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10 Winter Activities in Canada You Simply Must Try

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. 

Back view of JR with snowboard looking out over Monashee Mountains at SilverStar Mountain Resort
Skiing at Silver Star Ski Resort, British Columbia

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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Huge frozen waterfall cascades down canyon wall in Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park
Johnston Canyon, Alberta

Snowshoeing

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.

Read next: A Complete Guide to Buying the Best Snowshoes

Side view of Gemma snowshoeing with tall trees rising from snow covered landscape
Snowshoeing at Apex Ski Resort, British Columbia

Dog sledding

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.

Two sled dogs sit on a frozen lake in front of mountainous landscape
Dog sledding in Alberta

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).

Two snowboards in the snow at the top of the Stocks chairlift at Apex Ski Resort
Skiing at Apex Ski Resort, British Columbia

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.

Ice sculpture in front of building with Whitehorse Yukon sign
Celebrating winter at the Sourdough Rendezvous Festival in Yukon

Ice skating

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.

Back view of two people skating on skating track through snow covered forest
Skating at Apex Ski Resort, British Columbia

Ice fishing

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.

A skidoo is parked next to an orange tent on a frozen lake in Canada
Ice fishing on a lake in British Columbia

Skidooing

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.

JR drives a skidoo across a snow covered landscape in Canada
Skidooing in British Columbia

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.

Side view of JR descending hill on cross country skies at Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre
Cross country skiing at Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre, British Columbia

Ice climbing

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).

Ice climbing tower with sunset colours in background
Man made ice climbing at Big White Ski Resort, British Columbia

Snow tubing

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.

Three people sit in snow tubes waiting to slide down frozen slope at Silver Star Ski Resort
Snow tubing at Silver Star Ski Resort

Related posts you may find helpful:

65 Cool Things to Do Across Canada in Winter

What to Wear in Canada in Winter: A Complete Guide

8 Must See Places On A Winter Road Trip Across Canada

Essential Travel Tips for a Winter Road Trip in Canada

Snowshoeing 101: A Beginner’s Guide

10 Ways to Explore Ontario’s Winter Wonderland

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