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Extreme Ice: 5 Wild Ways To Enjoy A Minnesota Winter

Updated: May 6, 2021

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!

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 (and final — for now) 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 every January.

Climbers must be at least 15 years old and be 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.

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, but the high energy atmosphere is consistent. If you’re even remotely interested in hockey, this is a fun and festive event.

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

Check out the ultimate ice fort The 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 the night in Excelsior. This attraction is part tunnel, part ice slide and part igloo on steroids.

There are thrones, slides and tunnels to explore. Dates are understandably weather dependent, the attraction is typically open throughout January and into early February.

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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