5 extremely fun winter adventures in Austin, Texas

Forgive me if this sounds like gloating, but as I write this article, it's roughly 65 degrees outside in the midst of darkest, coldest January. We in Austin, Texas are rarely gifted (or cursed, depending on your take) with a truly arctic winter, although we do get a cold spell or two. While you'll never find anyone shushing down the slopes of Mount Bonnell, this town still knows how to get seasonally nuts.

Here are a few ways to channel the spirit of winter sports around town.

Play Out Your Slapshot Fantasies
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To be honest, the Central Texas gets ice and snow as often as the state elects Democratic governors – that's to say, rarely. Those of us who insistent upon enjoying something colder than a witch or warlock's you-know-what can still play out our hockey movie fantasies at the Pond Hockey Club. For those more inclined to figure skating or simply interested in taking a low-key spin around the ice, the other rare ice rink around town is Chaparral Ice Center. Both rinks are open all year and offer classes for novices and those of us looking to tighten our figure eights. But there's just something special about skating during the winter.

Trudge Through the Texas Tundra for an Icehouse Experience
Yes, I'm aware that icehouses are more of a spring/summer/fall thing than a winter thing. All the rage before the refrigeration craze, when old school Texans needed to keep their food frosty, they'd head to the local icehouse for, well, ice. And perhaps a pack of gum or a brisk beer. These days, the only iceboxes toted around the Hill Country are coolers full of beverages for picnics and UT tailgate parties. Still, sipping on a cool beverage and munching some hot food at a throwback icehouse like the Waterloo or Phil's is an awesome way to survive one of our brutal, 50 degree winter days.

Juggle Away Those Winter Blues
Nothing says extreme winter sports like juggling. Wait. Run that by me one more time. Okay, so juggling isn't technically a winter sport (is it a sport, or does it fall under more the aegis of a hobby?). Gray area or not, each February, scores of well-balanced individuals gather in Austin to push the envelope and their own abilities at maintaining their own personal orbits. The 24th annual Jugglefest throws itself at Austinites on February 24-26 at the Texas School for the Deaf.

Shred the Hill Country
Sure, the Rockies and the Sierra Nevadas—even the powder-packed mini-mountains of the Midwest—are a long ways away. That doesn't mean you can't get your snowboard on in the Austin area. The Texas Ski Ranch's Snow Park sets you up with an approximate experience of cutting (and flopping) around an alpine slope, all without freezing your ass off. With courses for beginners and terrains from the blissful to the brutal, you'll be ready when the time comes to haul your board to the hill and master gravity. Check their website for times and availability.

Did I Mention Hockey?
For a town that averages 60 degrees in January, Austin still has a vibrant community of hockey enthusiasts – and not just Texas Stars boosters, either. Some of the most extreme and extremely inspiring blade runners in this great state don't skate for the NHL either but for the ATX area Sled Hockey teams. These skaters haven't let a little thing like mobility issues slow them or their love of the game down. Check out their website for more information.

Andy L. Kubai is a freelance writer and transplanted Austinite who's been exploring the internal and external wonders of his new home for the last 6 years. Find out more about Andy on his website.

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