How to

14 October 2016

Snow Drifts - Ice Karting has Become the Latest Winter Sports Craze

We’ve already covered some of the more obscure ways to get your icy thrills. There’s a newly popular addition to the winter roster though, one that follows the familiar pattern of speed, cold, and struggling to hold on to the bare minimum of control.

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Generally, ice on the road is something you try and avoid, unless you’re one of those mad ice truckers willing to barrel along for hundreds of miles in a huge articulated vehicle across a thin layer of frozen water. The rapidly growing pursuit of ice karting, however, offers all of the fun of skidding around on an icy road with none of the usual dangers of totalling your car or sinking to the bottom of a sub-zero lake.

Started mainly by those crazy Scandinavians, ice karting involves, you guessed it, chucking some go karts on an icy track and seeing how many times you spin around before you manage to make it round your first corner. It focuses on driving skill more than speed, but the karts are still quick, hitting max speeds of up to 50mph, so it’s definitely more ice rally than figure skating. The karts themselves are fitted with special tyres to grip the ice, at least as much as it’s possible to grip ice, and the ice is regularly checked for safety and depth.

Best of all, you can add some friends to the experience to create dodgem-level racing rivalries of intense, fine-tuned skill mixed in with some completely ungraceful skids, as the guys in this video so ably demonstrate:

Kart places will, of course, provide helmets for your precious noggin, but most will expect you to provide your own cold-weather gear, so make sure you go equipped with your full winter wardrobe to stay warm and comfortable. The general guidelines are similar to skiing or snowboarding, and goggles are a must.

So where can you go to get your ice karting fix? For true northern exposure some of the original tracks are running in Finland, such as Levi and Ruka. There are other European spots if you fancy a quick getaway, such as Saalbach in Austria, where you could also fit in some of the more traditional winter sports. Closer to home, there are tracks at the ice rink at Bracknell in Berkshire, and many temporarily pop up at other ice rinks around the country, some of which are put on by Karting on Ice. If you want to head further afield, there is even a track in Aspen, Canada.

If you do make it down to one of these locations, remember that many famous racing drivers began their careers in karting, so if you can master the even more treacherous ice karting you could become the next Damon Chill! At the very least, you can get some nostalgic kicks from reliving the Mario Kart ice tracks, without the creepy penguins staring straight into your soul.

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Sam Franklin

With a master’s in Literature, Sam inhales books and anything readable, spending his working hours reformulating the info he gathers into digestible articles. When not reading or writing, he likes to put his camera to work around the world, snapping street photography from Stockholm to Tokyo. Too much of this time spent in Japan teaching English has nurtured a weakness for sashimi, Japanese whisky, and robot cafés.