Year-round climbers don’t let a lit­tle win­ter get in their way. Instead, they head for the ice and begin their ver­ti­cal ascents. Along­side expe­ri­ence and knowl­edge, with a lit­tle assis­tance from cram­pons, ice axes and a strate­gi­cal­ly placed ice screw or two, ice climb­ing is a pop­u­lar win­ter activ­i­ty that keeps its patrons warm through­out the sea­son. Across the cold­er part of the nation, both man-made and nat­ur­al ice falls are wait­ing to be climbed, and whether you find your­self look­ing for ice climb­ing in New Eng­land, the Upper Mid­west or the Amer­i­can West, you’ll find plen­ty of routes worth your win­ter attention.

Ouray Ice Park, Ouray, Colorado 
When speak­ing about ice climb­ing in North Amer­i­ca, Ouray Ice Park is always a part of the con­ver­sa­tion. Fea­tur­ing frozen water­falls lin­ing the Uncom­pah­gre Gorge of the San Juan Moun­tains, Ouray earns the top spot with over 200 named routes, an abun­dance of guid­ing com­pa­nies to show you the ropes and a com­mu­ni­ty that has real­ly come togeth­er to enjoy the adven­ture. Built by ice farm­ers and sprin­klers each win­ter, Ouray is an ice-mec­ca thanks to col­lab­o­ra­tive efforts between the city, the Ouray Ice Park non-prof­it group and local landown­ers. One of the best ways to enjoy the Ouray Ice Park is the annu­al Ouray Ice Fes­ti­val, which shines a spot­light on the friend­ly com­mu­ni­ty that sur­rounds these ice walls.

Sand­stone Ice Climb­ing Park, Sand­stone, Minnesota
Just over an hour north of the Twin Cities along Inter­state 35 en route to Duluth, Sand­stone is a real hotspot for Mid­west­ern­ers and beyond for ice climb­ing. Serv­ing as Minnesota’s first farmed Ice Park, Sand­stone Ice Climb­ing Park is sit­u­at­ed with­in Robin­son Coun­ty Park and a for­mer sand­stone quar­ry. These dug-out canyon walls pro­vide the per­fect place to freeze with water, effec­tive­ly cre­at­ing an ice-climb­ing mec­ca in Min­neso­ta. The sea­son at Sand­stone real­ly kicks off each year with the Sand­stone Ice Fes­ti­val in Jan­u­ary and lends access to all abil­i­ties and inter­est lev­els through­out the winter.

Key­stone Canyon, Valdez, Alaska
Sit­u­at­ed on the south­ern shore of Alas­ka, sur­round­ed by the Chugach Nation­al For­est to the east and Wrangell St. Elias Nation­al Park to the west, Valdez is a half-kept secret for adven­ture in Alas­ka. Locat­ed on the apt­ly named “Adven­ture Cor­ri­dor” of Alas­ka, Valdez is home to a lot of alpine action, includ­ing some of the best ice climb­ing around. Of par­tic­u­lar note, Key­stone Canyon draws expe­ri­enced climbers from around the world, offer­ing deep-blue water­fall routes that require mul­ti­ple pitch­es to climb. Much like every­thing in Alas­ka, Key­stone Canyon takes the adven­ture to a whole new lev­el, requir­ing dense logis­tics to get to the trail­head, a self-sup­port­ed endeav­or, and a wilder­ness expe­ri­ence to always remember.

Franken­stein Cliff, Craw­ford Notch State Park, New Hampshire
Among the many New Hamp­shire State Parks to vis­it this win­ter, Craw­ford Notch State Park should be on the top of the list. A pic­turesque des­ti­na­tion set against the White Moun­tains, Craw­ford Notch pro­vides cross-coun­try ski­ing, snow­shoe­ing and qual­i­ty ice climb­ing. Fea­tur­ing a wide vari­ety of ice routes for most skill lev­els, one of the more pop­u­lar road­side spots to climb in Craw­ford Notch is Franken­stein Cliff. With easy access and mul­ti­ple route options to sharp­en your skills, every ice climber in the North­east has heard the tale of Franken­stein Cliff.

