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The Call of the Wild: Popular Pandemic Sports


January 19, 2021
Categories: Safety, Health, Member Testimonials

Birdwatching can take you to some remote areas, like the edges of a saltwater marsh, a small plateau at the top of a private island or a rugged mountain range. It’s one of the many activities beckoning travelers to remote locations, places where there is less chance of coronavirus contagion — and provide an escape from the four walls of home.

Several outdoor activities have gained appeal during the pandemic and many take place well off the beaten path. Here are a few popular pandemic pastimes and how you can stay protected while enjoying the great outdoors.

Snowshoeing

Snowshoes are affordable. You can find a high-quality pair for $100 to $300.

Snowshoeing locations are also budget-friendly. You can snowshoe in your backyard or in a local field.

Of course you can go remote — and many people do. Popular snowshoeing locations include national parks in the United States, the glaciers of Patagonia, the Lapland area of Finland, and provincial parks in Canada. It’s an outdoor sport that reminds people of the incredible value of our nearby public lands, open spaces and local parks.

According to the New York Times, if you can walk, you can snowshoe. Snowsports Industries America (SIA) forecasts a 57% jump in snowshoeing participation for the 2020-21 season.

Wildlife Watching

Binoculars became popular during the pandemic. The NPD Group’s in-store POS tracking data showed binocular sales for the month of June jumped 22 percent. According to AARP, the American Birding Association’s podcast grew from 5,000 downloads a week in February to about 8,000 in May. The Audubon Society, the bird conservation nonprofit, says its website traffic spiked 23% in March and April.

Binoculars might be used to watch more than birds — wildlife, star gazing or closer looks on nature walks. They bring the far away closer; just what we need right now with limited opportunity to travel.

Ice fishing

Even before the winter season, fishing was a sport on the rise. N.H. Fish and Game, for example, processed 35% more resident fishing licenses in 2020 than the year before. With winter here, ice fishing continues to lure anglers to lakes and ponds.

Three reasons why folks love ice fishing: serenity, silence and saugers. People wanting to escape the confines of home this winter will travel to nearby lakes and faraway ponds, enjoying the solitude of their shacks or wheeled ice houses.

Ice fishing is typically most popular in regions with cold winters, fresh water and open spaces. In the United States, this includes, but is not limited to, the ice-fishing belt of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Globally, you’ll find ice fishers in Canada, Scandinavia and Japan. And where are the best fishing locations? Rural areas.

Skijoring

Skijoring is a winter sport in which a person on skis is pulled by a horse and rider, a dog or a motorized vehicle with a driver. Not as well known in the United States, skijoring is commonplace in Scandinavian countries (Norway and Sweden) as well as Russia, France, Poland, Latvia and Ukraine. In Europe, however, horses are not guided by a rider in the saddle, but are instead piloted by the skier. 

The horse version, typically seen in annual competitions across New England, hasn’t been able to take place due to the pandemic, although you can watch a broadcast of Maine’s Skijor Skowhegan in February 2021.

The dog version, similar to dog sledding but on skis, has been a pandemic preference. You can also snowboard, cross country ski or alpine ski with your dog. Many dog sled clubs offer skijoring options and safety suggestions.

Ice sailing

Ice sailing, also known as ice yachting, is steering a boat with metal runners over frozen rivers, lakes and ponds.

The sport began in Europe in the 1600s, and landed in New York by the 18th century, according to Atlas Obscura. It’s still popular in colder climates — like Estonia, Poland, Russia and Sweden — and in North America during the winter season.

In New Hampshire, Lake Sunapee is considered “home ice” for the New England contingent of the Ice and Snow Sailing World Championship’s Team USA and has become a valuable training ground for novice and experienced sailors all over New England. You’ll often see variations of boats with sails, skiers with sails and skaters with kites.

Local Field Rescue

What do these outdoor activities have in common? The need for travel protection services.

Travel protection services used to be just for people on vacation or traveling for business. Some companies required travelers be 150 or more miles away from home. But with coronavirus travel advisories and bans, travel became much more complex in 2020. People stayed closer to home, venturing out for outdoor activities and quality time with nature.

But close to home doesn’t necessarily mean close to medical assistance. Many hiking trails wind through forests, mountains and lakes; terrain could be difficult and weather could be unpredictable. Rock climbers, snowshoers, canoers and kayakers are frequently beyond access of motorized vehicles when an injury or medical emergency occurs.

With more people outside now more than ever, Global Rescue expanded services to include field rescue within 100 miles of home. Now with Local Field Rescue — automatically included in any annual travel protection services membership — Global Rescue is there whether you’re hiking, kayaking, snowmobiling, fishing or simply enjoying the outdoors and get ill or injured and you’re unable to get to safety on your own. Click here to learn more.


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