1. Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding – Skiing and snowboarding are high-speed thrills that make downhillers wish for more of the white stuff! Vancouver has Whistler; Calgary has Banff and Montreal has Mont Tremblant. And there are plenty of local hills to brush up on techniques early in the season. Ski season starts in mid-November and runs until May. The busiest, and most expensive, time at the ski resorts is around Christmas and spring break when families head to the hills in droves. But with new high-speed ski-lifts, queues on the hill are often shorter than the lineups in the parking lots and restaurants.
2. Cross-Country Skiing – Not all people are as courageous (or crazy enough) to strap boards to their feet and hurtle down a mountain. For those who are downhill-challenged, try cross-country skiing instead. It’s like walking but only faster; similar to skating but without the falls; akin to running but not as strenuous. There are only a few nordic centers in the country dedicated to cross-country skiers but any snow covered trail is worth exploring. To get in shape at the beginning of the ski-season, try training at a local golf course. Then head out to the backcountry for a cool day of sliding and gliding.
3. Snowmobiling – Snowmobiling is fast, fun and exciting. Enjoy a family outing zipping through snowy fields, sparkling powder and spectacular scenery. Whizzing along forest trails is a great way to spend a sunny, winter day in the Canadian backcountry. Guided snowmobile tours in Canada are available to take sledders along pathways to places usually inaccessible at other times of the year. Ontario alone has over 30,000 kilometers of trails while Revelstoke, BC offers 12-18 meters of the white stuff (yes, meters). The quiet beauty and virgin snow is breathtaking and unforgettable.
4. Skating – Indoor arenas are fundamental to every community in this hockey-loving nation and many municipalities also maintain outdoor skating areas as well. Calgary has a natural rink in Bowness Park; Winnipeg has the 5.7 kilometer River Trail and of course, Ottawa has the Rideau Canal, a World Heritage Site. Enjoy a warm winter day on a frozen waterway and bring back childhood memories of playing on the ice.
5. Snowshoeing – Hiking in Canada doesn’t have to come to an end once the snow accumulates on the ground. As a winter substitute, strap on some lightweight snowshoes and follow your favourite trails to see the frozen backcountry. Snowshoeing is similar to hiking except trekkers can make their own trails. Scrub-brush and felled trees are buried deep below the powdery snow allowing showshoers to easily float on top. Take more direct routes up hills, tromp over buried thicket and follow frozen creeks and streams to secret winter locations.
6. Winter Camping – Instead of packing the tent away for 6 months, try a winter camping trip! Die-hard campers can pitch a tent and hunker down for the night any place that is sheltered from the wind. Combined with snowshoeing, winter camping is quiet and uncrowded. The soft snow under the tent makes for comfortable bedding. And hot chocolate has never tasted so good.
7. Caving – Caving in Canada is warm! Buried deep underground, the natural warmth of the earth keeps caverns at a constant temperature throughout the year, usually around +5 C. Once inside, winter quickly fade as cavers descend into a dark and damp chute below the surface. Guided tours provide protective equipment and gear to take you into a different world of narrow passageways, mineral deposits and crystal-clear pools. Those people who are claustrophobic will find the narrow
crevasses truly a once-in-a-life-time experience.
8. Sailing – The North Pacific Ocean near the BC coast is always +10 C making for year round sailing adventures. From November to March, rain showers are frequent but avid sailors can still get their thrills amongst the Gulf Islands and fjords of Vancouver Island. The westerly winds are strong and constant off of the Pacific Ocean, making for exciting and anxious sailing adventures. Bring rain gear and a VHF radio to monitor the weather since winter storms can produce gale force winds. Fog is west-coast trademark.
Outdoor adventure travel in Canada is a year round pastime. When the snow starts to fall and nature goes into hibernation, there are plenty of things to do and places to explore in this magical winter wonderland.