Fresh Air Activities for Winter

By Mick Travis , last updated December 19, 2011

While winter can be a challenging season, filled with nuisances like shoveling the driveway and scraping ice off car windshields, it can also be a time of highly enjoyable fresh air activities. Embracing winter by getting outside and having fun with what the season offers can make you feel more engaged during a time of the year that leads some people to hole up indoors and become a bit lazy. Naturally, when engaging in any of these activities, you'll want to make sure you're properly dressed in thermally-retentive layers. You should also take care to have your head, face and hands properly covered, especially on blustery days when frostbite becomes a distinct possibility.

Ice Skating

This is a classic, outdoor winter activity that's not only great fun, but good exercise for the leg muscles. Ice skating is fun, whether it's taking place at a popular, designated skating area, or whether you skate with a small group of family and friends on a private pond or lake. To add a little extra fun to the proceedings, build an outdoor bonfire for warming up and roasting smores, and have an urn of hot chocolate at-the-ready. Make sure, when choosing a spot for ice skating, that the ice is solid and thick enough to support your weight. For this reason, ice skating alone on an undesignated frozen surface is not recommended.

Ice Fishing

As with ice skating, you'll want to make sure that the ice you're fishing on is solid enough to support weight, and the best way to do this is to fish at a designated spot with other people. Aside from fishing poles and bait, you'll need an auger to drill your hole. These come in either manual crank or electric versions. You'll also want to bring exceptionally warm gloves for ice fishing, given the length of time your hands will be exposed to the cold while holding the pole, and bringing a lightweight folding chair is an absolute necessity.

Cross Country Skiing

Cross country skiing is one of the most complete exercises you can engage in, simultaneously working the arm, leg and core muscles, while also providing a strenuous, calorie-burning cardio workout. Complete sets, containing skis, boots, bindings and poles are surprisingly cheap, and can often be had for less than $350 brand new. Some sporting goods stores also sell used, refurbished cross country ski sets at substantially reduced prices, while commercial cross country ski areas will rent out equipment for the day. Staying warm while retaining the flexibility you'll need for the movements means opting for thin, thermally insulative layers rather than a few large, puffy articles of winter clothing.

Snow Architecture

Building snowmen is great fun for the whole family, but for a truly involved outdoor winter activity, constructing actual igloos, complex fortresses or long and winding walls is a wonderful way to get outside and pass the day. To build these advanced structures, all you'll need is a plastic snow block mold, which is a hollow plastic rectangular bucket with an open bottom and a handle on top. These very basic and highly affordable devices cost less than $10. Simply pack as much snow as possible in the bucket, turn it over onto the ground or onto another packed snow block, and lift the mold to reveal the block. This activity works best with snow which is slightly wet.


Like ice skating, sledding is a timeless winter activity that has brought joy to multiple generations of people. Whether you're using a classic wooden and metal sled, or the common, rollable plastic sheets, sledding provides an exhilarating rush of speed with no complicated equipment or apparatus required. One of the ways sledders have added an additional degree of fun to the proceedings is to have sled races. Best of all, those repeated walks back up the hill in order to sled down again are great exercise for your legs.

Winter Hiking

Winter hiking provides some of the most beautiful and peaceful scenery you'll ever see while trekking, and provides ample opportunity for amazing photos. Naturally, you'll want to stay on pathways to prevent getting lost, and wearing calf-high, lightweight, waterproof boots is as important for foot comfort as wearing comfortable, breathable socks. In some instances, your winter hiking may require snowshoes rather than boots, which is a fun way to walk in the snowy outdoors. One great idea for a winter hike is to stop at some point along the way for a winter picnic, with sandwiches and thermoses full of hot soup and hot chocolate. Another great take on winter hiking is to rent a cabin at a local state park, which offers such services, and spend a few days hiking the trails there.

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