Pro­vo Canyon, Wasatch Moun­tains, Utah
Besides pro­vid­ing a great set­ting for auto­mo­bile tour­ing, High­way 189 out of Pro­vo, bet­ter known as the Pro­vo Canyon Scenic Dri­ve, also lends to a bur­geon­ing selec­tion of ice climb­ing routes. Regard­ed as some of the best ice climb­ing in Utah, Pro­vo Canyon lends to road­side access and steep pitch­es, as well as a smat­ter­ing of dif­fer­ent grad­ings to devel­op new skills. An ambi­tious and impres­sive ascent to aim for at Pro­vo Canyon is the Stair­way to Heav­en, a 10-pitch pic­turesque route you’ll have to work for.

Lake Willough­by, Willough­by State For­est, Vermont
The North­east High­lands of Ver­mont is always a great win­ter get­away, and one of the best ways to enjoy the cold sea­son is to climb high onto the ice of Mount Pis­gah near the shores of Lake Willough­by. Locat­ed less than two hours north of Franken­stein Cliff and Craw­ford Notch State Park in New Hamp­shire, Lake Willough­by ice climb­ing is rat­ed as more dif­fi­cult, and can pro­vide the right kind of chal­lenge for expe­ri­enced climbers. Longer approach­es, hard­er ascents, and more pitch­es, that’s the name of the game at Lake Willough­by, includ­ing one of the largest con­cen­tra­tions of dif­fi­cult ice climbs in the nation.

Peabody Ice Climb­ing, Fen­ton, Michigan
Fea­tur­ing two iced-over tow­ers on a retired apple orchard, Peabody Ice Climb­ing pro­vides a cool way to stay active this win­ter. Ide­al for ice-climbers look­ing for train­ing and prac­tice, or begin­ners tak­ing a first inter­est in the sport, the two eye-catch­ing frozen tow­ers at Peabody are also accom­pa­nied by a warm­ing hut, gear rentals and a heat­ed bunkhouse for overnight adven­tures. Through­out all sea­sons at Peabody Ice Climb­ing, ice climbers can con­tin­ue to get some vert with the indoor dry-climb­ing wall and a sim­u­lat­ed high-alti­tude work­out chamber

glacier

glacier

Glac­i­ers are more than fan­cy words for snow­fields. In the moun­tains, they’re the main obsta­cles to reach­ing peaks. In Alas­ka, they calve ice­bergs into the sea and have ori­gins in ice­fields the size of Rhode Island. And they’re melt­ing, which will have some big rip­ple effects that Al Gore has warned us about. And what are ter­mi­nal and lat­er­al moraines any­way? Here’s what hap­pens to a snow­field when it comes alive and starts to move.

A Cold, Cold River
The mag­ic hap­pens when enough snow accu­mu­lates on a down­ward fac­ing slope, which grav­i­ty then starts to move it all down­hill. A glac­i­er is sim­ply a frozen riv­er. When ice accu­mu­lates to a cer­tain thick­ness, the weight of all that ice, com­bined with grav­i­ty, caus­es the bot­tom sec­tion of the glac­i­er to flow and slip along the sur­face. The result is a riv­er that grad­u­al­ly flows down­hill, at rates that may be mea­sured inch­es, or in the case of Glac­i­er Bay’s mod­er­ate­ly hyper­ac­tive Johns Hop­kins Glac­i­er, as much as 8 feet a day. As it flows down­hill, the glac­i­er hits warmer tem­per­a­tures, and the ter­mi­nus starts to melt. The rates of flow and the rate of melt deter­mine whether a glac­i­er advances or retreats. And like any riv­er, glac­i­ers have steep sec­tions and calm ones.

Crevass­es and Ice­falls and Ser­acs, Oh My!
When the glac­i­er moves down­hill, the brit­tle upper sec­tion that can’t bend ends up crack­ing. The results are crevass­es, which climbers strug­gle to cross and dread falling in. Ser­acs are ice tow­ers that form below steep sec­tions, which form ice­falls: the glacial equiv­a­lent of a water­fall. These are par­tic­u­lar­ly treach­er­ous for climbers, because they’re both dif­fi­cult ter­rain and the most prone to shift­ing, avalanch­es, and tum­bling chunks of ice and rock. The most noto­ri­ous is the Khum­bu Ice­fall on the approach to Everest.

