by Craig Blake
Don't make winter an excuse to be become a shut-in. Winter sports are some of the most invigorating and fun activities out there. No matter what floats your boat, there are several winter sports to choose from. From skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing and ice skating, there is a large variety of snow sports for every sports enthusiast. Use this winter sports buying guide to help you decide what sport is best for you and what you'll need to get started.
Winter sports: Don't feel limited to just one winter sport. Depending on how serious you are about any one sport, you should branch out to as many as you would like. Who knows, you might surprise yourself. For all sports, you'll want to stay safe and think about getting high-quality gear, goggles and helmets.
Snowboarding: Although snowboarding is one of the most recent winter sports, it has become one of the most popular. Snowboarding is done by strapping snowboard boots into snowboard bindings attached to the snowboard so the rider has complete control. Snowboards were once not allowed on ski slopes, but now 97 percent of all ski resorts allow snowboarders. Before you go, you'll need your fair share of snowboarding equipment. To cover the basics, you'll need a snowboard, snowboard boots, snowboard bindings, snowboard pants, snowboard jackets, snowboarding goggles and other warm winter gear, such as beanies and gloves.
Skiing: Meanwhile, skiing has long been the preeminent winter sport of choice, and it is much older than other winter sports. For example, 7000-year-old wall carvings have been discovered in Norway, depicting a person on skis with one pole. You can bet he was having the time of his life. When you go skiing, you'll need your ski equipment, including a set of skis, ski boots and, like snowboarding, some warm winter gear.
Snowshoeing: When you want to get out and see the terrain, snowshoeing presents the perfect opportunity. Snowshoes allow you to walk over the surface of the snow without sinking. They are perfect to have at a cabin for utility's sake and great for enjoying the outdoors in the winter. Compiling your snowshoeing equipment shouldn't take very long since you'll basically just need the snowshoes, bindings and warm, waterproof clothing. Instead of just sticking to the basics, try some running snowshoes or backcountry snowshoes for an extreme sporting experience.
Ice skating: For every level of dedication, ice skating is a perfect winter activity. Whether you are training to be a champion figure skater or just want to skate around an ice skating rink, you'll find that ice skating is an enjoyable winter sport. When you purchase ice skates, make sure you differentiate between figure skates, speed skates and hockey skates. Figure skates are built for maneuverability; speed skates are made for, well, speed; and hockey skates are made for fast-paced stop and go action. Ice hockey skates include a pick at the tip of the blade that helps hockey players make quick stops and changes in direction. That is very helpful in a hockey game, but it could be a major liability for figure skating or in a race. If some of these skating sports aren't your thing, try curling. Some ice rinks offer curling lessons for a small fee, and you might become one of the dozen people on Earth who understand the rules.
Sledding: It isn't an Olympic sport, but sledding is a fun winter activity for the whole family. There are a number of different sled types you can choose from. If you want a straight shot down the hill without turning every which way, you'll want a toboggan. If you want a quick, wild ride, try a disc-shaped plastic sled. You can sled nearly anywhere there is a slope. However, some resorts have special sled sections, and some sledding hills have tug lifts so you don't have to trek to the top of the hill over and over. Make sure you pick out a sled or snow tube that will work with your number of riders and where you are sledding.
Sharpen your ice skates: A sharp ice skate blade grips the ice better than a dull blade. You should sharpen your blades when they begin to slide uncomfortably when you land. A helpful tip is to record the number of skating hours in-between sharpening, and then you'll have an idea of how long you can go between sharpening. This will keep you from any unwanted surprises on your ice skates.
Accessorize: Like the Boy Scouts of America, you should always be prepared. You don't have to wear a neckerchief or be able to carve a dog out of soap, but when you are gearing up with winter gear for your winter sport of choice, consider travel bags and accessories. If you'll be snowshoeing or backcountry skiing, it might be worth your while to bring a shovel for emergencies.