Canada beyond the slopes

When temperatures fall, there’s a wealth of activities to enjoy that can only happen in winter, and from coast to coast to coast Canadians look forward to the crisp days and the adventures that they bring.

Published 10 Feb 2020, 11:50 GMT
Experience the thrill of climbing frozen waterfalls in Alberta, an activity suitable for interested beginners, and ...
Experience the thrill of climbing frozen waterfalls in Alberta, an activity suitable for interested beginners, and more experienced climbers looking for a unique challenge.
Photograph by Cory Richards

Sure you can ski - Canada has some of the best skiing in the world - but off the slopes you can try activities that you just won’t find in other destinations.

Once the snow falls, visitors see an authentic and dazzling Canada, and learn how many winter-only adventures there are to be had in this vast land.
Photograph by Courtesy of Destination Canada
On a Canadian winter safari, you’ll have opportunities to get close to a wide range of wildlife, from moose and wolves to arctic foxes, eagles, and snowshoe hares.
Photograph by Courtesy of Destination Canada

Go on an epic winter safari

Once the snow falls, there’s still plenty of animals to be found in Canada’s parks and wild spaces, from mighty moose and wolves to playful arctic foxes and snowshoe hares. Observe North America’s largest community of bald eagles in Squamish, British Columbia, who come to winter in this place that’s perfect for so many other winter activities, including snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and winter horseback riding. Try out the frozen serenity of ice fishing on Chain Lakes in southern Alberta, where GPS tracking ups your chances of catching a massive lake trout, walleye, or pike. Drive through Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan to search out bison and pronghorns, highly visible against the stark white of the snow-covered plains.




Snowshoe adventures, day and night

Strap on snowshoes to explore beautiful and remote places, on a day trip to Muskoka (pictured above), night hike through snowy forests, or trek to a backcountry lodge.
Photograph by Courtesy of Destination Ontario

Indigenous people in Canada have been strapping on snowshoes for millennia, and whether you opt for traditional wooden snowshoes or more modern-style metal ones, being able to walk on top of the snow is the best way to travel to beautiful and remote locations. Tours are offered all across Canada. Take a day-long snowshoe safari through Ontario’s spectacular Muskoka region that ends up with a session in a sauna in the woods to warm up, hike out eight-hours to backcountry Shadow Lake Lodge in Banff National Park in Alberta, and be rewarded with gourmet food and luxury accommodations, or take a moonlight snowshoe tour that ends with cheese and chocolate fondues at Cypress Mountain in British Columbia.

Climb ice walls in Alberta

Frozen waterfalls become playgrounds for climbers in the winter. Beginners will love the more sedate crags and climbing areas that’ll give a taste of this adrenaline-charged sporting pursuit, while advanced climbers will love the thrill of using ice axes and spiked footwear (crampons) to get purchase on the slippery ice and ascend inch by inch. In Canmore, and in both Banff and Jasper National Parks, ice climbing operators take everyone from beginners to advanced climbers out to spectacular places made even more beautiful by the glittering ice.

Bike snow-covered trails in Quebec

Fat-biking is a fast-growing winter sport for Canadians, and Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier, Quebec, offers perfect groomed paths and ski trails for trying it out.
Photograph by Courtesy of Destination Quebec

Fat-biking is huge in Canada right now, with people riding bikes designed for the snow on trails, in parks, and ski resorts. Mont Tremblant has more than 30 miles (48.3 km) of trails, from an easier ride along a disused railway line turned bike path through the mountains, to challenging trails usually reserved for mountain bikers in the summer. In Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier you can explore the glacial valleys on 12.4 miles (20 km) of fat-bike trails, enjoying glorious views of the surrounding mountains.

Skate Canada’s rivers, lakes, and historic spaces

Ice skating is something that Canadians embrace wholeheartedly as soon as the ice is thick enough, and you’ll find them skating on rivers and lakes as a way to enjoy the frozen beauty of their favourite natural spaces. Outdoor urban rinks are common in cities across Canada, from Vancouver’s Robson Square to Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto to the picturesque Natrel Skating Rink in Montreal’s Old Port that offers amazing views out over the city. Each winter, Ottawa’s Rideau Canal becomes the world’s largest skating rink. There are festivals that celebrate skating, such as the Silver Skate Festival in Edmonton, and impromptu hockey games on cleared ice are a common sight wherever you are in the country.

Explore the Powder Highway

The Powder Highway driving route takes you through the British Columbia Interior, giving access to eight alpine resorts, natural hot springs, funky towns, and luxurious hotels.
Photograph by Courtesy of Destination British Columbia

Driving the Powder Highway route through the Kootenay Rockies leads you past eight alpine ski resorts, funky small towns, backcountry lodges, and jaw-dropping mountain vistas. Resorts there offer everything from high luxury with gourmet experiences to basic accommodations for purists who just come for the snow. British Columbia’s interior is a powder hound’s dream, with deep snow, challenging terrain, and opportunities for experienced skiers and snowboarders to go off-piste with guided backcountry skiing and heli-skiing tours. All resorts offer excellent programs for beginning or less-advanced skiers, and several offer adaptive programs for those with mobility issues.

Discover winter wonderlands

Festivals such as Montréal en Lumière, with its dazzling light installations, live music and entertainment, and gourmet food experiences, turn cities into winter wonderlands.
Photograph by Courtesy of Destination Canada

Across Canada festivals celebrate the joys of winter, and cities transform whole areas to create magical wonderlands. In Winnipeg, historic neighbourhood The Forks comes alive with river skating, designer warming huts, hockey games and curling. FROSTival in Fredericton, New Brunswick, is a six-week celebration that starts at the end of January and serves up family-friendly fun with live music accompanied by skating, winter games, culinary experiences, and fireworks. Held each February, the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous is a two-week-long party with locals that includes axe throwing, can-can dancers, dog sledding, and bar crawls. In Edmonton each year, an acre-sized wonderland sculpted from icicles and water becomes the magical Ice Castles, open January through March. Montréal en Lumière is a two-week-long festival of dazzling light installations, live music and entertainment, and gourmet food experiences, held mid-February each year.

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