Most of the vacation talk right now is about skiing.

Where's the best powder? Where are the best ski runs? Which ski school the kids would like best?

But maybe you aren't a skier, and still want to stay active in the winter. Or, you're just looking for a little winter adventure that doesn't happen to involve skis and poles.

There are lots of options that let vacationers enjoy the cold, crisp weather without going skiing. Even better, a lot of destinations that get tons of traffic in the summer are still beautiful, but much less crowded, when the weather is chilly.

Here are seven ideas.

For Your Second Childhood

Extreme sledding is not your parents' sledding experience. A few outfits like Mad River Rocket and Hammerhead have created sleds that make for a totally different downhill experience than Rosebud would have given Charles Foster Kane.

Riders use the sled "like a surfboard or a snowboard, and it allows for a lot more control" than past sled models did, says Rochelle Skinner of the Vermont State Parks . "People even do the mountain passes " with the sleds.

For the Speed Demon

Take a boat, make it like an ice skate, and you've got ice boating, where you can glide along the top of a frozen lake at speeds of 60 miles an hour or more.

"It's exhilarating, it's thrilling," says Deb Whitehorse, secretary of the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club in Madison, Wis. "It's such a feeling of being alive."

But there's a catch -- it isn't the easiest thing to pull off. The ice boats aren't easy to find, so people generally have to find a friend who has an ice boat, or talk to a club about borrowing one. Plus, ice boating isn't feasible when it's snowing or when there's no wind, so conditions have to be just right. To top it all off, participants have to make sure the ice is thick enough.

Iceboats on Lake Mendota, Wis.
Photo: Allen Penticoff/
Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club

Still, for anyone who thinks they've conquered every sport there is, this may be a new one to try. Find a club near you, dress warmly and prepare for a speed sensation.

A Dog Lover's Paradise

And you thought the Iditarod in Alaska was as far as dog sledding would ever go. But who wouldn't want to try, at least once, flying across the snow behind a cadre of canines?

"Dog sledding is becoming very popular," says Skinner.

Dog Sledding
Photo: Bar W Guest Ranch

These days, it's possible to take short trips or daylong excursions with a dog-sledding team and experience the thrill of being pulled along by a team of Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes. And you don't have to be in Alaska to do it (though Alaska is as good a place as any). Outfits devoted to dog sledding are popping up in all sorts of cold-weather destinations. Here's a list of dog-sledding operations in Vermont .

Stock Up on Food, Too

If you've gotten out with your waders in the summer months, why not try getting out on a lake in your parka and ice house during the winter?

Ice fishing is done all over the U.S., and the species of fish and type of fishing will vary by location. Places such as Minnesota's Lake of the Woods and Woodland Resort Devil's Lake in North Dakota are particularly known for the sport.

"It pays to have a guide the first time because they know where the fish are," says Chris Hustad of the Web site NoDakOutdoors.com , which has a section with articles on ice fishing. He adds that you need the right gear, such as fishing poles, ice-drilling equipment and probably an ice house -- and a guide could probably provide all those things.

If you do decide to fish on your own, Hustad cautions that "no ice is safe ice," and to be very careful, because ice could be thin in some areas.

To See the Northern Lights

Here's an intense way to experience cold: Take a trip up to the Icehotel in the Swedish village of Jukkasjärvi. It's made entirely out of ice from the Torne River, and exists only during the winter months. Jukkasjärvi is close to the Kiruna airport , which several airlines, including SAS, serve.

Main Hall, Icehotel
Photo: Håkan Hjort/Icehotel

While staying at the Icehotel, guests can go on a moose safari, hunt ptarmigan, drive a snowmobile or go on an ice-driving event in a Saab (Saab is a division of General Motors ( GM)), so there are plenty of activities to keep guests occupied, apart from contemplating the windchill.

Or, if you're not up for quite so much cold and travel time, you can check out an ice bar -- Absolut has them in London , Milan, Tokyo and Stockholm, in addition to a location at the Jukkasjärvi Ice Hotel. You reserve a time slot, then get outfitted with capes to keep you warm, and get a chance to have a couple of drinks in glasses made of -- what else? -- ice.

ABSOLUT ICEBAR LONDON
Photo: ABSOLUT ICEBAR LONDON

If You Like Power

Folks like Yellowstone National Park spokesman Al Nash and Ted Harvey, the general manager of the Bar W Guest Ranch in Montana, name snowmobiling as a good way to spend a day -- or to get around entirely.

For instance, Yellowstone's Old Faithful Snow Lodge is open during the winter, but accessible only by going on the park's interior roads, which aren't cleared and thus can't be used by cars or trucks during the snowy season.

"Coming into a place like our geyser basins in the winter and watching steam and hot water right next to tall snowbanks is an amazing experience," Nash says -- and you can take a snowmobile right there.

For the Whole Family

Sleigh riding is one of the more accessible wintertime activities, and it can be romantic, family-oriented or both.

Even cities often have places where folks can do this, but sleigh-riding is usually a featured activity at resorts and ranches that offer wintertime activities.

Sleigh Riding
Photo: Bar W Guest Ranch

For example, Harvey, the manager of the Bar W ranch in Montana, says his place offers 45-minute sleigh rides with hot chocolate served at the end. Or, the sleigh can go over to a nearby lake where the whole group has dinner at a gazebo before heading back.