25 Winter Adventures

From backcountry skiing to ice fishing, from beginners and fair-weather folks to adrenaline junkies and long-time experts, our list of winter adventures near and far has something for everyone. Take a break from your usual winter mountain and forest destinations and try something new and exciting.


Photo of girl running across Priest Lake.
Reflections on Priest Lake // Photo: Holly Weiler


  1. Cat ski with Selkirk Powder Guides: Take a ride in a PistenBully snowcat for fresh tracks in backcountry terrain near Schweitzer Mountain Resort.
  2. Snowshoe to backcountry hot springs: Jerry Johnson Hot Springs and Weir Creek Hot Springs each require only a 1.5-mile hike from their respective trailheads. And both are located 10-20 miles from Lochsa Lodge off Idaho’s Highway 12, at Lolo Pass near Missoula, Mont.
  3. Skate ski the Fernan Saddle: At 4,000 feet of elevation, the Fernan Saddle connects with Five Finger Saddle along Forest Service Road #612. Though primarily groomed for snowmobile use, the trail is also open to Nordic skate skiers (caution advised). This trail leads to out-and-back destinations including Windy Ridge, Wolf Lodge Mountain, Skitwish Warming Hut, and the Fourth of July Snowmobile Trailhead—a 23-mile journey altogether.
  4. Go sledding, winter camping, and cross-country skiing in the Blue Mountains: In Umatilla National Forest in northeast Oregon, Andies Prairie Snow Park has a family-friendly sledding hill and free campsites. Just across the highway from this park is Horseshoe Prairie Nordic Ski Area with 10-miles of groomed cross-country ski trails.
  5. Heli ski in British Columbia: Terrain around Revelstoke Mountain Resort near Revelstoke, B.C., provides a half million acres of terrain featuring glaciers, alpine meadows, and forests. Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing offers backcountry guide service.
  6. Snowbike at Farragut State Park: Only 20 minutes north of Coeur d’Alene, there are three designated trails for snowshoeing and fat tire biking: Thimbleberry Loop, Visitor Center Trail, and Highpoint Trail.
  7. Nordic ski to Settlers Grove of Ancient Cedars: Follow an out-and-back trail along the west fork of Eagle Creek (about 10 miles round-trip) from the trailhead near Prichard, Idaho.

    Photo of Nordic skier.
    Photo: Jon Jonckers
  8. Snowmobile at Xmas Hills Recreation Area: Explore 600 acres of groomed snowmobile trails in the Bitterroot Mountains near St. Maries, Idaho.
  9. Go dog sledding in Montana: Experience a thrilling guided dog-sled ride to a backcountry yurt or hot springs or for overnight winter camping. Outfitters near Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks include Absaroka Dogsled Treks (Chico Hot Springs Resort), Klondike Dreams Sled Dog Rides, and Base Camp Bigfork, where you get the full hands-on musher experience.
  10. Watch snowshoe softball: Spectators are welcome at the 50th Annual Priest Lake Snowshoe Softball Tournament at Priest Lake Golf Course. Organized in collaboration with Hill’s Resort, cheer on 12 mixed-gender teams on Jan. 12-13 and Jan. 19-20, followed by finals on Jan. 26-27.

    falling while playing snowshoe softball
    Photo courtesy of Dan Barrington.
  11. Play snowshoe volleyball: The George Hill Snowshoe Volleyball Tournament takes place at Hill’s Resort in Priest Lake on January 26 this year. This women-only, double-elimination tournament has been an annual event for more than 25 years. According to resort owner Teri Hill and tournament co-founder, it was created “to give women something to do while the men were playing snowshoe softball” (now that softball tourney is co-ed). Play begins around 10 a.m. and continues well into the night with a maximum of 9 players on each side of the court. New players and teams welcome; contact tournament co-founder Suzie White at (208) 290-7945 or suziehatfield15@gmail.com.
  12. Nordic ski in Idaho’s panhandle: A couple classic options include the popular Fourth of July Ski & Snowshoe Area and the 7-mile Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes segment between Wallace and Mullan that’s groomed for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
  13. Ski Corbet’s and S&S Couloirs at Jackson Hole: Wyoming’s iconic mountain resort is renowned for these extreme, expert-only runs with 40-degree chute drops. Ski patrol opens runs only when conditions allow. Get a bird’s-eye view of Corbet’s from the 100-person aerial tram to the summit, which rises 4,139 vertical feet in 9 minutes

