Time to chill: 7 outdoor activities to try this winter in Pennsylvania

Time to chill: 7 outdoor activities to try this winter in Pennsylvania

Photo courtesy of PoconoMountains.com

By Kalena Thomhave

December 15, 2023

From curling to skiing, we’ve put together a winter bucket list to showcase all the incredible, magical opportunities for wintertime excitement in Pa. 

The gray skies, flurries, and early sunsets may suggest that it’s already winter in Pennsylvania, but technically winter begins on the winter solstice, which in 2023 is on the night of Dec. 21. So, you have plenty of time to plan how to make this winter not only bearable, but fun. 

We’ve put together a winter bucket list to showcase all the incredible, magical opportunities for wintertime excitement in Pa. 

Try to complete one or two of our suggested adventures to boost your spirits this season — or hey, try to do them all!

But first… gear up at a local outdoors shop

Before you head out into the cold, you need to dress warm — and that requires knowing how to dress warm. Learning about the best gear for cold weather will make it much easier to suit up and actually enjoy the season, rather than cowering at home in front of the heater. To help you out, go to the experts and visit a local outdoors store to get recommendations for base layers, warm hats, ear protection, warm socks, and a trusty jacket. In Pittsburgh, visit 3 Rivers Outdoor Company in the Regent Square neighborhood. Those in the Philadelphia area can head to Out There Outfitters in Wayne. And if you’re in the Poconos, check out Dunkelberger’s Sports Outfitters in downtown Stroudsburg.

Go ice hiking and ice climbing

Time to chill: 7 outdoor activities to try this winter in Pennsylvania

Photo courtesy of Patrick Gensel

Every winter, climbers take to icy Pennsylvania waterfalls, using axes to amble around and over them. If you’ve never experienced ice hiking or ice climbing before, you can try something new with the help of local guides at Ricketts Glen State Park in NEPA. Winter Waterfall Ice Hiking excursions go out for either half- or full-day trips along Falls Trail, which transforms into an icy winter wonderland. You’ll view a number of waterfalls in all their wintry glory and use ice climbing tools to facilitate your hike. Tour operators provide crampons, ice axes, harnesses, and helmets. Book your trip ahead of time, though note weather conditions must cooperate for your group to go out.

Try curling like an Olympian

Time to chill: 7 outdoor activities to try this winter in Pennsylvania

Photo courtesy of Chester County Conference & Visitors Bureau

Perhaps you’ve seen curling competitions during the Winter Olympics, where curlers slide stones on ice toward a target. But did you know that you may be able to try out this winter sport, usually associated with Canada, somewhere near you? In Millvale, outside of Pittsburgh, you can play casual games of curling at Sliders Ice Curling, which also has a full-service bar. Be sure to reserve your rink ahead of time. Regardless of its sunny name, Harrisburg Beach Club also has curling lanes you can reserve, along with a full bar and food truck menu. If you’re more serious about learning the sport, you can take introductory curling classes with curling clubs like the Bucks County Curling Club and NEPA’s Anthracite Curling Club.

Go skiing 

Time to chill: 7 outdoor activities to try this winter in Pennsylvania

Photo courtesy of PoconoMountains.com

Any trail, ideally one that’s well-groomed, can be a cross-country skiing trail if it’s covered in snow. Cross-country skis, or Nordic skis, are skinnier than downhill skis, making them more manageable when striding across the snow. Cross-country (XC) skiers don’t need to take introductory lessons (though you certainly can if you want to improve your skills), meaning that trying your hand at XC is much less expensive than starting downhill skiing. For casual XC ski outings, if you have the right equipment, beginners can start skiing right away. You can visit a specific XC ski resort, or you can rent equipment and head to a park with groomed trails for skiers. At managed ski areas, predominantly those found on the western side of the state, you can rent whatever you need and often even take lessons. For instance, check out the Wilderness Lodge, not far from Erie, which advertises itself as a “Pennsylvania cross-country skiing and Nordic center.” You could also rent equipment at a local outdoor store and head to one of the dozens of Pa. state parks that allow XC skiing — some parks even offer rental equipment.

Downhill skiing, or alpine skiing, has a bit more of a learning curve than cross-country skiing in that you generally need a structured ski lesson in order to start skiing. But the costs of ski equipment rental, a lift ticket, and a lesson means that trying downhill skiing can be pricey — in the realm of hundreds of dollars for one day. Still, if you’d like to feel excited that it’s winter, downhill skiing is a fun investment to help you get there! Popular Pa. ski resorts include Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Berks County, Camelback Resort in the Pocono Mountains, and Hidden Valley Four Seasons Resort in the Laurel Highlands.

Lace up your ice skates

You likely won’t need to travel to go ice skating this winter. Cities and towns across the commonwealth offer their own ice rinks for you to enjoy. Though of course, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can skate on a (safe) pond or lake. Crossing ice skating off your winter bucket list will usually just include showing up at the rink and paying an entry fee, alongside a rental fee if you don’t have your own skates. Grab a friend and go ice skating this winter at Pittsburgh’s seasonal rink downtown, the ice rink near Christkindlmarkt in Bethlehem, the rink at Dilworth Park in Philly, or other municipal and sponsored rinks in Pa. You can also skate at more natural areas, like Hills Creek State Park near the Pa. Grand Canyon. As long as the lake ice is thick enough, you can break out your skates! And Hills Creek State Park’s January Winterfest will feature ice skating as well as sledding, XC skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, and more.

Snowshoe through a winter wonderland 

Snowshoeing is a more difficult version of hiking in the snow. Snowshoeing is not only an affordable way to explore a winter wonderland, but it’s also good exercise. And all you need to get started is to rent your snowshoes (as well as an understanding of how to move and how to get up when you fall). You can try snowshoeing at any cross-country ski resort, which will likely rent snowshoes for use on their groomed trails. You can also rent snowshoes at a local shop and take them anywhere you’d usually go hiking. For example, if you’d like to take a snowshoeing trip to the Endless Mountains when it snows, first rent snowshoes at Chet’s Place near Elk Mountain.

Admire ice sculptures at winter festivals

Time to chill: 7 outdoor activities to try this winter in Pennsylvania

Photo courtesy of Visit Philadelphia

When you’ve had enough snowy exercise, you can take some time to indulge in wintry art — ice sculptures. Professional ice carvers throughout the state whittle down huge blocks of ice to create works of art. But you’ll need to take advantage of the cold temperatures because these chilly displays won’t last forever. Neighborhood and regional festivals often showcase ice sculptures for your viewing pleasure. Check out Chestnut Hill on Ice in Philadelphia, a festival which usually takes place in late January and features a number of ice sculptures (including live carving demonstrations) as well as other winter activities. In mid-February, Jim Thorpe Winterfest is another winter festival, located in beautiful Jim Thorpe, that highlights icy works of art.

Author

CATEGORIES: COMMUNITY | THINGS TO DO

Politics

Local News

Related Stories
Share This