SITTING under a palm tree on an idyllic beach starts to sound almost pedestrian when you consider what adventures lie in store for those willing to embrace snow and ice.
It’s cold, but winter brings some of the most beautiful landscapes and thrilling activities on earth – from dog sledding in the Arctic Circle to snowmobiling across Alaska’s snow fields and mountain ranges.
Here we have that – and more. Winter in north America is a great time to observe Earth’s loveliest furry animals: white-pelt harp seals and polar bears, for example.
The most extraordinary trip here is the two week excursion to the North Pole, which has you sky diving above the Pole, in the northernmost spot on the planet, then diving down below through the ice. It’s £48,000 – but then again, if you’ve got the cash, it’s a once in a lifetime experience. Snow get ‘em.
North Pole Adventure in 3D
All you need is a medical certificate saying you are fit to skydive, a basic PADI diving certificate and a whole lot of cash. The rest, such as learning how to skydive, will be taken care of. This package is an opportunity to see the North Pole in 3D by joining an expedition to skydive above, and scuba dive below, the northernmost point of the world, with leading adventure experts.
Imagine being in freefall over white polar landscapes, where no time zone exists and every direction leads south, having been flown 6,500 feet in a MI-17/8 Russian Helicopter up above the ice. Then, diving below the surface you’ll swim – well insulated in the most advanced diving equipment out there – under the Pole, among the ice formations and translucent colours that are unlike anything else on Earth. After all this you’ll warm up in a specially designed arctic tent and continue to enjoy your stay in a fully prepared ice shelter. Totally unique. 12-26 April 2010, from £48,000 per person. Call Black Tomato on 0207 426 9888 or go to www.blacktomato.co.uk.
Dog Sledding in Finland
For something closer to home, here’s an arctic northern European journey. Led by a team of Siberian huskies, you’ll cross frozen lakes and weave your way through the coniferous forests of the country’s north, covering 30-40km each day in pairs, taking turns to drive the sled. You’ll be trained to drive huskies (called “mushing”) so you’ll be able to handle the team of energetic dogs yourself. The only obstacles in your path will be the reindeer and elk that might cross it from time to time, looking for food – with any luck you’ll glimpse the Northern Lights too. Accommodation is in cosy log cabins with saunas and will provide the ultimate cosy retreat. A reasonable level of fitness is expected and no princesses allowed – you’re expected to participate in all aspects of husky care. Prices from £1,121 pp, including flights (Heathrow), all transportation, three nights’ full-board (two wilderness cabins, one simple lodge) and tour guiding. Departing 4 March, when snow conditions are at their best. To book, call Explore on 0844 499 0901 (www.explore.co.uk).
Polar Bear Expedition in Manitoba
Travelling by tundra buggy, furnished with dual-pane, frost-free windows and propane heating systems that resemble a cosy fireplace, you’ll be in pole position to ogle polar bears alongside expert guides. The bears are waiting for the ice to solidify on Hudson Bay so they can begin the winter seal-hunting season. You’ll see mothers with cubs, young adults play fighting and other engaging displays of bear behaviour, and to mix things up, you’ll go dog sledding in the north on day five. £3,071 per person based on two sharing for six days, including a return flight from Winnipeg to Churchill, accommodation, all meals, the services of professional guides, all activities/entrance fees and a year’s membership to Polar Bears International. International flights are not included. Call Baobab Expeditions on 020 8951 2854 (www.baobabexpeditions).
Cresta Run in St Moritz
St Moritz is the oldest winter sports resort in the world, with arguably the most spectacular setting in the Alps by the Engadine lakes. This trip will not only let you loose on ice cricket and polo on the frozen lakes, it will take you to the famous Cresta Run, the 1,212.5m sledding track that snakes down the mountain. Descending the nearly mile-long run at speeds above 60 mph (the best riders approach 80 mph), your face just inches above the surface of the ice, is a near-perfect thrill for adrenaline seekers. Then there’s the most sophisticated Alpine luxury to look forward to as a reward afterwards.
Three nights mid-week, from £1,400 per person, including flights, car hire, B&B accommodation at the Kempinski St Moritz, and up to five runs and instruction on the Cresta. With Original Travel (originaltravel.co.uk, 020 7978 7333).
Snowmobile Safari in Alaska
Remote Alaska is the ultimate destination for snow-loving adventurers with its emptiness, stark beauty and American friendliness. This package will have you racing through snowy vistas in a snowmobile with nothing but blue sky, white mountains, pine forests and your fellow travellers. The route takes you to the base of Mount McKinley and along the Iditarod Trail to the heart of the Alaska Mountain Range, and over 1,000 miles of frozen rivers and icy swamps. You’ll stop in mountain-framed Anchorage where you’ll see moose walking through the streets. Evenings will be spent in cosy lodges and food will be the likes of Alaskan crab, hand-picked from the Pacific ocean. If you want more, say the word and you can be ice-climbing, heli-skiing, whale watching, kayaking, and searching for bears in the vast national parks before you can say Sarah Palin. From £3,499 pp for seven days, November-April. Call Black Tomato on 020 7426 9888 or go to www.blacktomato.co.uk.
Harp Seal Watching near Quebec
Each March, 250,000 harp seals migrate from Greenland to the Gulf of St. Lawrence near Quebec to bear their young on the vast ice floes surrounding the Magdalen Islands. For centuries baby harp seals have been hunted for their immaculate white pelts. Now they’re protected it’s possible to visit them. That can be you if you fancy a four-day trip to the floes, where you can admire the austere winter beauty of the Magdalen Islands and observe the behaviour of the seals. Accommodation is in the crisp and cosy Chateau Madelinot, which is right on the sea and near the town of Cap-aux-Meules. From £817 per person based on two sharing. Includes round trip domestic transfers., accommodation, all meals and excusrions. International flights not included. Call Baobab Expeditions on 020 8951 2854 (baobabexpeditions.com).