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10 Extreme Winter Sports for Thrill Seekers
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Also referred to as kiteboarding, this sport is a mixture of snowboarding and kitesurfing. What's enjoyable about snowkiting is that it doesn't require the extreme terrain a lot of other winter sports demand, and with enough wind this sport can be done both up and down hills. Snowkiting can be dangerous, however, as you can reach great speeds. It also requires the same physical strength that kitesurfing does.
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Yet another summer hybrid, ice yachting is exactly what you would expect: a sailboat set on top of blades to cruise the icy terrain of any solidified body of water. Becoming ever popular in the United States, you can now find racing competitions in the northern states and at various ice yachting clubs.
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Photo: By flickr user abkfenris via Wikimedia Commons
Much like sledding, all this sport requires is a slope, a little momentum and the gumption to haul a kayak up a snow-covered hill. Once in motion, you might find the kayak a little more difficult to handle than in water, but having a paddle to steer gives you more control than in a standard sled. And after considerable practice, you can start adding wax to the bottom of the kayak to hit faster speeds. Most ski resorts don't allow snow kayaking, but luckily this sport can be done just about anywhere that gravity and snow permits.
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Another sport adapted for adrenaline junkies, ice surfing will remind you of wind surfing but with ice blades instead of open water. Because of the difference in surface, this sport allows for much faster speeds than wind surfing (up to 70 mph) and is therefore much more dangerous. Before letting the wind sweep you away, consider this: these devices have no brakes. Also, be sure to steer clear of thin ice.
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The winter counterpart to rock climbing, this sport was originally developed when mountaineers had to find ways to traverse cumbersome icy patches along their high-altitude adventures. Since then, special tools and equipment have been invented to help ascend the likes of 100-foot frozen waterfalls. It's important to stay in climbing shape for this sport, so be sure to hit an indoor gym a few times before going into the wild; if you're inexperienced, hire a professional guide for your first few climbs.
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Photo: By Flickr user Lynn Eubank via Wikimedia Commons
This sport has been around for nearly 40 years and all it requires is a shovel. It started as almost a joke, with ski lift instructors riding shovels down the hills once their shifts ended and the lifts were closed. But it eventually became a sport and people now achieve speeds of nearly 60 mph while doing it. For a more relaxed version of the sport, try being pulled behind a horse on flat ground.
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This is a specialized type of scuba diving that demands training beyond the standard certification, but the rewards are unmatchable: you get to observe marine life through immaculate water. The reason this sport requires so much training is because it's dangerous; there's only one entry and exit point—the hole you cut into the ice, much like in ice fishing. Participants are usually tethered to someone on the surface before entering the water.
If this sport is too treacherous for you, there's always the polar bear plunge. In this sport you simply enter an unfrozen body of water and enjoy the refreshing frigid temperatures. Polar bear plunges are often done as competitions and fundraisers. Just remember, an energizing dip can turn dangerous if you're in the water for too long.
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Simply put, this is motocross on snow. Instead of motorcycles, however, they use snowmobiles—and it's just as competitive. Racing around the tracks, these daredevils navigate through turns, banks and obstacles. Jumps can be up to 30 feet high and can launch the racers well over 100 feet. This is not only an exhilarating sport to participate in, but it's also fun to watch.
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Possibly the most dangerous and expensive of the winter sports, speed flying is downhill skiing with a parachute-like fabric wing. Often dropped off by helicopter on remote summits, participants then sail down mountains (similar to paragliding) with the assured comfort that they can ski when their feet are close enough to the ground. Speed fliers sometimes get up to 100 mph and have to dodge trees and ravines while doing so.
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Ski biking is one of the easiest of the extreme winter sports. Bike wheels are replaced with skis and the resulting vehicle is used to shoot down steep, snowy hills. With a low center of gravity, it's easy to sit and steer as the bike glides down the mountain. Learning this sport is laid back and fun; the only problem is that ski bikes are relatively new and sometimes hard to find for rental or purchase. Check with your local ski resort as a lot of them offer ski biking as an alternative activity to skiing.