A winter sport is a sport performed in or on snow or ice, or otherwise needing freezing temperatures.
The biathlon is cross-country skiing combined with rifle shooting: the contestants ski around a circuit, stopping at certain intervals to take aim at targets; each miss of the target adds some to the skier's time. In addition to being good at skiing and shooting, this requires good enough nerves and judgement neither to hurry too much nor use too much time at the targets.
While junior and beginner contestants pick up and drop the gun at the shooting range, professional contestants carry the gun around the track as in its origin, military training.
Cross country skiing
- See also: Cross country skiing
Cross country skiing can be used as a mean to travel easily in thick snow in the wilderness or as an alternative pastime at ski resorts and near towns in the right climates. It can allow quite easy access to places which seem untouched by man. The skis are different from those normally used in downhill skiing.
Cross-country skiing involves either shuffling or skating over tracks. As with all Nordic skis the heel is not attached to the ski. This style of skiing is highly energetic as there is no downhill cruising involved, the skier is constantly pushing with their poles and moving their skis across the flat or uphill terrain. Occasionally there is a small downhill section. Cross-country is in no way similar to Alpine skiing, it is a form of transport in the Nordic countries, Russia and rural areas in parts of the Baltic states. Depending on conditions (and the skier) the speed will be from about as fast as using snowshoes to much faster than running. Due to the flat or rolling terrain in much of Scandinavia, and the large wilderness areas to explore, cross-country is a widely practised sport, the equivalent to jogging in the summer. Larger alpine skiing resorts will most likely have some marked tracks and a rental shop available to the public.
Originated in Scotland, curling is gaining popularity after becoming an Olympic sport in 1998. Physical and mental factors are nicely combined in the sport; sometimes described as "Chess on ice". Probably the safest winter sport of all. Also a comfortable spectator sport, which is played in air-conditioned indoor arenas.
Dog sledding was the fastest mode of transport through snowy lands before snowmobiles, and remains a popular pastime.
Downhill skiing and snowboarding
- See also: Downhill snowsports
Downhill skiing is a popular sport involving sliding down snow-covered terrain with skis attached to each foot. Ski resorts around the world attract millions of travellers yearly. There are two main variants, the more common Alpine skiing, where both toes and heels are attached to the ski, and Nordic downhill or Telemark skiing, with loose heels.
Snowboarding is another way of going downhill, more difficult than downhill skiing.
Ice sailing can allow very fast speeds, often as a sport. Either an iceboat is used (often a light construction looking like a trimaran sled), or a skater carries a sail himself. Also a board with runners, similar to a sailboard, can be used.
- See also: Ice skating
There are several ways of using (different kinds of) skates, such as ice hockey, figure-skating, racing and long distance skating.
Ski jumping originally was using bumps in slopes to jump up in the air by ski. This can still be done by reasonably skilled skiers. Nowadays jumping hills for competitive ski jumping are big constructions with the biggest allowing jumps of a hundred metres and more. It is decidedly not a sport for everyone but can at least be watched. In countries where the sport is popular, many towns have jumping hills, and those who have arranged the Winter Olympics definitively have them.
Snowkiting is "winter's newest extreme sport", requiring only the wind, a snowkite, skies or snowboard, and an attitude for fun. The sport has endless possibilities, such as backcountry skiing without a ski lift or resort – your snowkite will pull you uphill and downhill at varying speeds. Snowkites can accelerate up to 50 mph. The lifting power of the wind will allow you to jump to distances of up to 100 feet.
When snowkiting in the backcountry be aware of avalanche danger! Always snowkite in groups, wear an avalanche beacon, dress warm, and never exceed your limits.
Snowmobiling is about riding over snow on a motorized vehicle. As a sport it is popular throughout the western United States of America as well as in Canada and Alaska and elsewhere where snowmobiles are common.
In northern parts of the Nordic countries driving snowmobiles is a common way of getting around for locals and for tourist tours – and a tool for reindeer herding.
- See also: Telemark skiing
Telemark skiing is another method of downhill skiing, with loose heels. Practitioners often think it is more enjoyable than the alpine variant. It also allows covering rolling terrain as it is easy to walk up hills with the loose heel. The technique is more difficult than alpine skiing and beginners to snow sports should usually not start with Telemark, but progress to it.
- See also: Winter swimming
Winter swimming is done in cold weather, and ice swimming at freezing temperatures, preferably followed by a sauna bath.