glacier
Exam­ple of a Pied­mont Glac­i­er, Chugach Wrangell-St. Elias Moun­tain Range Glacier

Beware the Bergschrund
At the top of every glac­i­er is the bergschrund (Ger­man for “moun­tain cleft”) a large crevasse that marks where the glac­i­er breaks away from the head­wall or snow­field to begin flow­ing down­hill. If it were a riv­er, this would be the head­wa­ters. Bergschrunds are big, deep, and hard to cross. On many climbs, espe­cial­ly ice cas­cade stra­to­vol­ca­noes, they’re one of the biggest obsta­cles. The lat­er the sea­son, the wider the bergschrund yawns and the hard­er it is to cross.

Wet Win­ters, Cool Summers
If you look at a map of the most glaciat­ed moun­tains, one thing is clear: they’re near the sea, even though many coastal moun­tain ranges are low­er than the Rock­ies. Glac­i­ers form when snow accu­mu­lates rapid­ly in wet win­ters and doesn’t melt much in cool sum­mers. The moist marine air that hits the coast of Alas­ka, British Colum­bia, and the Cas­cades of Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon, as well as Patag­o­nia and the mon­soon sweep­ing over the Himalayas are cas­es in point: we get the mas­sive glac­i­er-cov­ered Cas­cade vol­ca­noes, and the tide­wa­ter glac­i­ers of Alas­ka and Patag­o­nia and the Himalayan ice fields. Dri­er places may be cold­er, but unless they also get enough pre­cip­i­ta­tion, the glac­i­ers will be small­er, unless we’re talk­ing Antarctica.

3 Types: Val­ley, Pied­mont, Tidewater
Val­ley glac­i­ers are the ones we see in most of the moun­tains in the low­er 48: they form near the top of peaks, often where snow accu­mu­lates below a moun­tain head­wall, where it’s pro­tect­ed from the wind. Over time it accu­mu­lates enough weight to start flow­ing, and flows down­hill, carv­ing a val­ley. Most end when they reach low­er alti­tudes, releas­ing silt-laden tor­rents down steep valleys.

If a val­ley glac­i­er flows out of the moun­tains onto a flat plain, it does just what a riv­er would: spread out into a wide, flat sheet called a pied­mont glac­i­er. The most famous of these is the Malaspina Glac­i­er in Alaska’s Wrangell St. Elias Nation­al Park.

But the most dra­mat­ic are tide­wa­ter glac­i­ers, when glac­i­ers flow all the way to the sea, calv­ing ice­bergs into the ocean. The most famous of these are in Alas­ka: Glac­i­er Bay, Prince William Sound, and Kenai Fjords, but they exist else­where in the world: Green­land, south­ern South Amer­i­ca and else­where. Tide­wa­ter glac­i­ers act like “glac­i­ers on steroids, advanc­ing and retreat­ing faster than most oth­er glaciers.

Blue, Blue Baby I Love You
Glacial ice is an enchant­i­ng shade of deep blue-turquoise. You’ll notice it most on cloudy days, or when an ice­berg breaks off. Because glacial ice is super-com­pressed from mil­len­nia under the weight of all that oth­er ice, the gas­es have been squeezed out of it, unlike the clear ice in your freez­er. This dense ice absorbs the rest of the col­ors of the spec­trum, so blue is what’s left for you to see.

Exam­ple of a Tide­wa­ter Glac­i­er, Colum­bia Glac­i­er, Colum­bia Bay, Valdez, Alaska

The Moraine Drag
Glac­i­ers are enor­mous bull­doz­ers push­ing mas­sive piles of rock and soil in slow motion. On the sides and end of the glac­i­ers, you’ll find ridges of rocks and debris from pre­vi­ous advances and retreats. The ones on the sides are called lat­er­al moraines; at the end of the glac­i­er, they’re called ter­mi­nal moraines. Where two glac­i­ers meet, they form a stripe of debris in the mid­dle of the new glac­i­er, called medi­al moraines. The land­scape around glac­i­ers is full of past moraines, some exposed rock and grav­el some over­grown with vegetation.

