Best Winter Outdoor Activities on a Budget

Wrapped up warm in a hat and scarf
Trying to be cosy and warm in winter is just down to what you wear.

Winter is so much more enjoyable if you have an outdoor sport to look forward to.  But with the skyrocketing prices of lift tickets, downhill skiing and snowboarding may be a once-in-a-season activity at most.  Are you looking for more ways to enjoy the winter season that don’t cost an arm and a leg?  Check out our favorite winter outdoor activities on a budget!

Cross Country Skiing

Cross country skiing is one of the best budget winter sports activities. Also popularly known as Nordic skiing, cross country skiers enjoy skiing on rolling landscapes rather than on extreme downhill terrain. Cross country skiing uses human force to traverse small hills – so no need for expensive lift tickets!  Unlike other types of skiing, the long, skinny skis and flexible boots allow more movement in your heels and more comfort.

Cross country skiing can be enjoyed in two ways: the classic skiing (where you use diagonal strides), and skate skiing (using techniques similar to skating). Classic cross country skiing is perfect for skiers who love both groomed and ungroomed terrain. If you prefer a more strenuous experience along groomed ski trails, try out skate skiing. Both are best experienced with snow that’s 2-feet deep. If winter is generous to a nearby hill or mountain, give cross country skiing a go.

Gear and Items Needed

  • Skis
  • Boots and binding
  • Poles
  • Wax
  • Ski boots
  • Wear layers – you may need to take off some layers once you get warmed up!

We recommend renting gear, especially for your first few times, or if you get out less than a couple times a year.  Renting cross country skiing gear typically costs between $20 to $50 per day.

Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing has evolved from being a historic mode of winter transportation to a recreational winter activity that all ages can participate in. What makes it a great budget winter activity?  You can do it literally anywhere with snow!

You can compare snowshoeing to hiking in the snow, or more accurately on the snow.  Snowshoes allow you to hike in many feet of snow, and not sink in with every footstep.  It’s a low-impact activity that will keep you in shape even during wintertime.

Gear and Items Needed

  • Snowshoes
  • Boots
  • Snowshoe poles or trekking poles (optional)
  • Non-bulky layers of clothes
  • Warm hat
  • Ski socks
  • Hiking pack with snacks, water and emergency supplies

For your snowshoeing gear in top outdoor destinations, check out these recommended outfitters on TripOutside.com.

Winter Hiking

If you think winter should always keep you inside, think again. Even on colder days, you can bundle up and hike up a mountain or head to your local trail.  Snow can make it an extra challenge, yes, but that means extra calories burned, too!  For fresh powder or snow more than a few inches deep, we recommend strapping on some snowshoes (see above), but a good pair of waterproof boots work great for conditions with less snow.  The best thing about hiking is that it is free!  You can’t beat that for your budget.  And let’s not forget about the views you’ll be getting while you’re hiking!

So if the snow in your area isn’t enough for skiing or snowshoeing, no need to fret – you can still go winter hiking even if there isn’t much snow.

Gear and Items Needed

  • Insulated hiking boots
  • Snow goggles (beneficial for the days the powder is falling)
  • Crampons (optional, help with traction)
  • Warm hat and gloves
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Several layers of clothes and pants
  • Hiking pack with snacks, water and emergency supplies

Winter hiking gear rental typically ranges from $20 to $42 a day.

Fat Biking

Your favorite trails may be hidden under a sheath of snow, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go shredding. Fat bikes allow you to explore the trails without worrying about the snow. These bikes have oversized tires that offer not only great traction on dirt, but also on snow – making winter biking a totally safe option.

During wintertime, many people use fat bikes on groomed singletrack trails and frozen lakes. A quick tip – fat bikes are not allowed on most cross-country ski trails. Always ask the land operator if fat bikes are allowed before venturing out. Fat bikes are also best enjoyed on up to about 4 inches of snow. Your fat bike still needs some compaction against a hard surface to move and make progress.

Have a favorite area that you want to explore in winter? Get on a fat bike and start exploring!

Gear and Items Needed

  • Fat bike
  • Helmet
  • Bike lights
  • Pedals and warm shoes
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Goggles
  • Face mask
  • Several layers of warm clothing
  • Water, snacks, emergency kit

We recommend renting a bike, especially for your first time, or if you get out less than a couple times a year. Fat bike rentals during winter typically range from $75 to $115 a day.

Sledding

Snow days are a perfect time to go sledding! This fun-filled winter outdoor activity is one all ages can enjoy. Let’s not forget that it’s totally cheap – just head out to the nearest hill and sled the day away. You can glide down a snowy hill on inexpensive inflatable tubes, foam or plastic sleds (lightweight sleds with the least resistance to snow), or hybrid sleds for deeper snow.  Since  a sled needs to be pulled uphill, weight should be a major consideration when considering sled options.

Sledding may not be as intense as cross country skiing, but it still calls for appropriate gear. Opt for waterproof jackets, boots, and pants to avoid getting wet.

Gear and Items Needed

  • Sled
  • Waterproof clothing
  • Warm base layers
  • Gloves & warm hat
  • Reliable footwear
  • Water

Ice Skating

Another favorite wintertime pastime is ice skating.  It does require some skills, so be patient if its your (or a companion’s) first time.  Most winter destinations have a local ice skating rink, or a frozen lake where you can practice.  All you need is a pair of skates and the perseverance to stick with it while you learn.

Thanks to public skating rinks that typically charge little to no fees, ice skating all winter is very possible. Practice makes perfect, and the more you get on the ice, the better you will get.  Ice skating is an affordable way to spend time with family and friends, and get a little cardio during the colder days.

Gear and Items Needed:

  • Ice skates
  • Gloves, hat and scarf (especially for outdoor rinks)
  • Light jacket or sweater (depending on the weather and location of the rink)

We recommend renting skates, especially for your first time, or if you get out less than a couple times a year. Ice skates rentals typically range from $5 to $10.

Experience some of the best ice rinks in the world this winter in a city near you.

Snow Tubing

Snow tubing is another exciting way to take your outdoor fun up a notch. Like sledding, snow tubing also uses slopes and the power of gravity. It’s easy – just hop on an inflatable inner tube and slide down a snowy slope or hill.

No special skills are required here – even kids can join in this activity. The best thing about it is it’s affordable – you can just head over to a neighboring hill and snow tube the whole day.  Alternatively, many ski resorts offer affordable snow tubing runs where you can slide the day away.

Gear and Items Needed

  • Snow Tube
  • Waterproof clothing
  • Warm base layers
  • Gloves & warm hat
  • Reliable, waterproof footwear

Tube rentals start at $10 per day.

Snowball Fight

Up for a competition out in the snow? Snowball fights never get old! Running around the snow and launching fresh snowballs at your friends is just pure fun. Oh, and did we mention it’s totally free? It’s a great option if you’re feeling stuck inside the house and are looking for some outdoor exercise.

Snowballs are best created with fresh, wet snow. So put on some waterproof clothing and get outside for the action!

Gear or Items Needed

  • Warm shoes or boots
  • Waterproof gloves
  • Warm jacket
  • Warm hat and base layers

Building a Snowman or Snow Fort

Not sure what to do with the load of fresh powder dumped all over your yard? Gather friends and family and build some snowmen and snow forts! This delightful snow activity will keep you and your family entertained for hours. Hold a snowman building competition and see who comes up with the most creative designs! These activities are not only amazing ways of making winter memories – they help you burn a ton of calories too!

Since these activities require you to be in the cold for several hours, make sure to wear layers of warm clothing, and a pair of waterproof mittens or gloves.

Gear and Items Needed

  • Warm boots
  • Waterproof gloves
  • Waterproof jacket & pants
  • Warm base layers & hat

This winter season, don’t let the cold and snow get in the way of your outdoor adventures. These ideas for outdoor winter activities on a budget will help you have the best of times without breaking the bank. Now that’s a win-win.

Guest Post by Julie Singh, Co-Founder of TripOutside.com

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