The world of recreational sports is filled with random games strung together by “backyardian” athletes with little more than rocks, sticks, and scattered trash. New England winters present challenges to these folks, which for the summer sportsman, have been cleverly overcome in several instances of these sports. Many of these sports require some unique equipment, but contrary to popular belief, are relatively easy to find here in New Hampshire.
Formally known as Ice Yachting, this is a wildly popular activity on the two major lakes in New Hampshire: Winnipesaukee and Massabesic. Believe it or not, there is even a governing organization that oversees and sanctions ice sailing activities in New England. Ice yachts are typically about 40-feet in length and support crews of 6-7. The boats are propped up on a wide rack with “runners” that act as skates, with a rudder in the back center for steering. Whether racing or sailing for fun, dozens of these boats can be seen at any given time on Massabesic/Winnipesaukee on cold, clear, windy days in mid-winter.
This is another sport designed by summer sportsmen with a knack for water sports. Snow kayakers are the ultimate downhill sledders after a strong smooth coating of wax on a boat that, only a weeks earlier, was carving through whitewater. Another sport that often results in racing between friends or in organized competition, this one is often limited to mountains and hilly back country. When racing, athletes are subjected to jumps, sharp turns, water obstacles, and steep hills. A great activity for folks who love to kayak.
This one is definitely not the most popular sport in New Hampshire, but can be found at a handful of winter festivals at mountains. Inspired by New Mexican mountain employees, this sport has yet to take the East by force, but in the Rockies of New Mexico is popular enough to draw elite levels of competition at annual events drawing speeds from racers of up to 70 mph. In New Hampshire, for now, this sport is best suited for back yards and country club hills. All it takes is a shovel and a hill!
No, that wasn’t a sneeze. It’s skijoring! This is a combination of cross country (XC) skiing and sled dogging. Instead of pulling a sled, the XC skier, aided by a skijoring harness, attaches to 2-3 sled dogs and is pulled along XC ski trails. This is an innovative way of running your dogs, while saving some of that energy that a cross country trek tends to drain. Created in Norway, this sport has been adapted to the use of horses and motorized snow machines or trucks as well. This one is for trained dogs only!
Hockey without the expensive stick, skates, or equipment, this sport is very popular in Northern New Hampshire. This sport is played on an ice surface (typically a hockey rink) with the same dimensions as a standard American hockey rink, “brooms” instead of sticks, a handball-sized ball instead of a puck, and rubber-soled shoes instead of skates. It’s a perfect sport for weak skaters! Other than the equipment, the rules are nearly identical to that of an ice hockey game. Mostly played on the recreation levels in the U.S., broomball has professional leagues in Europe, Russia, and Australia.
Though competition is attached to almost all of these sports, they can be just as fun to play in your driveway with your parents/children, brothers/sisters, and friends/other family. These sports are great ways of breaking up the normal routine in the winter, especially in New Hampshire!