Is Al Gore Right?
Yes, he is. Most glac­i­ers in the world are melt­ing faster than they are accu­mu­lat­ing new ice. As a case in point, North Sister’s Col­lier Glac­i­er has been steadi­ly shrink­ing. Cli­mate change is very real. So are the effects of melt­ing glac­i­ers. Small­er glac­i­ers mean an increas­ing risk of sum­mer low flows, mean­ing less water for crops, peo­ple, and fish down the road. And the more glac­i­ers melt, the more the earth warms, because the white sur­face of ice reflect heat, while dark rocks absorb it. And as the vast glac­i­ers of Green­land melt and release cold water into the Atlantic Gulf Stream, a warm cur­rent that keeps Europe fer­tile for its lat­i­tude. Cli­mate change could hit the UK par­tic­u­lar­ly hard.

Dan­ger­ous but Beautiful
Glac­i­ers are one of the most stun­ning­ly beau­ti­ful things on earth. Their col­or and shape are amaz­ing, espe­cial­ly when seen at sun­rise on a high peak. The blue of crevass­es, the strange forms of ser­acs and the inde­scrib­able col­ors of melt­wa­ter ponds are one thing. But a few hours spent on an Alaskan glac­i­er will reveal that they have their own moun­tains, lakes, canyons, and rivers. Need­less to say, glac­i­ers should be approached with skill, care, and aware­ness of the con­di­tions. But there are few more irre­sistible things on earth.

©istockphoto/GibsonPicturesPad­dling in win­ter isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re ready to brave the cold there are some pret­ty spec­tac­u­lar spots to SUP amongst the ice. Check out these win­ter won­der­lands that can only be found on the water.

Vladi­vos­tok, Russia
The smooth waters of Vladi­vos­tok are extreme­ly invit­ing to pad­dle­board­ers all year long. When win­ter rolls around sheets of ice can be found float­ing all around the bay. If you’re lucky, you might even find a seal or two loung­ing on top of them. The area is brim­ming with sea­side caves and lagoons to explore along with plen­ty of waves along Sable Bay. Be sure to go through the waters of Shkot Island for some pret­ty impres­sive views, or hang around Labor Bay to explore the sunken shipwrecks.

Lake Michi­gan
Lake Michi­gan might not have the tow­er­ing glac­i­ers of the oth­er mem­bers of this list, but the seem­ing­ly end­less sheets of ice that dis­ap­pear into the dis­tance have a beau­ty all their own. Dur­ing the right time you can find plen­ty of paths to trav­el across the water and, if you’re lucky, even some ice caves to explore along the shores. The Great Lakes are home to some of the country’s most scenic spots that are only enhanced when the snow falls.

Glac­i­er Grey Tor­res del Paine, Chile
Unsur­pris­ing­ly, Patag­o­nia har­bors one of the most breath­tak­ing places on Earth for stand up pad­dle­board­ing. The mam­moth-sized glac­i­ers in Glac­i­er Grey Tor­res del Paine in Chile are strik­ing­ly tall and some of the deep­est blue you’ll ever set eyes upon. The waters here reach sub­ze­ro temps in the win­ter, so do your best not to fall in. The ice tends to shift at times mak­ing a vis­it poten­tial­ly treach­er­ous, but you’ll be fine if you keep your wits about you. Many of the glac­i­ers here sit right up against the moun­tains along the shore­line, mak­ing for an awe­some juxtaposition.

Seward, Alas­ka
Alas­ka is a dream­scape of out­door adven­ture with more moun­tains, trails, lakes, rivers, and waves than you could ever explore in a life­time. Seward is often at the cen­ter of the great­est Alaskan adven­tures thanks to its rugged land­scape and trea­sure trove of out­door pur­suits with­in a short dis­tance. It’s also hard to get to, mak­ing it the per­fect place for pad­dle­board­ers who want a lit­tle peace and qui­et. Bear Glac­i­er in Kenai Fjords Nation­al Park is one of the state’s largest ice for­ma­tions with a twelve-mile ice tongue sur­round­ed by epic salt­wa­ter lagoons. The sur­face is teem­ing with ice­bergs to oar through and requires a good deal of experience.

