Chills, thrills and (yes) spills. When temps dip and snow falls, Michigan transforms into a whole new playground. These seven cold-weather activities go beyond your standard ski slopes and highlight some of the most unique ways to get out and celebrate the season of snow.
Polar paddle
Polar paddle

Scale frozen towers in Fenton. Before aspiring ice climbers wander into the wilderness with crampons and a pick, they should stop at Peabody Ice Climbing Club for a test run. The two towers (45 and 72 feet tall) give a literal grip on the experience, with seasoned instructors showing you how to effectively pick, claw and pull your way up. You'll be hooked once you make it to the top, catch your breath and take in the view.

Ice climbing
Photo courtesy of Peabody Ice Climbing Club

Zoom down a luge track in North Muskegon. Hurtling through the curves and down the straightaway of a luge track at speeds up to 30 mph ends the same for everyone: teeth-gritting, yell-inducing, eye-watering thrills. Novices at the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex start at 650 feet, a few hundred feet shy of the Olympic hopefuls who train here, at one of the few professional caliber tracks in the country.

Luge track
Photo courtesy of Muskegon Winter Sports Complex

Sweep your way to victory in South Haven. Unlike other rink activities, the popular Canadian sport known as curling-think of it as shuffleboard on ice-doesn't require skating ability. At South Haven Ice Rink, Learn to Curl Days (Saturdays) include instruction on how to play and then a scrimmage.

Hit the trail with man's best friend in Marquette. Cross-country skiing meets dog sledding with skijoring, a sport that requires a well-conditioned, acclimated dog and a few pieces of equipment: skis, a harness, a belt and a line. The Noquemanon Trail Network around Marquette has four dog-friendly trails of varying lengths. Novices take short, flat runs on the Animoosh Trail; pros tackle the rolling hills of the Noque Trail. Equipment is available for rent at the Forestville trailhead.

Dog-friendly trails

Snowshoe through an art gallery in Thompsonville. The crunch of snowshoes may be the loudest sound you hear on a guided tour through the wooded Michigan Legacy Art Park. More than 48 nature-inspired works of art-including a series of geometric sculptures made from stacked wood-draw visitors across 30 acres. Steep climbs guarantee a solid leg workout along the way. Tours depart from Crystal Mountain resort on select days in January and February.

Get fat on a bike in Marquette. Fat bike enthusiasts churn through snowbanks and over drifts on tires between 3.8 and 5 inches wide. The extra girth adds the flotation necessary to tackle an average snowfall of 200 inches. Busting drifts with giant tires is a hoot, and even tipping over is just a chance to make extreme snow angels. Score a fat bike at one of the multiple rental shops in Marquette, then hit someof the 100 miles of trails.

Fat biking

Take a polar paddle down the Sturgeon River. With each dip into the river, a little more ice forms on the paddles of rafters braving single-digit temps to float the Sturgeon River. On excursions with Big Bear Adventures in Indian River, paddlers watch the sun sparkle off blankets of snow covering steep banks and listen to the gurgles and growls of the water as it flows past ice shelves.

Polar paddle
Polar paddle