5 Wild Winter Sports You’ll Only See in Wisconsin

Mark Crawford
Special to TravelWisconsin.com

If there’s one thing that’s true about Wisconsin, it’s that we know how to have fun in the snow. 

Sledding, ice skating, downhill and cross-country skiing, and snowmobiles are all part of our culture. Despite all the fun and exercise, they can be a bit predictable.

If you are looking for something different to try, check out the activities below. These are also fun to watch—if you don’t want to participate, bundle up, bring a thermos, and enjoy the action.

Sailing … Across the Ice?!

Iceboating requires smooth, expansive ice and special equipment for gliding across it, propelled by wind-driven sails or kites. Speeds can reach as high as 100 mph.

Popular Wisconsin spots for this sport are Lake Winnebago, Geneva Lake, Green Lake, Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. Contact such local groups as the Green Lake Yacht Ice Club to try it out.

Skiing With the Dog

Skijoring originated in Scandinavia as a faster form of cross-country skiing. The skier still uses skis and poles, but is connected to a dog via a harness who runs ahead and pulls.

It is a great way for both you and your pet to get exercise (the dog needs to weigh at least 30 pounds). Minocqua Winter Park and Nordic Center is an excellent resource for skijoring and offers training by the Wisconsin Trailblazers Sled Dog Club.

Racing on Odd ‘Vehicles’

Northern Wisconsinites are experts at coming up with creative ways to raise money for their communities. If you can ride it down a hill or strap it to skis, you can race it.

For example, Conover has hosted snow shovel and recliner races in year past at the Northwoods Blizzard Blast, a fundraiser for local fire and EMS departments.

It gets even crazier in Drummond, where the brave (or foolhardy) attach bar stools to skis and race them down a hill. Half the fun is seeing how they are decorated. The event continues to grow in popularity and was featured on the Discovery Channel several years ago. 

Chasing Frozen Waterfalls

Not all winter events are downhill or cross-country—sometimes you go straight up, like ice climbing. When springs and waterfalls freeze, they often form sheets of ice over the vertical rock faces. Climbing these surfaces requires the same skills and equipment as rock climbing.

A hearty day of ice climbing is a fantastic workout. Good spots are the Wisconsin River near Lone Rock and Stephens Falls at Governor Dodge State Park.

‘Freezin’ for a Reason’

Wisconsinites have been known to expose themselves to the elements for a good cause (not just Packers games). Take, for example, St. Germain’s annual bikini snowmobile run, in which participants compete to raise money for charities and local fire and EMS departments.

There is also the highly popular “Polar Plunge,” a fundraising event for the Special Olympics of Wisconsin. Annual plunges are held in a number of cities across Wisconsin, this year starting in February in Kenosha and ending in March in La Crosse.

Since its inception in 1999, these events have raised nearly $19 million for Special Olympics athletes. It is a great bonding experience and equally entertaining to watch. So get your plunge on!


Ready to try one of these insane sports? Read more on ice sailing, skijoring and ice climbing, and browse our events directory for Polar Plunges near you!


This entry was posted in Winter Activities