    Photo of skier mid-air taken from below.
    Pro big-mountain freeskier Griffin Dunne dropping in Corbet’s Couloir at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort // Photo courtesy of Jackson Mountain Resort
  14. Go winter camping: Learn the basics on a guided backcountry trip with Spokane-based FLOW Adventures.
  15. Seek the Northern Lights: Canada’s VIA Rail system has a two-night adventure train route between Winnipeg and Churchill in Manitoba. Travel across the auroral zone through Canada’s prairie subarctic region to see Aurora Borealis and polar bears.
  16. Snowshoe at Canfield Mountain Natural Area: Only minutes from downtown Coeur d’Alene, this park’s 24 acres of trails and terrain are well-suited for beginners.
  17. Race a snowmobile: Be a racer or spectator at the annual Vintage Snowmobile Races at Priest Lake’s west side airstrip—Jan. 5and Feb. 9, 2019.
  18. Be entertained by dog sled and skijor racing: The 50th annual Pacific Northwest Championship Sled Dog Race takes place at Priest Lake in Nordman on February 2-3, 2019—sponsored by the Inland Empire Sled Dog Association (iesda.org).Photo of dog sled team with mountains in the background.
  19. Ice skate on local bodies of water: When weather conditions permit, small lakes, ponds, and lake bays around the region freeze over. According to U.S. Coast Guard guidelines, ice needs to be at least 4 inches thick, clear, and solid for skating or fishing. New ice is best, while “snow ice” or white ice is only half as strong. In North Idaho, popular destinations include Round Lake, Sandpoint City Beach, and Sand Creek. Also check out Smith and Brush Lakes near Bonners Ferry. There is also a family-safe, human-made outdoor skating area at the Bonners Ferry fairgrounds. Complete details about ice safety at dnr.state.mn.us.
  20. Ice fish at popular lowland lakes: Options include Fernan, Cocolalla, Twin, Bonner, and Spirit Lakes in north Idaho. In eastern Washington, try Sullivan, Eloika, Curlew, Hog Canyon, Banks, and Moses lakes. Safety guidelines at wa.gov/fishing/ice_fishing.
  21. Ice climb at Hyalite Canyon: Near Bozeman, Montana, Hyalite Canyon has over 250 routes, from moderate to difficult. Join a climbing course or guided trip with Montana Alpine Guides.

    Side view of ice climber at Hyalite Canyon.
    Ice climbing Hyalite Canyon near Bozeman Montana. // Photo courtesy of Montana Alpine Guides
  22. Snowshoe and eat a sunset dinner: Trek up Mt. Spokane’s southwest side with guides from FLOW Adventures for a sunset view and hot Dutch oven dinner.
  23. Stay overnight at Sherman Pass or Snow Peak Cabin: At 5,575 feet, Sherman Pass at Highway 20 in Colville National Forest’s Kettle Range is the state’s highest year-round mountain pass. This area is avalanche-prone, with no official advisories, so only experienced backcountry users who can properly assess avalanche risk and are equipped with proper gear and survival skills should venture here. Snowshoers, Nordic skiers, or backcountry skiers and splitboarders can take the Kettle Crest Trailhead to Snow Peak Cabin, which is available year-round for overnight reservations.
  24. Enjoy Yellowstone country: Experience 35 kilometers of groomed Nordic trails at Rendezvous Ski Trails in Gallatin National Forest (the trailhead begins in West Yellowstone, Montana). Also starting at the edge of town is Yellowstone National Park’s Riverside Trail. Take a guided snowmobile or snowcoach tour to Old Faithful or Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon.
  25. Guided Trip with EPIC Adventures: You don’t have to be a student to register for a winter excursion with Eastern Washington University’s EPIC Adventures program. Options include full moon cabin camping; ice climbing in Banff, Canada; and cat skiing and hot springs in Idaho. //

Amy McCaffree is special section editor and Out There Kids columnist. She loves snow, alpine skiing with her family, and her Siberian husky.

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