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Forget Ski Resorts: Where to Go for the Most Unique Winter Vacation

When most folks think "winter vacation", skiing and snowboarding come to mind for many. But there's a lot more to outdoor winter adventures than just these sports. Innovative travel outfitters and cold-weather thrill seekers continue to push the limits. From dog sledding to tobogganing, check out these six winter adventure vacations off the beaten path.

Dogs pulling a sled.

1. Tobogganing

In the French Alps, many toboggan enthusiasts head to Val Thorens to experience the longest toboggan run in Europe. The 45-minute ride takes you down a glacier and past magnificent natural valleys. Tobogganing is a fun, safe activity for the entire family — even children as young as five-years-old can participate.

2. Snowkiting

Meet one of the newest winter sports that's rapidly gaining a cult following among extreme sport enthusiasts. Part skiing, part kite surfing, participants clip into skis and then tether themselves into nylon canopies using a seat harness before opening the parachute to the wind. Regulate your speed and travel direction by pulling on control bars to turn the parachute. Snowkiting isn't for the faint of heart — take lessons first and practice controlling the parachute before hitting the trails advises Travel + Leisure. Outfitters in California, Colorado, Utah and other states offer gear, training and trips.

3. Bobsledding

Ever dream of racing down a bobsled or luge track like an Olympic athlete? There's no better time than the present! For the thrill of a lifetime, head to the Olympic Sports Complex Sliding Track in Lake Placid, New York. Here, a professional driver and brakeman pilots you down the winding track, banking against turns and picking up speed in the final straightway.

4. Tracking the Northern Lights

While many tourists head to Iceland in the summer to experience life under the midnight sun, don't overlook the country's most stunning light show in the winter. The northern lights (aurora borealis) are best seen in winter under a clear night's sky, reports CNN. From Reykjavik, head west and watch the lights flicker above Iceland's vast lava fields. Alternatively, head north to take in the incredible view while soaking in geothermal hot springs.

5. Polar bear spotting

Spot majestic polar bears in their natural habitat in the small city of Churchill, located in Manitoba, Canada. From the safety of a unique tundra vehicle, watch polar bears gather along the frozen shores of Hudson Bay. Prime polar bear spotting time is October and November when polar bears begin their migration from their summer habitat on the tundra back to Hudson Bay. Beluga whale watching and bird watching trips are also available. Everything Churchill provides a comprehensive list of operators.

6. Dog sledding

Tether up a team of Huskies and get ready for an exciting, one-hour journey through pristine backcountry. Participants can learn how to shout commands and even take turns harnessing and solo driving the team. After that adventure, you've definitely earned yourself a relaxing soak in the hot tub!

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