Snow may be falling but it doesn’t mean you have to stay inside. In fact, there are so many reasons you should embrace the Canadian winter and get outdoors. Before I moved to Canada, I hated winter. Now, I embrace it and fill the months with these awesome winter activities.
Here are my top winter activities that shouldn’t be missed if you’re in Canada at this time of year!
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Exercise, adventure and a history lesson all in one, snowshoeing is a great low impact activity that everyone should try at least once.
Strapping these oversized frames on your feet makes it possible to walk through snow without sinking allowing you explore far beyond regular pathways.
Snowshoeing is one of the cheapest and easy to pick up of all of these Canadian winter activities. Buy a pair (prices start at around $50) or rent at a local ski resort.
For an adrenaline rush with a difference, try dog sledding or ‘mushing.’ Enjoy the incredible speed and views as an enthusiastic team of dogs transports you along snowy trails in the backcountry.
Although dog sledding is a way of life in some places in Canada, most visitors wanting to try dog sledding will have to find a guided tour/experience.
If you just want to watch, check out the start/end of the 1,000 mile Yukon Quest mushing competition in Whitehorse.
Skiing and snowboarding
A trip to Canada in winter wouldn’t be quite complete without a slide downhill on a wooden plank or two. If you’re in Canada on a working holiday or another extended visit, I’d highly recommend giving both snowboarding and skiing a try, as they provide entirely different experiences.
Most ski resorts offer a great value ticket/rental/lesson deal for first-timers. There are even some resorts (such as Mount Washington on Vancouver Island) that offer completely free lessons and rental hire to complete beginners on special days on the year.
Consider visiting smaller hills for a more personal (and quieter) experience. Some of my favourite resorts include Big White (near Kelowna) and Baldy Mountain (near Oliver).
Celebrate winter the Canadian way
Canadians are hardy folk and have found a multitude of ways to celebrate the coldest season. From winter festivals to raves to carnivals to sporting events, most Canadian cities have something exciting going on during the winter.
Ottawa’s Winterlude presents the world’s largest skating rink and snow carving contests while Whitehorse’s Sourdough Rendezvous celebrates Yukon pioneer culture with can-can dancing, axe throwing and dog sled rides.
Learning to ice skate is a right of passage in Canada; indeed, you may meet some people who joke that they learned to skate before they could even walk.
Most Canadian towns have an ice rink (if not a few!) but it is also possible to skate on ponds and lakes. Skating on a frozen lake in the crisp air surrounded by snowy trees is a magical experience.
For something a little more competitive, find a game of pond hockey to join in on.
Fishing may not be the first activity to mind when thinking about winter (or the second, third or fourth!) but it was once essential to survival in Canada. For this reason, ice fishing could be considered one of the most traditional Canadian winter activities.
Experience this rich history for yourself with some ice fishing. While some fishermen prefer to stay out in the open, most position a shelter above a drilled opening on a lake.
These shelters range from tents to luxury fish ‘shacks’ that have heaters, stoves, beds and sometimes even televisions and full sized beds.
An exhilarating way to explore Canada’s wilderness, ski-dooing (also known as snowmobiling) is fast, furious and really fun. Skidooing isn’t the cheapest winter activity but it can really take you off the beaten track.
For those without much avalanche knowledge or training, there are plenty of maintained (and still exciting) trails all over the country. Skidoo rentals are possible by the day from specialist shops and some ski resorts.
Cross country skiing
For a more peaceful and completely human powered ski experience, try cross-country skiing. There are no ski lifts here, just beautiful trails through forest and along frozen rivers.
An intensive work-out at times (trust me, it’s harder than it looks!), cross-country skiing is a great way to burn off Christmas indulgence.
If you have a dog, you can add your best friend into the mix too with skijoring; a combination of dog sledding and cross-country skiing.
With so many spectacular waterfalls, Canada has some awesome opportunities to try ice climbing. Physically demanding and skill intensive, ice climbing also tests your fear of heights.
More technically difficult than regular climbing, those wanting to try ice climbing are advised to go on a guided tour and/or have specialist training before heading out. An alternative way to give it a go is to check out Big White Ski Resort’s man-made ice climbing wall (below).
Found at most ski resorts, snow tubing is easy and fun. It has to be one of the simplest Canadian winter activities too! Sit on an inflated rubber ring, slide down a hill, get pulled to the top again and repeat.
It’s basically a fancier version of tobogganing. Fly down the hill adjoined with friends or race them to the bottom, either way, snow tubing offers an exciting few hours on snow.
Some snow tubing parks have fire pits nearby, perfect for warming up cold toes or roasting marshmallows.