When you think about winter sports and activities, you probably immediately envision the snow-capped peaks of the Alps and the Pyrenees, or the endless white expanses of Scandinavia, interspersed with haunting tracts of pine forest. However, it isn’t just the dramatic landscapes of the Continent that provide the perfect backdrop for thrills and spills in the snow.
You may not have realised until now, but the UK offers plenty of opportunities to participate in a range of thrilling winter sports, suitable for various ages and abilities. From Nordic skiing and tobogganing to ice skating and snow tubing, there are so many ways to get out into the great outdoors – or to your nearest indoor rink, depending on the weather – and experience your fair share of frosty exhilaration.
If you’re keen to discover more, read on to discover some of the most fun-filled winter sports you can enjoy in the UK with your friends and family. With so many opportunities for adventure at your fingertips, you’ll be dreaming of a white Christmas this year so you can make the most of all the fun that snow has to offer.
Snow tubing is one of the more recent winter sports trends to sweep the UK, which means there is likely to be a place not too far from you that offers it as a thrilling family-friendly activity.
Akin to sledding (except supposedly even more fun) snow tubing is a sport you can enjoy in most weathers; in fact, if it’s raining then you’ll just go even faster - which, arguably, will make the whole thing even more exciting.
Snow tubing is also a very accessible sport; even children as young as 5 or 6 can take part. Make sure you are dressed suitably, wearing gloves, warm clothing, and walking boots. You will be provided with helmets at your snow tubing destination.
We have all marvelled at the spectacle of graceful ice dancers leaping, swooping, and curvetting across the glimmering surface of the ice. Acclaimed skaters such as Torvill and Dean, and popular shows like Dancing On Ice – not to mention the Winter Olympics – have popularised this immensely skilled and glamorous sport.
However, if you were under the impression that ice skating is only for the supremely talented, you are wrong. As long as you are not afraid to put your ego on the line, ice skating is a fun and rewarding winter activity that will provoke plenty of thrills, laughter, and glee.
In fact, it’s the ideal winter experience to share with your best friends or family members. After all, who better to scoop you up off the ice when you have a little tumble than your nearest and dearest?
Finding an ice rink to get started won’t be a dilemma, as there are plenty to choose from, dotted throughout the country.
While snow isn’t guaranteed in winter these days, there are some winter sports that don’t require its appearance. Curling, for example. If you find the prospect of ice skating a little too risky, curling may be just the solution, as it is frequently described as a form of bowls – just played on ice.
Unfortunately, there is only one dedicated rink available in the UK, but if you can make it to Tunbridge Wells for the day, you can give it a try, courtesy of Fenton’s Rink.
There’s no denying that one of the most magical ways to spend your Christmas break is by taking a Skiline ski holiday to the romantic mountain villages of France, Switzerland, and Austria.
There, you can spend your days swooping down gleaming white slopes, surrounded by scenery worthy of a picture postcard, and enjoy heart-warming evenings tucking into hearty meals, sipping warm spiced wine, and reflecting on your adventures. Sounds appealing? You can learn more about Skiline here, and explore the variety of spectacular skiing holiday packages they provide.
Of course, if you can’t make it to one of your favourite European ski resorts this year, there are a number of UK options you can try instead. From dry ski slopes to Scottish mountain resorts, Britain is home to an abundance of locations offering you the chance to ski and snowboard all year round.
One of the best is Glenshee, in Aberdeenshire, which offers a total of 25 miles of ski runs to tackle, ranging from wide pistes to more sheltered courses, and even some jumps for the more experienced. You can also test your slaloming skills on their dedicated track to really enhance your technique.
Alternatively, you may want to give Cumbria’s ski slopes a try. Yad Moss boasts the lengthiest single-button lift in the UK and provides up to eight red or blue ski runs if the conditions are right. However, you should bear in mind that – while the views and location are undeniably awe-inspiring - the facilities here are more basic, and the pistes are more suitable for intermediate or experienced skiers.
The sport of tobogganing has been delighting children and adults alike ever since it was first invented – which was thought to have occurred in Montreal sometime during the 19th century. The activity was so entertaining that its popularity soon caught on and spread to the United States.
From there, this wintry trend journeyed across the pond to the UK, and now British families can savour the giddy thrill of hurtling down a slope or an icy chute, filling the air with their shrieks of mingled joy and fear.
These days, there are several places peppered around the British Isles where you can take part in this family-friendly sport, from Kent to Suffolk. However, if you are keen to get your kids involved, bear in mind that children under the age of 4 or 5 may not be allowed to take part, for safety reasons. However, if you have a little sled of your own at home, you can still keep them entertained while their siblings go whizzing down the slope.
Last but not least, winter sports enthusiasts with a head for heights and a taste for the unique and the challenging may wish to make the journey north to Scotland, and give ice climbing a go.
Ben Nevis is known for the good quality of its ice gullies, which can resist the thaw for up to several months between December and April, providing plenty of opportunities to make an exhilarating ascent. The Cairngorms and Glencoe also have good conditions, although if there is an early thaw, you can always make use of the indoor ice climbing wall at Kinlochleven.
Further south, Snowdonia is another possibility, particularly Cwm Idwal, and even some parts of the Lake District can sometimes provide the ideal conditions for an ice climb.
Because ice climbing can be physically arduous – and potentially dangerous, if you don’t use your equipment correctly – it’s a good idea to arrange a taster session before you try any ascents on your own, even if you already have some rock climbing experience. Ice can be a much more difficult surface to work with than rock, requiring specially designed picks and ice screws.
However, if you have the right equipment, and the know-how, it can be a thrilling winter sport that tests your endurance and sends shivers of delight – as well as cold – down your spine.