Extreme Ice: 5 Wild Ways To Enjoy A Minnesota Winter

Minnesota has more than 10,000 lakes (11,842, if you want to be exact — which I do) and long winters, so it’s no surprise that the state offers lots of ways to enjoy all that ice and snow. You could simply go ice fishing if you want to go the traditional route. But I prefer a walk (or a paddle or a climb) on the wild side.

Here are a few fun ways to experience the ice in my home state this winter. Be sure to add your favorites in the comments section below!

Photo by Jeremy Jordan

Scream for an extreme sport — with 100,000 new friends
Watching athletes flying across the ice in the shadow of the Cathedral of Saint Paul just skyrocketed to the top of my “Things I Didn’t Know I Wanted To Do, But Am Now Obsessed With” list. Red Bull Crashed Ice 2018 returns to Minnesota’s capital city for its seventh year on January 19 and 20. The ice cross downhill competition (a mash-up of downhill skiing and boarder-cross, with a little hockey thrown in for good measure) promises plenty of action.

The crowds are massive, so you’ll want to dress warm and plan ahead. Get all the details about where to eat, where to go and how to take advantage of the the free shuttles and free Metro Transit rides with this handy Red Bull Crashed Ice Championship Guide.

Conquer ice climbing
Want to actually try a new winter thrill yourself? Try scaling an icy cliff at Robinson Park in Sandstone, Minnesota, 65 miles southwest of Duluth. This pretty park offers ice and mixed climbing during the winter months. It’s actually the very first ice climbing park in the state.

If you’ve climbed before (but maybe not outdoors), head to the park for ice climbing instructional clinics during Sandstone Ice Festival January 5-7. Climbers must be at least 15 years old and b familiar with climbing knots and belay technique. A limited selection of demo gear is available.

Want to skip the climbing this year? No worries. You can join winter enthusiasts from all over the Midwest and Canada for winter camping, snowshoeing and skinny skiing, as well as the aptly named Frozen Kettle chili cook off.

Photo by Stephanie Wagner

Cheer for your hockey teams at an outdoor rink
Hockey is a religion in most of Minnesota. And Hockey Day Minnesota is a close to a religious holiday as the church of hockey gets. Spectators bundle up for live music and a chance to watch high school and college teams battle it out on an outdoor hockey rink.

The location of the event is different every year (St. Cloud will host teams on frozen Lake George in 2018), but the high energy atmosphere is consistent. If you’re even remotely interested in hockey, get yourself to St. Cloud on January 20.

Photo by Brianna Murphy

Paddle the frigid Minnesota waters
Minnesota offers lots of gorgeous spots for kayaking during the warm weather months, but the Lake Superior Water Trail, which runs along the shores of the largest freshwater lake on earth, is stunning in the winter as well. It snakes along Minnesota’s North Shore and offers some of the state’s most beautiful scenery.

Lake Superior is chilly even in the dog days of summer, so make sure you have the right winter kayaking gear. This post offers lots of information about winter kayaking gear and safety tips so you can be fully prepared.l

Photo by Alma Guzman

Check out the ultimate ice fort
The Stillwater Ice Castles are pretty much the most epic snow fort ever. Dripping with dramatic, craggy, icicle-like drips and peaks, the massive ice structure lights up Lowell Park in the pretty river city of Stillwater. This attraction is part tunnel, part ice slide and part igloo on steroids.

The princesses are in residence on Saturdays and Sundays, so bring the kiddos. (Sleds are recommended.) If fire is more your thing, mark your calendar for the fire shows on Fridays and Saturdays. The fun starts January 5th and will run at least until February 28, weather permitting.

What about you?
Which of these spots or activities have you tried?
Which ones do you want to check out next?
What cool ice activities would you add to this list?
What’s your favorite winter activity?
What’s your favorite place to get outdoors in the winter?
(It can be in Minnesota or near you.)

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