Glac­i­er Lagoon, Iceland
Glac­i­er Lagoon off the south­ern coast of Ice­land is one of the world’s most stun­ning nat­ur­al won­ders. Glac­i­ers, ice­bergs, and water­falls dot the shore­line for miles mak­ing it a spec­ta­cle for any­one look­ing for a unique place for SUP. You can take a tour or set out on your own and push your oar through sheets of icy water around float­ing bergs and water­falls with 60-meter drops. There are even some great views of the Eyjaf­jal­la­jökull volcano.

©istockphoto/ateseCoral reefs might claim the most col­or­ful and crowd­ed div­ing expe­ri­ences in the world, but there are plen­ty of beau­ti­ful views to be seen where the sun doesn’t shine quite so bright. Ice div­ing has been gain­ing trac­tion for years and it offers some tru­ly unique sights to see for those who are will­ing to brave the cold. Here are some of the best spots around the world to see what’s hid­ing under­neath the frozen surface.

The Antarc­tic Peninsula
The Antarc­tic Penin­su­la is one of the pre­mier ice, or polar, div­ing spots in the world for fair­ly obvi­ous rea­sons. If you’re tough enough to slap on a div­ing suit and brave the frigid waters, you’ll be treat­ed a pret­ty spec­tac­u­lar light show under the sea. When the sun­light hits the ice beneath the sur­face it cre­ates an array of daz­zling col­ors that ric­o­chet off the walls, almost cre­at­ing the illu­sion of move­ment under the sur­face. The area is also chock full of sea life that can still thrive in sub-zero temps, includ­ing starfish, anemones, squat lob­sters, sea but­ter­flies and more. For the best expe­ri­ence, check out McMur­do Sound.

Hańcza, Poland
For those look­ing for some­thing a lit­tle less treach­er­ous than a dive in the sea, you might find your­self bet­ter-suit­ed ice div­ing in one of Poland’s thou­sands of lakes. The coun­try becomes a ver­i­ta­ble win­ter won­der­land for a good por­tion of the year and the lakes here freeze over pret­ty quick­ly, pro­vid­ing ample oppor­tu­ni­ties to explore beneath the sur­face. Hańcza Lake is one of the most pop­u­lar spots and a great place to explore; it’s 108 meters deep and home to numer­ous fish species that thrive in the cold. There are also boul­der fields beneath the ice to explore and the views from the sun shin­ing through the ice above are brilliant.

Sas­so­lo Lake, Switzerland
Switzer­land has no short­age of amaz­ing places to slip beneath the ice, but Sas­so­lo Lake is leaps and bounds above the rest. Glac­i­ers dot the land­scape of this moun­tain­ous clear-water lake and beneath the sur­face, they pro­vide a labyrinth of tun­nels and under­ground ice caves to explore. The high alti­tude here makes it unsuit­able for inex­pe­ri­enced divers, but experts will find it to be one of the most mes­mer­iz­ing places on Earth.

Russia’s White Sea
You might find the name “White Sea” a lit­tle mis­lead­ing once you find your­self below the icy sur­face off the coast of Rus­sia. Europe’s only sea to freeze com­plete­ly dur­ing the win­ter is loaded with col­or­ful arrays of marine life from sea anemones, sponges, starfish, and even soft corals. The wave for­ma­tions here have also helped to craft some of the most exquis­ite under­wa­ter ice caves and fis­sures in exis­tence, mak­ing it a must-try for any expe­ri­enced div­er who wants to take a dip under the ice. It’s a pop­u­lar spot for those seek­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, so if you plan on sign­ing up with a div­ing out­fit, make sure to secure your spot early.

Sil­fra Rift, Iceland
The Sil­fra Rift is one of the most excep­tion­al dive spots in the world for a pret­ty incred­i­ble rea­son: it’s one of the few spots where you’re actu­al­ly div­ing right between two sep­a­rate con­ti­nents. The rift is actu­al­ly an enor­mous crack between the Amer­i­can and Eurasian con­ti­nents and cer­tain areas freeze over ear­ly on in the year. Vis­i­bil­i­ty ranges from 50 meters all the way up to 100 meters in cer­tain areas and the sur­round­ing lakes and alleys are teem­ing with under­wa­ter wildlife to dis­cov­er. The water here reg­u­lar­ly dips below 4 degrees Cel­sius, so make sure you get some prac­tice under your belt before jump­ing in.