The Gulf Coast isn’t known for big-wave action, but don’t tell that to surfing pioneer Joe Nuzzo, who’s run Suncoast Surf Shop on Treasure Island for 43 years (suncoastsurfshop.com). "Winter brings our most consistent surf," says Nuzzo. "In the days after a weather event"—that is, a storm—"the winds calm and the swell brings groomed waves, chest high to head high." Sunset Beach just south of Nuzzo’s shop is among the top surf and paddleboard spots. Its laid-back vibe centers around Caddy’s, one of the last true beach bars, with tables right in the sand in view of the surf. Just up the shore is Indian Rocks, home to another serious break and Nekton Surf Shop, owned by pro surfers Cory and Shea Lopez (nektonsurf.com).
"The coolest thing about winter in the Delaware Water Gap is its unpredictability," says David Simpson, manager of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Mohican Outdoor Center (doubles from $25; outdoors.org/lodging). "You never know from one year to the next if it’s really going to make an appearance." But in the DWG, getting outside is the point, snow or no snow. Hiking the Kittatinny Ridge via the Appalachian and Rattlesnake Swamp Trails (six miles) when the foliage is gone reveals expansive views across the New Jersey Highlands to New York. When the flakes do fall, you’re a short hop from a network of backcountry ski trails around Crater Lake. If it’s cold enough for the glacial lakes to freeze up, there’s skating on Catfish Pond, located right by the lodge. Regardless of daytime temperatures, Saturday evenings often end with music jams around a roaring fire in the lodge. BYO banjo.
Combine the coziness of a former sheep farm in the Allegheny Highlands with abundant snowfall and quiet forest trails and you’ve got the ideal West Virginia winter weekend. Elk River Touring Center outside Slatyfork is the decommissioned woolworks whose five-bedroom farmhouse, whopping hot tub, and four furnished cabins put you in the thick of Monongahela National Forest’s pristine cold-season beauty (doubles from $80; ski gear, $20; ertc.com). Ski three miles of trails out the door for a warm-up, then make the short drive to the Highland Scenic Byway. The road is closed to traffic in December and January, so it’s all yours—22 miles of gentle gradient winding through the forest and connecting to ungroomed trails in the Cranberry Glades. If you’ve got the downhill itch, Snowshoe Ski Area is 11 miles away. Meanwhile, back at the farm, Elk River’s full country breakfast isn’t just included; it’s foisted upon you, in the form of homemade granola, fresh eggs, and blueberry pancakes.
Come winter in the Adirondacks High Peaks region, long waterfalls and seeps freeze solid, creating routes up to four pitches high. On an Alpine Endeavors’ Big Ice Weekend you can team up with a guide and tackle climbs like Roaring Brook Falls, a three-pitch cascade—or stick closer to terra firma and take an Ice 101 course. The weekends are custom-tailored, and the guide-to-client ratio maxes out at 1:4, so it’s all about climbing within skill level—and advancing that level a notch or two. "We stay warm, climb fast, and climb high," says guide Marty Molitoris. Alpine Endeavors rents a cabin in the area where everyone can crash dorm style for the cost of the weekend: $525 to $750 for three days of guided climbing, depending on how many clients register (December 19-21, January 23-26; alpineendeavors.com).