You want to spend a little time in the great outdoors (or a close approximation) this winter, but the idea of hurtling down a mountain at speeds you rarely reach on Seattle’s narrow roads is … intimidating?
You want to feel a brisk chill on your cheeks and hear the crunch of snow under your boots … for a little bit.
There are ways to have fun this winter without dropping a stack on that ski-lift pass and cramming your unique physique into a pair of ski pants.
We offer a few humble suggestions:
Adult Amateur Hockey
Getting excited about the launch of our NHL franchise, the Seattle Something-or-Others? We are, too.
While we’re waiting (and waiting) until the 2021 season, use that nervous anticipatory energy to learn the sport up close and personal by joining an adult amateur hockey league like the Greater Seattle Hockey League (with its nearly 3,000 players) or the Sno-King Adult Hockey League in Renton.
Those who can barely skate are as welcome as experienced skaters — teams and divisions are made up of players with similar skill levels. Games are played year-round.
The next adult learn-to-play programs begin Jan. 5 for the Sno-King league and run until April 5. The next Greater Seattle Hockey League session is Feb. 9 and runs four, eight and 12 weeks, with players splitting into teams for a beginners’ league next summer. The lessons take place at Olympic View Arena in Mountlake Terrace.
Leagues for more experienced players start often, including a GSHL 40-and-older league that begins in January.
And for women who don’t feel comfortable in a coed atmosphere, there’s the Seattle Women’s Hockey Club. The group got its start in the 1980s and currently skates at the Sno-King rink in Kirkland. They also take the full range of skaters from beginners to experts. And while their season runs September to May, new players can sign up and be placed on a team at any time.
Greater Seattle Hockey League: gshockey.com
Sno-King Amateur Hockey League: snokinghockeyleague.com
Seattle Women’s Hockey Club: swhc.org
Curling can look inaccessible (and perhaps a little baffling) on television. But clubs like Seattle’s Granite Curling Club drive membership by holding friendly, hands-on open houses and hosting novice leagues.
They also invite spectators to watch the various tournaments and bonspiels, where there’s often a party-like atmosphere. It’s also serious business at the 58-year-old club, home to dozens of national champions.
An Olympic sport with centuries of history (and local ties), the game itself is fascinating, with moments of true skill and grace balanced with strategy and the satisfying sound of colliding stones.
The club will likely hold multiple open houses in the spring, beginning with a March 7 event.
Check the website often for possible events before March.
Granite Curling Club: 1440 N. 128th St., 206-362-2445; www.CurlingSeattle.com
A great way to get in shape and see some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, snowshoeing is an underrated winter sport.
That image you have in your mind of a parka-clad trapper flailing around in deep snow on wooden tennis rackets is woefully out of date. With modern aluminum frames and lightweight synthetic clothing, snowshoeing can be as relaxing or as challenging as you wish — from a quiet walk in the woods with your kids or dog to a cardio-boosting shuffle-jog over long distances.
All you need is snow and space.
The Washington Trails Association has several suggestions for beginners and more experienced snowshoers. Beginners might try White Salmon Creek along Mount Baker Highway or Gold Creek in Snoqualmie Pass. More experienced hikers can make the open-country, trail-less trek to Surprise Lake in Stevens Pass. Dedicated cross-country ski systems also offer a great way to get into the woods — just stay off those tracks!
A super easy (and entertaining) way to check out snowshoeing is to attend the Wenatchee River Institute’s weekly snowshoe tours in Leavenworth. The tours are held from 10 a.m.-noon each Thursday in January and February with snowshoes provided. Drop-ins are welcome; groups of eight or larger must have a reservation.
One thing: It looks bucolic and low impact, but make no mistake — snowshoeing will kick your butt. Treat it like the winter adventure sport it is: avoid avalanche zones, don’t stand on seemingly frozen bodies of water and take lots of food and water.
If it’s challenge and spectacle you’re looking for, check out a sled-dog race or the lesser-known sport of skijoring (explained: a person on skis is pulled by a dog.)
The Northwest Sled Dog Association holds a handful of races each year at a private camp near Cle Elum and at the Crystal Springs Sno-Park near Stampede Pass.
If you’re interested, check out January’s races: The Dogtown Winter Derby, Jan. 11-12 at Camp Koinonia, and the Crystal Dog Challenge, Jan. 18-19 at the Sno-Park.
The group also holds an annual skijor clinic at Crystal Springs to teach the sport, which involves a cross-country skier strapped to one or two (or more) sled dogs. Hot topics: Teaching your dog the difference between “gee” and “haw,” and stopping. This year’s clinic is Jan. 5 at 9 a.m.
Northwest Sled Dog Association: nwsda.org.
Winter Fishing (saltwater)
One of Seattle’s most unique fall and winter activities happens right under the Ferris wheel at Seattle’s public pier on Elliott Bay.
That’s where fisher folk gather with the ebb and flow of the tides to snag squid, a fascinating process to watch — a few dozen people line the pier with poles, buckets and lures featuring very sharp barbs.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says jigging squid is one of the most inexpensive ways to fish. The squid hang out on the edge of lighted areas — such as public piers — and hunt for small fish. They’re easily attracted by brightly colored jigging lures.
Winter Fishing (freshwater)
If you really, really want to invest the time in finding winter adventure, you can also fish a select few nearby lakes, hole-in-the-ice style. If it gets cold enough. And if the ice is a good 6 inches thick.
If so, the appropriately named Fish Lake, near Lake Wenatchee, Sidley Lake near Oroville and Banks Lake in the Grand Coulee region are like suspects for trout and perch.
And if you’re looking for something a little more exotic, Sullivan Lake near the Canadian border offers ice fishing for burbot.
There’s something about the holidays and ice skating.
Learning to skate together is a great family activity or date night. Many rinks have trainers for kids (and the truly challenged adult) to use while learning how to glide across the ice.