It’s still hard to believe when I look out my window. Oklahoma has been completely dumped on by the full force of Winter’s wrath. I feel like I’m back living in Canada minus the snow plows, sand trucks, knowledgeable drivers, and overall preparedness by society to continuing functioning.
Your kids have been out of school and on the Xbox so long, they’re losing brain cells faster than you can shovel the white stuff off your driveway. Maybe you feel trapped and helpless. Maybe you’re going stir-crazy and watching the Price Is Right got old after day three. Warmer temperatures are on the way, but in the meantime here are few ways (some are even legal) you can rid yourself of the boredom and embrace what remains of winter.
These are sports, er…activities. Some can be enjoyed here at home, others might suit you if you’re really, really, really, into winter…and sharks.
This is kind of like sledding, only illegal. Skitching is the art of being towed by a car while on skis, a snowboard, a saucer, or even boots with no tread. Almost any neighborhood or side street is the ideal venue. The great part about skitching is how many options you have. If you don’t have rope, just grab onto the bumper. You’ll inhale a good amount of exhaust and run the risk of sliding under the vehicle, but I never said skitching was without risks. A length of rope or chain gets you out of the exhaust fumes, but it can also set you up to be whipped around a corner into a telephone pole. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: pay attention while skitching. Any sudden braking by the driver can lead to the most common skitching injury known as face-on-tailgate. Choose your skitching method wisely and keep a healthy supply of band-aids close at hand.
Skijoring is like skitching only slower and more primitive. The sport comes from the Norwegian word skikjøring which means ski driving. Skijoring is usually done with dogs but a horse, cow, reindeer, or wife will do just fine. Get out your skis, slap a harness on something with legs and you’ll be skijoring across the prairie in no time. If you can somehow train whatever is pulling you to avoid ravines and low branches, maybe you’ll want to challenge yourself by entering a skijoring competition. Yes, this is real sport and usually goes hand in hand with dog sledding events. The granddaddy of all skijoring races is the Road Runner 100 in Whitehorse, Yukon. Be the fastest to skijor 100 miles and you win a whopping $850! Losing those fingers to frostbite is nothing compared to being crowned a skijor champion!
What do you mean it’s too nippy to go for a dip? You clearly don’t have what it takes to be a Polar Bear. I’m not talking about the furry, four-legged animals in the Coke commercials. I’m talking about the lunatics who purposely hurl themselves into freezing lakes, ponds, rivers, and oceans. If feeling your heart stop then feeling it race like crazy sounds like a good time, there are plenty of nutjobs who will welcome you into their club with open, albeit very shriveled, arms. Polar Bear clubs aren’t just full of people who lost a bet, these are real organizations packed with psychos who will stop at nothing to imitate ice cubes. The Coney Island Polar Bear Club is the oldest club in the United States and you can find their members in the water every Sunday from November through April. The Coney Island Club was founded in 1903 by Bernarr Mcfadden, who believed a dip in the frigid water “can be a boon to one’s stamina, virility, and immunity.” Further exploration of the Club’s website reveals that some do it “for the possible health benefits,” and “it is possible to get hypothermia.” You mean there’s no guarantee I’ll feel better and I might die? Where do I sign?
Again, this is a real sport with a real following. Bandy is a combination of soccer, football, and hockey. It is played on skates on a rink the size of a football field. Two teams of 11 players try to put the ball in a goal using curved wooden sticks. Bandy was invented in Russia in the 1700’s, which isn’t at all shocking. It’s the dead of winter in Siberia in the 1700’s, you’re either going to freeze to death or invent a game that keeps you moving. You may not have heard of bandy, but it’s actually kind of a big deal in countries that don’t know what the color green looks like. Finland, Sweden, and Russia are the biggest bandy countries, but the Federation of International Bandy boasts 27 countries including the United States. The International Olympic Committee is even considering bandy for the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia. Take that skijoring! Maybe bandy can catch on in your neighborhood. Just take a garden hose, spray down your backyard, let those freezing temperatures go to work, and before you know it you’re playing bandy!
5. Snow Golf
Just because it’s four degrees outside doesn’t mean you can’t work on your short game. Dig a hole and grab your sand wedge, it’s that simple. You might want to use a brightly colored golf ball. If you don’t, most of your round will be spent searching regardless of the quality of your shot. Every cul-de-sac could be one hole, or you can put a hole in every neighbor’s yard. Imagination is the only limitation when it comes to snow golf! Believe it or not, the inventor of snow golf is none other than Rudyard Kipling. The author lived in Vermont in the 1890’s and would relax in the winters by playing golf in the snow. Kipling’s creation now enjoys a worldwide following. The World Ice Golf Championships are held every year in Uummanaq, Greenland. The course sits on floating sea ice and the tournament is often held in temperatures of minus 50 degrees Celsius. Sadly, there are no carts and there is no beer girl to greet you as you come off the green, or white, as it’s called. Where else in the world can you be a polar bear and lose your ball to a real polar bear? It may be a great training method, because if you can stick a 7-iron from on top of a glacier, you should have no problem at your local club.
6. Ice Fishing for Sharks
The folks in Greenland really know how to live it up in winter. Not only can you win a world championship in snow golf, you can haul a 20-foot shark through a hole in the ice. All this in the same town! That’s right, Uummanaq is the place to be if you want to haul in a Greenland shark. These babies can weigh up to 13-hundred pounds! Beats the heck out of reeling in a walleye with your uncle in Minnesota! The Greenland shark can swim at depths of 2000 feet, so the giants are lured closer to the surface with a combination of ground up fish, whale oil, and seal blubber. The tackle is nothing fancy, but you are encouraged to wear a survival suit in case the beast pulls you into the icy water. A seven day excursion will run you around 2000 Euros, and I’m almost positive you’ll have to sign some kind of liability waiver. Don’t worry, it’s still not nearly as dangerous as skitching.