Man’s insatiable need for bigger, better and badder is perhaps best demonstrated by logic-defying sports environments—trail running in a stadium or skydiving in a wind tunnel, for example. Drawing inspiration from the great outdoors, such set-ups have been over-engineered into man-made, adrenaline-packed wonderlands. The following dozen span the globe and top the charts.
Ice Climbing: Grab your ice pick and suit up. Snow Factor in Renfrew, Scotland is the world’s largest indoor ice climbing facility, offering a range of ice-laden walls for everyone from beginners to Sir Edmund Hillary types. Note: for domestic ice adventures, check out the Silo in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Trail Running: Ecco’s annual indoor trail event in Dortmund, Germany provides a true nature running experience inside a comfortable, air-conditioned stadium. Cheating? Hardly. The meticulously constructed track incorporates challenging new terrain obstacles every year including timber, snow, rock and mud pits.
Snowboarding/Skiing: Woodward at Copper Mountain, Colorado is a premiere winter sports training facility that maintains an outdoor snow park (complete with lift) all year long. If conditions are rough, visit “The Barn”, an industrial-sized warehouse equipped with synthetic snow surfaces, training ramps, and foam pits that put the Fantasy Factory to shame. It’s a far cry from Ski Dubai’s opportunity to shred inside a mall.
Skydiving: Singapore is home to the world’s largest indoor simulated skydiving tunnel, iFly Singapore: 16.5 feet wide and nearly five stories high. The patented airflow technology pushes a constant stream of air into the tube—which can be adjusted for flyer experience. To mimic a true skydiving experience, the acrylic glass walls provide stunning views of the South China Sea.
Ice Skating: FlevOnice in the Netherlands boasts over three miles of winding artificial ice surface for both skating and “icekarten”—go-karts on ice. In off-season, the canal-like structure converts to sand or asphalt track to accommodate rollerblading, BMX and other outdoor activities.
Mountain Biking: Whistler, British Colombia puts its epic mountains to good use with or without snow. Thanks to 4,900 feet of downhill trails, Whistler Mountain Bike Park can boast more terrain than any other bike park in North America. And don’t worry, lifts carry you up, so you’ll have plenty of energy left to fly over rocks and roots at terrifying speeds.
Surfing: San Sebastián, Spain hosts the world’s first Wave Garden—a simulated wave system that creates breaks almost identical to that of the ocean. Installable in virtually any lake or lagoon, the system can accommodate 50 to 100 surfers simultaneously. Plus, the shape, speed and size of the waves can be customized to accommodate groms and pros alike.
Skateboarding/BMX Biking: A 24-foot full-pipe, wooden vert ramp and street-style transitions don’t even scratch the surface of Kentucky’s Louisville Extreme Park, a 40,000 square foot concrete shredder’s dream. Located in downtown Louisville, it’s public, free, and open 24 hours a day. Tony Hawk’s backyard isn’t this accessible.
Reef Diving: Nicknamed the “Great Carrier Reef”, the USS Oriskany is an undersea aircraft carrier just off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. Before it became a diving hotspot bustling with diverse marine life, the carrier served in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
Paintballing: Skirmish USA combines both Mother Nature- and man-made obstacles to create Call of Duty worthy paintball fields. The massive 700-acre compound in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania has over 50 themed playing fields riddled with castles, forts, tanks and downed choppers. You know, if you’re into that kinda thing.
Rafting/Kayaking: Clear Creek White Water Park in Golden, Colorado is a man-made river course built for recreational canoeing, kayaking, and rafting. Strategically placed boulders, drops and pools make Clear Creek a rigorous water adventure that rivals the real deal. Tourists flock to the attraction for leisure and training—even the USA Olympic kayak team is rumored to have hit the rapids.
Rock Climbing: At 120 feet tall, the Dutch attraction Excalibur rises above all other freestanding climb structures. The statuesque “S” shape creates a challenging side with 90-degree overhangs as well as an easier side for less experienced climbers. And since it’s a solid, single structure, you won’t run the risk of having to, say, saw your own arm off.