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!
Winter in Canada has plenty of offer for people willing to brave the weather. Expedia.ca 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.
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.
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.
During the Winterlude festival in Ottawa, the Rideau Canal turns 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada