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Wintertime Activities Help Groups Embrace The Elements

While the rest of the traveling public hibernates through the cold months of the year, true adventurers know that winter is one of the best times to pursue unforgettable outdoor experiences.

Many travel groups suspend their activities after the busy fall season, save for the occasional holiday-themed trip, and plan to hit the road again when the weather warms up. But winter is the perfect time to wow travelers by showing them sites and treating them to adventures that aren’t available at any other time of year.

Whether they’re touring a sparkling white Yellowstone by snowmobile or taking a multiday dogsled adventure in Minnesota, winter has numerous adventures in store for ambitious groups. In New York, travelers can live out a winter sports fantasy with a trip down an Olympic bobsled track. The Pennsylvania Poconos promise family-friendly snow tubing, and the mountains of Washington make a great setting for easy, scenic snowshoe hikes.

If you have outdoors lovers in your group, surprise them with some of these adventurous wintertime activities.


Yellowstone National Park

Montana and Wyoming

Tourists trek to Yellowstone National Park by the thousands during the summer to see Old Faithful and perhaps catch a glimpse of some wildlife. During the winter, the park promises a different experience, as a thick blanket of snow covers the landscape and makes many of the park’s roads impassable.

That doesn’t mean that the park is closed, however; it just means that travelers must use other means to explore Yellowstone in winter. Some groups use snow coaches, special enclosed vehicles built atop skis. But for a more wide-open adventure, local outfitters offer snowmobile tours of the park.

“We offer day trips that leave our facility around 9 and come back around 4 or 5,” said Kennedy Brown, general manager of Two Top, an outfitter that offers Yellowstone snowmobile tours. “We have a great guide staff that has a lot of experience in and around Yellowstone National Park. They give a lot of information about the park’s history, geology and wildlife.”

Though the tours take place via snowmobiles, they aren’t high-adrenaline affairs. The groups move slowly, never faster than 35 miles per hour, and focus on giving riders a scenic, serene experience.

“We have you spread out,” Brown said. “With smaller groups in a big area, you get a good feeling of being out there all by yourself.”

During winter, groups have their choice of two tour routes. One takes them to Old Faithful, during which they can stop for a hot lunch at Old Faithful Inn, across from the famous geyser. The other goes to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone area, where participants can have a boxed lunch along the way.

Whichever route they choose, groups will see elements of the park that are quite different from what they would see at other times of the year.

“The colors change quite a bit, and the animals behave a lot differently,” Brown said. “You get to see a lot of bison and elk because they concentrate around the waterways where the snow is a little thinner. You also see a lot of bald eagles and trumpeter swans.”


Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge

Ely, Minnesota

For people who have always dreamed of dogsledding but aren’t equipped to take on Alaska’s Iditarod Trail, a trip to Ely, Minnesota, might be the perfect winter adventure.

“Our little neck of the woods is the entry point of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, with lots of lakes and trails that connect those lakes,” said Paul Schurke, co-owner of Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge. “There are 2,000 lakes within 50 miles of our town, and 2,000 miles of woodland trail networks. That makes us one of the greatest places in the world for dogsled tourism.”

More than 10,000 visitors visit Ely every year to ride dogsleds, and eight dogsled tour outfitters around the area help them in their endeavors. Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge is the oldest of those operations; it is entering its 34th year this winter.

Wintergreen offers all-inclusive three- and four-day packages that feature lodging, meals and dogsled tours throughout the area. They are designed with dogsledding novices in mind.

“Unlike other winter sports like cross-country skiing or snowboarding, it’s amazing how easy dogsledding is,” Schurke said. “You glide effortlessly with your team. There’s time for photos, petting your dogs and checking out sightings of moose and timber wolf along the way. We also stop for hot chocolate, tea and snacks.”

Participants are assigned a team of purebred Canadian Inuit dogs for the duration of their visits, and Schurke said visitors often bond with their dogs during the course of their stays.

“Launching from the kennel that first day is an adrenaline rush of the first order,” he said. “But when they bond with their teams, it quickly becomes almost a family affair for them. So, by day two, it becomes a surprisingly relaxing experience, despite the fact that they’re in a winter wilderness setting. The dogs make it seem surprisingly friendly and relaxing.”

Wintergreen operates tours December through March. Schurke said space always fills up by the end of October, so interested groups should plan their adventures well in advance.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.