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Why Visiting Canada Is a Must In Winter

There’s no hiding that most of Canada is pretty darn cold in the winter. For a lot of people, this is a reason to curl up and hibernate for most of the season. But what a waste!

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

Winter in Canada has plenty of offer for people willing to brave the weather. recently asked me to share a couple of reasons why exploring Canada this winter is worth the extra effort.

Published December 2015. There are affiliate links in this post. If you make a qualifying purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Looking up to a cute cabin surrounded by forest and snow
Cabin at Halcyon Hot Springs, British Columbia

Unlimited outdoor exploration

The search for better powder is a great reason to travel to Canada in winter, a reason that attracts thousands of people from all over the world every year.

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

Whether it is resort or backcountry, nordic or alpine, the opportunities for skiing and snowboarding feel almost endless in this country.

And the landscape from your board or skis isn’t half bad either. Of course, there are plenty of other choices for winter sports. 

Huge half frozen waterfall cascading over rockface. Gemma stands at the bottom wearing a yellow jacket and taking a photo of the waterfall above
Wapta Falls in Yoho National Park, British Columbia

During the Winterlude festival in Ottawa, the Rideau Canaturns into the world’s largest skating rink at almost 8km long.

Not feeling so active? Grab a beer and watch the ice hockey; another very Canadian winter activity.

Grand Prairie winter sunset in winter.   A silhouette of someone walking on a snowy road with snow covered trees.
Grand Prairie, Alberta

Celebrate the cold in Canada

Thinking of events, winter in Canada is jam-packed with winter festivals and celebrations.

Although most communities seem to celebrate the chill in some way or another, Montreal definitely is a bit of a hot spot with the Festival Montréal en Lumière (High Lights), Igloofest and Fête des Neiges during January and February.

Large ice sculpture of the moon with a face looking at an elk skull in Yukon
Ice sculptures at the Rendezvous Festival in Yukon

Not too far away is Quebec’s famous Carnaval, complete with snowman mascot Bonhomme. One of our favourite (and most imaginative) winter events we’ve been to in recent years has to be Yukon’s Sourdough Rendezvous. 

Celebrating the winter in true northern style, there’s ice carving, hairy leg contest for women, dog sled races and can-can dancing on snowshoes.

JR is looking at the camera, about to play golf on a frozen lake
Playing ice golf in Pigeon Lake, Alberta

Lynx, moose and mountain goats…oh my!

Not only a great season for unusual events and festivals, winter is also a good time to spot certain species of animals. Not all animals hibernate, leaving wildlife watching a viable activity in winter too.

Though it may definitely be more of a challenge, there can be no better reward than seeing a lynx or snowshoe hare in its natural habitat.

Herds of mountain goats or Dall sheep can be quite a sight as well alongside the more common moose and caribou.

The town of Churchill in Manitoba is best known as a polar bear watching area, but you’ll have to go early since most sightings are in October and November.

A Lynx paws through the snow in Alberta, Canada
We spotted this lynx in Alberta one winter

A show in the sky – the Northern Lights

Last but definitely not least on my list of top Canadian winter experiences would have to be the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights.

Some Canadians are not even aware that it is actually possible to see the Aurora without travelling too far.

I was lucky enough to first experience the Northern Lights just outside of Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia.

It is not an uncommon occurrence at this kind of latitude, showing that you don’t necessarily have to travel as far north as Yellowknife, Whitehorse or even Norway to see the famed lights.

Before living in Canada, winter was my least favourite time of year.

Nowadays, I still prefer summer (I love canoeing and hiking far too much) but winter comes a much closer second than it ever has. Living in a winter wonderland certainly has its benefits.

Northern Lights, Tumbler Ridge, BC, Canada
The Aurora Borealis

Winter travel tips

Travelling in winter requires a little more care than in summer. Shorter days and colder temperatures can cause difficult driving conditions. Public transportation is more likely to be delayed or cancelled.

But don’t let this put you off. Check forecasts and allow more time for connections and delays.

Driving the David Thompson Highway in Canada, vehicle view. The clear road is surrounded by snowy mountains
Winter road trips in Canada can be fun, but some precautions must be taken

If driving, keep up to date on provincial highway condition websites and keep an emergency kit in the vehicle. This includes blankets, food, shovel, first aid supplies and a flashlight/headlamp.

Be prepared to change route if necessary and don’t rush. More winter road trip tips can be found in the article linked below.

alpine village in mount washington, Canada

Related articles you may find helpful

The Complete Guide to Travelling Canada in Winter

What to Wear in Canada in Winter

How To Start Hiking in the Winter (Without Freezing!)

42+ Amazing Things to Do in Banff in Winter: Complete Travel Guide

65 Cool Things to Do Across Canada in Winter

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