With its extreme weather, winter is often the most dreaded time of year. But that same weather also provides an opportunity to enjoy special and memorable activities. To make the most of the season despite the cold, here are some suggested activities you won’t want to miss. Get out your tuque, scarf, and mittens—it’s time to play in the snow!
Mountain biking is a big part of my summers, and it’s with some sadness that I put my bike away each winter. Lucky for me, I discovered oversized tires this year, so now I can pedal all year round. As the name implies, fatbikes have much bigger tires, for better grip on slippery surfaces like snow and ice.
Fatbiking is a winter sport the whole family can enjoy, and it doesn’t require years of practice or special training. If you can ride a bike, you can ride a fatbike! It’s easy to find fatbike trails and rentals in most of Canada’s national and provincial parks.
What I like about snowshoeing is that there are lots of options and it takes very little planning. You can go for a few hours for some fresh air, go on a multiday expedition, or pick up the pace for a real workout.
A number of businesses across the country offer cardio snowshoeing treks to help you stay fit, even in winter. For another type of getaway, most national and provincial parks offer excursions or stays in huts or cottages in addition to snowshoe rentals. If you have your own snowshoes, you can go on any marked trail at your own pace, as long as there is enough snow.
Winter festivals across Canada
Winter festivals are an especially great way to forget the cold and have fun outdoors during the winter, even in the city.
Here are a few festivals you might enjoy:
- Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg, featuring jigging contests, snow sculptures, and musical performances.
- The Québec Winter Carnival, where you can sleep in an ice hotel, take a snow bath, watch an ice canoe race, do an ice sculpture workshop, and more.
- The Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous in Whitehorse, with offbeat activities like a frozen hair contest, a flour-packing race, and a masked ball.
- The SnowDays Festival in Banff, where you can go skiing, skating, or snowshoeing, relax in the hot springs, and enjoy fine dining.
Few winter activities are as typically Canadian as ice skating! As soon as the first flakes fly, most municipalities across the country prepare a rink, often with skate rentals. Whether to play hockey or simply for the pleasure of gliding on the ice, skating lets you get out and enjoy the crisp, fresh air with little planning.
Here are some of the best places to skate in Canada:
- The Rideau Canal in Ottawa
- The Forks in Winnipeg
- Lake Louise in Alberta
- The Plains of Abraham in Quebec City
Ice fishing is an amazing winter activity you can enjoy in many Canadian provinces. I had the chance to try it in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region. The heated shelters set up on the lakes are so cozy you can take off your tuque and mittens while fishing. You just drop your line through a hole in the ice. If you catch something, you can take it home for dinner.
Downhill skiing and snowboarding
Downhill skiing and snowboarding are iconic Canadian sports where you can speed down the slopes while taking in the surrounding scenery. Lessons for beginners and equipment rentals are available at most ski resorts. Watch out—you could get hooked!
Here are some of the country’s most beautiful ski resorts:
- Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia
- Revelstoke in British Columbia
- Blue Mountain in Ontario
- Le Massif de Charlevoix in Quebec
Ontario Blue Cross® tips
Before leaving on your trip, check that the activities you’ve planned are covered by your policy. Extreme sports (kite skiing, backcountry skiing, climbing, etc.) and certain activities considered dangerous (ice fishing without going through a specialized company, snowshoeing or biking off marked trails, etc.) may be excluded.
To take home only wonderful memories of your vacation, avoid antics that could jeopardize your safety—and remember your travel insurance!