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10 Most Exciting Outdoor Water Activities for Winter

Winter often conjures up images of cozy fireside gatherings, hot cocoa, and snow-covered landscapes. However, for those seeking adventure and a unique way to embrace the cold season, outdoor water activities can offer an exhilarating experience. From ice skating on frozen lakes to braving the waves in a cold-water surf session, there are plenty of thrilling options to explore.

Here are the 10 most exciting outdoor water activities for winter for those looking for thrilling ways to enjoy the winter waters.

1. Ice Skating on Frozen Lakes

Ice skating on frozen lakes is a quintessential winter activity that combines the beauty of nature with the joy of gliding across the ice. As the temperature drops, many lakes and ponds freeze over, providing a natural ice rink. Skaters of all levels can enjoy the serene experience of gliding over crystal-clear ice, surrounded by the pristine winter landscape. Popular destinations for this activity include Lake Placid in New York and Lake Louise in Canada.

Safety Tip: Always check the ice thickness before skating to ensure it’s safe. Ice should be at least 4 inches thick for a single person and 7-12 inches thick for groups.

2. Snowkiting

For those looking to combine the thrill of snow sports with the excitement of water activities, snowkiting is an excellent choice. Snowkiting involves using a kite to harness the power of the wind while snowboarding or skiing on snowy terrain. This exhilarating sport can be done on frozen lakes, open fields, or even in the mountains. Lake of the Woods in Minnesota and Lake Champlain in Vermont are known for their excellent snowkiting conditions.

3. Cold-Water Surfing

If you’re an avid surfer, don’t let the winter months keep you away from the waves. Cold-water surfing offers an adrenaline rush like no other. Equipped with a thick wetsuit, booties, and gloves, you can catch some epic waves even in frigid conditions. Some of the best cold-water surfing spots include Tofino in British Columbia, Canada, and the Oregon coast.

Safety Tip: Ensure you have the proper cold-water gear, including a thick wetsuit and hood, to stay warm in freezing water temperatures.

4. Ice Diving

For experienced divers seeking a unique winter adventure, ice diving is a thrilling option. This activity involves diving beneath the frozen surface of a lake or river to explore the mesmerizing underwater world. The clear ice provides excellent visibility, making it an ideal setting to observe aquatic life and submerged formations. Popular ice diving destinations include Whitefish Lake in Montana and Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia.

Safety Tip: Ice diving should only be attempted by certified divers with proper training in ice diving techniques and safety protocols.

5. Ice Sailing

Ice sailing, also known as ice boating, is an exhilarating winter water activity that combines the principles of sailing with the speed of ice-skating. Participants use specially designed ice boats equipped with blades to sail across frozen lakes and rivers at high speeds. The sensation of gliding over the ice with the wind in your hair is nothing short of thrilling. Lake Geneva in Wisconsin and Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire are popular ice sailing destinations.

6. Polar Bear Plunge

For the truly daring, a polar bear plunge is a winter water activity that requires no special equipment – just courage and a willingness to embrace the cold. Participants gather at a frozen body of water, often in costume, and take the plunge into icy waters. It’s a tradition in many places, including the annual Polar Bear Plunge in Coney Island, New York, and the Loony Dook in Scotland.

Safety Tip: Always be cautious when participating in a polar bear plunge, and consult with event organizers for safety guidelines and recommendations.

7. Ice Fishing

Ice fishing is a serene and meditative winter water activity that allows you to connect with nature while attempting to catch fish from beneath the frozen surface. Set up your fishing gear on the ice, drill a hole, and patiently wait for the fish to bite. Ice fishing is a popular pastime in regions with frozen lakes and rivers, such as Minnesota’s Lake Mille Lacs and Canada’s Lake Simcoe.

8. Nordic Skating

Nordic skating, also known as tour skating, is a combination of ice skating and cross-country skiing. Participants use long, sharp-edged blades attached to their regular boots to glide smoothly across frozen lakes and rivers. This activity offers a unique and graceful way to explore the winter landscape. The Great Lakes region in the United States and Sweden’s frozen lakes are renowned for Nordic skating.

9. Winter Kayaking

Kayaking is often associated with warm weather, but winter kayaking provides an entirely different experience. Paddle through icy waters while surrounded by snow-covered scenery and the tranquility of the winter season. Choose a suitable waterway with calm conditions and be sure to wear appropriate cold-weather gear, including a drysuit. Popular winter kayaking destinations include the Finger Lakes in New York and Norway’s fjords.

Safety Tip: Always check weather and water conditions before embarking on a winter kayaking trip, and ensure you have the necessary safety equipment.

10. Ice Climbing

Ice climbing is a challenging and adrenaline-pumping winter water activity that involves ascending frozen waterfalls and ice formations using specialized gear, including ice axes and crampons. This demanding sport requires strength, skill, and mental determination, making it a thrilling adventure for experienced climbers. Popular ice climbing destinations include Ouray in Colorado and the Canadian Rockies.

Safety Tip: Ice climbing should only be attempted by individuals with proper training and equipment, and it’s often recommended to climb with a guide.


Winter doesn’t have to be a season of hibernation. Embrace the cold and discover the thrill of outdoor water activities that can only be experienced during the winter months. Whether you’re gliding gracefully on a frozen lake, catching waves in a wetsuit, or diving beneath the ice, these 10 exciting winter water activities offer unique and unforgettable adventures for those who are willing to venture into the cold.

Remember to prioritize safety by using appropriate gear, checking weather conditions, and seeking proper training when necessary. So, gear up, stay warm, and make the most of this exhilarating winter season on the water.

Raphael Dume
Raphael Dume

Raphael Dume is a passionate outdoor enthusiast and the visionary behind Outdoor Doer is a passionate community of outdoor enthusiasts dedicated to inspiring and equipping adventurers. We offer expert advice, unbiased product reviews, and comprehensive guides on camping, hiking, fishing, and more. Our mission is to promote outdoor accessibility, holistic well-being, and sustainability through high-quality, engaging content and top-tier gear. Join us to explore, discover, and thrive in the great outdoors.

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