the Lemsip, we’re dying to pull out our salopettes and dust off our skis. So here’s our rundown of the best winter sports, from the traditional to the weird and wonderful, whether you’re a total newbie or have skills to rival the Olympians.
Reasons to give it a go: Skiing is probably the first thing you think of when you hear ‘winter sport’, particularly if you watched the weekend’s downhill skiing events. It’s fast paced, exciting, a total adrenaline rush and it definitely counts as a way to keep fit as part of your busy trader lifestyle. If that’s not reason enough, go for the aprés-ski hot tub and mulled wine.
Top Tip: If you want the ultimate skiing holiday experience, you can’t do much better than Courchevel. The French ski resort has no shortage of ski runs from green to black, and off the slopes you’ll find shops, chic wine bars and all types of nightclubs. Find out more here: www.courchevel.com/winter/en. For something closer to home, try the Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead, where you’ll find the largest indoor snow slope in the UK. www.thesnowcentre.com
Reasons to give it a go: This quirky winter activity might not be a Winter Olympics event now, but it was once – it was a demonstration event at the 1928 Winter Olympics. It’s similar to water skiing, but on snow, while being pulled by dogs instead of a boat – a hybrid between dog sledding and cross-country skiing. If that’s not unique enough for you, people have also tried being pulled by a horse, a snowmobile or an all-wheel-drive vehicle. These variations are not for the faint of heart (or the sensible) and usually end in a dramatic wipeout which might just end up on Youtube, if your friends were kind enough to record it for you.
Top Tip: Find out more about skijoring in the Alps here: winter.adventuresinthealps.com/ski-jouring. If you’d rather spectate than take part, the next World Championships (yes, they exist) will take place in 2015. Oh, and watch out for yellow snow.
Reasons to give it a go: The figure skating events at Sochi will be televised over the next couple of days and we bet it’ll inspire you to don your skates. It’s probably one of the most accessible winter sports – with indoor and outdoor rinks dotted all over the country, you can even do it in your lunch hour. Just don’t expect to look quite as graceful as the athletes straight away. And try not to mind too much if you come away with a bruised backside or a damaged ego…
Top Tip: Most of London’s outdoor rinks have now closed for the season, but there’s one at Canary Wharf open until the end of February. You’ll find it in Canada Square Park, and if you don’t look too closely at the surrounding buildings, you could almost imagine you’re actually skating on New York’s Rockefeller Centre rink. www.icerinkcanarywharf.co.uk
Reasons to give it a go: This is another event you can watch the professionals tackle over the next few days. And if you’re feeling brave, you can try it yourself. This sport is for serious daredevils and adrenaline junkies and involves riding a sled down a frozen track while lying face down with your nose just inches away from the snow. It was started by British soldiers in around 1882 on a toboggan track between Davos and Klosters, and has been an Olympic event since 2002. It’s widely considered to be the scariest winter sport and will definitely be a talking point if you can say you lived to tell the tale.
Top Tip: There are only seventeen tracks available worldwide, so expect to travel for this one. Most places that have hosted past Winter Olympics will have a track. We’d go for Lake Placid in America for the ultimate experience: www.whiteface.com/activities/skeleton-experience. And don’t forget your helmet.
Reasons to give it a go: Britain has already bagged a Bronze medal at Sochi for this sport thanks to Jenny Jones, so it’s sure to be the event people talk about. Supposedly it’s harder than skiing to get the hang of and you’re likely to take a few topples at first. But once you’re in the swing of it, you can pick up some seriously impressive tricks, get a huge adrenaline rush and have a lot of fun.
Top Tip: If you want to have your aerial jump mastered before you hit the slopes, get some lessons at one of the UK’s indoor skiing and snowboarding slopes. The Snow Dome in Tamworth offers adult lessons for whatever level you’re at. www.snowdome.co.uk/ski-snowboard
Reasons to give it a go: If sliding down a sheet of ice at too-many miles an hour isn’t for you, this might be more your cup of tea. It’s a bit of a cross between hockey and bowls and involves sliding stones across a sheet of ice towards a target. You need your brain in gear for this one as it needs so much strategy, teamwork and skill that it’s been given the nickname “chess on ice”.
Top Tip: The best place to try it in the UK is the dedicated curling rink near Tunbridge Wells in Kent. Curling is a team event, so it might be a good choice for a team building event or family day out, www.fentonsrink.co.uk. And make sure you tune in to the Sochi curling events to work out your winning strategy!