Winter is a time when most people don't want to be alone. Between the holidays and typically dreary weather, most of us prefer to be around friends and family even if it requires traveling outside of Southern California. There comes a moment, though, when even the most family-oriented adventurer needs to break away and find inspiration through winter extreme sports. If your idea of happiness during the winter is finding secluded spots to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, these off-the-grid locales provide a perfect setting to get your adrenaline pumping.
Mount Olympus, Greece
You may never touch the face of heaven by skydiving or ascending Mount Everest, but you can definitely hang with the gods on Mount Olympus. In mythology, the Greek gods resided on the impressive Mount Everest, and it's there that they looked down upon the people going about their mundane daily lives. Thanks to Greece's most remote ski run, Vrisopoules, you can enjoy an exciting life high above typical commoners—just like the Olympians did.
Vrisopoules is controlled by the Greek military, but this doesn't mean you can't enjoy snowboarding or skiing down the run. Just get in contact with the head officer on any given Sunday and you'll be granted access. You can finally get the exhilarating feeling of extreme sports in an area that's typically off-limits without risking barbed wire cuts or arrest. And if you need a break from the slopes, you can hike to numerous mountain refuges or visit the small villages along the side of Olympus.
Cerro Riso Patron, Patagonia
Surfing, skydiving and similar sports are probably the first things to pop in your mind when you think of extreme sports. For those guided by an overwhelming sense of exploration, though, heading out into the remote woods and surviving on their own is just as extreme. On the History Channel series Alone, for instance, ten survivalists are put into the most secluded areas in the world and forced to survive off of the land, completely alone. The third season was held in Patagonia, the exact place you'll find Cerro Riso Patron.
If you're looking for somewhere remote to enjoy winter extreme sports, it doesn't get much more secluded than Patagonia. Cerro Riso Patron, a mountain that tops out at over 8,000 feet, in fact, was only conquered twice between 1978 and 2015. To even reach the mountain, you'll have to travel through remote fishing villages and take ferries, and if your route is hindered by an iceberg, you may have to circle back for a different plan of action.
Never fear, though, if the mountain is outside of your skill level or not easily accessible. You can still get your adrenaline fix by ice climbing up the Viedma Glacier or other frozen locales.
Afriski Mountain Resort, Lesotho
When you think of the word secluded, a resort is likely the last thing that comes to mind. After all, visiting resorts is often as much about drinking with friends as it is tearing up the powder. This isn't the case, however, at the Afriski Mountain Resort in Lesotho. Just think about it: have you ever even heard of Lesotho? Because most people haven't. It's actually one of only three countries in the world that's entirely landlocked by a single country—South Africa.
Afriski offers uncrowded slopes only about 2,500 miles from the banks of Antarctica. Potentially the best part about hitting the slopes in Lesotho? The fact that winter in the area doesn't sync up with winter in America. If your largest dose of living the life you love happens during the cold months, you can visit Lesotho between June and September and then head right back to America to hit the slopes only a month later in places like Keystone, Colorado. Just make sure you aren't prone to altitude sickness—because the entirety of Lesotho rests above 1,000 meters.
Nigardsbreen Ice Cave, Norway
In January, Norway has an average daily temperature of 27 degrees. In June, it gets only eight hours of sunlight—more than at any other point during the year. Norway is exactly what you would think of if you envisioned what winter looked like based only on descriptions. And as it turns out, one of the most remote and inspirational areas in the country doesn't even fall into the typical “extreme” definition we usually look for. Even with this being the case, the Nigardsbreen Ice Cave is one destination you have to visit.
There is about a 16-foot wide opening to enter the cave that's been referred to as an ice cathedral. The depth of the cave is around 100 feet, and it provides magnificent views you could never hope to see when living the beach lifestyle. The Nigardsbreen Ice Cave makes this list for one reason: it's not going to be around for much longer. It was formed due to global warming, and every summer brings it closer to a potential collapse.
Because of this, it's advised that you only venture into the cave during the winter—and then only with a guide. Once you get a taste of this extreme geographical abnormality, go ahead and visit the surrounding areas in Norway where you can engage in anything from ice climbing to cross-country skiing and even dog-sledding.
Holt's Ledge, Lyme, New Hampshire
Greece, Norway and everywhere else on this list require expensive flights out of the country. If you'd prefer to have a little beer money while traveling, though, you can stay right in the good old U.S. of A. and head over to Holt's Ledge. This is a portion of the Appalachian Trail that offers views of endangered species, great hiking and relatively safe ice climbing spots. In fact, each of the ice climbs can easily be accessed from the others, and you can rappel down the faces by using the area's trees.
The largest flow in the area is known as Jaws. This is a Grade III climb, and the Scottish Gully is as well. (Rock and Ice has a great explanation of grades, in case you are unfamiliar.) If you're looking for a Grade IV climb, The Curtain is where you should make your way to. After a bit of ice climbing, you can test the slopes with your snowboard. And if your idea of adventure also includes camping, you can take the chairlift to the top where you'll find a log shelter. Here you can camp out and catch an amazing sunset. All of this without leaving the comfort of your own country.
Do you know of any winter locales off the beaten path that are perfect for extreme sports? Had an extreme winter experience we should consider? Let us know in the comments!