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Ice-skating on frozen lakes in Banff National Park, dog-sledding through the Yukon territory in the northwest, and skiing at a world-class resort in Whistler are just some of the fairy-tale esque activities available in Canada in winter. If you consider yourself a fan of the great outdoors, and you’re prepared to wrap up warm and jump feet first into a season of winter sports, explore snowy cities, and sleep in ice-hotels then Winter in Canada might be just right for you.
Winter months in Canada run from mid-December through to mid-March (though can run from November to April) and brings with it freezing cold temperatures and lashings of snow. While the majority of Canada faces sub-zero temperatures (particularly the east coast), the British Columbian coast is a little more bearable with temperatures averaging around 8 °C (46 °F).
As a general rule of thumb, the further north you travel, the colder the temperatures become and snow precipitation increases. While the thought of shivering in your thermals could seem off-putting, winter in Canada should be whole-heartedly embraced and seen as an opportunity to enjoy winter sports and marvel at spectacular snow-covered scenery.
When it comes to places to visit in Canada in winter, you might find yourself a little spoilt for choice. Below we’ve listed our top five destinations and provided a little inspiration for what to do in Canada in winter. Read on to get the most out of your winter in Canada.
1. Whistler in winter
If you’re a keen skier or snowboarder then Whistler is the place to spend winter in Canada. This charming town sits just north of Vancouver and is home to some of the country’s most impressive snow-covered mountains and one of the largest ski resorts in North America; Whistler Blackcomb.
- Tackle some of the 200 ski runs that spread across 8,171 acres of snow-covered land that makes up the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains
- Ride the Peak 2 Peak Gondola from Whistler village to the top of the mountain (you don’t have to be skiing to enjoy this)
- Attend the Fire and Ice Show which takes place every Sunday at the base of Whistler Mountain from December to April. The show starts at 7pm and guests can witness pro-skiers as they flip through burning rings of fire before a fireworks display
- Head to the Coca-Cola Tube Park and slide your way down Whistler
2. Quebec City in winter
Quebec City comes alive during the winter season as the entire town slowly transforms into one big winter wonderland, covered in a crisp white blanket of snow. From hiking high above the city to visiting the Fairmont Castle to warming up over a bowl of poutine, there’s plenty of things to do to embrace the cold in Quebec City.
- Relax at a Scandinavian spa (Siberia Station Spa) which is found just 20 minutes from downtown Quebec City
- Hurtle down a toboggan slide in the centre of town
- Visit the Hotel de Glace, Quebec City’s ice hotel, and admire the ice carvings
- Celebrate the snow at the Quebec Winter Carnival home to ice-sculptures, family-friendly rides, and a seven-foot snowman
3. Banff in winter
Banff National Park is a world-class destination for winter-sports and skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and ice skating are all on offer once the snow sets in. The Canadian Rockies are also renowned for their amazing mountain views and relaxing hot springs so whether you’re here to shred up the slopes or you’d prefer to spend the day in a less adrenaline-fueled manner (perhaps rejuvenating at a spa), there’s a little something for everyone.
- Travel like a Canadian Inuit and spend the day dog sledding through the snow
- Ski one (or all) of ‘The Big 3’ ski resorts which include Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Mt. Norquay.
- Go ice-skating on Two Jack Lake, Johnson Lake, Lake Minnewanka, or Lake Louise
- Ride the Banff Gondola for incredible Rocky Mountain views without having to strap on a ski!
4. Vancouver in winter
Vancouver might be one of our favourite winter destinations in Canada because the city’s proximity to alpine peaks makes for a great city-break / wilderness adventure combo. Temperatures in Vancouver are bearable in the winter too meaning you could easily explore the city the same way you would in summer (just with a few more waterproof layers).
- Drive 30-minutes to Cypress Mountain and spend the day (or night) skiing or snowboarding
- Go snowshoeing at nearby Dog Mountain
- Walk across the Capilano Suspension Bridge which is lit up with fairy lights
- Zipline over the forest at Grouse Mountain
- Ice skate at Robson Square
5. Ottawa in winter
Winter in Canada’s capital is a blur of fairy lights, hot chocolate stands, and cozy nights spent warming up in a charming pub by the fireplace. While the city turns into a magical winter wonderland, and the locals patiently wait for the Rideau Canal to freeze over, you do need to be aware that things get quite chilly here in the height of winter so dress for subzero temperatures.
- Go Ice skating along the Rideau Canal, home to the world’s largest skate rink in winter
- Go snowshoeing across Gatineau Park which boasts 61 kilometres of forested snowshoeing trails, all varying in difficulty
- Attend the Winterlude Festival, a celebration of Canadian winters offering indoor and outdoor activities
- Take an evening stroll through Major’s Hill Park to admire the winter lights which are hung up for Christmas from December 4th - January 7th
6. Prince Edward Island in Winter
Prince Edward Island sits off the coast of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and is a popular destination in the summer thanks to its sweeping beaches, quaint lighthouses, and reputation for serving up delicious seafood. So why visit in winter? The red cliffs of the coast are lined with snow, the local resort turns into a hotbed of winter sports, and the Mark Arendz Provincial Ski Park opens its doors to skiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers alike! The seafood tastes just as good as it does in summer too, except you can enjoy your hot bowl of mussels in front of an open fire at apres-ski.
- Go tubing, snowshoeing, or ice skating at the Mill River Resort located in Woodstock
- Head to Charlottetown and attend Winter Dine, a dining event that takes place throughout January and February and offers a taste of local seasonal cuisine without breaking the bank
- Go snowmobiling across the 435 kilometres of the Confederation Trail which stretches from one end of the island to the other.
- Explore Prince Edward Islands National Park including its lighthouses and white snowy beaches (note that park facilities are closed during winter but visitors can still access the park via the Gulf Shore Parkway)
Winter in Canada is clearly the place to be, thanks to the country’s hardy approach to embracing the cold season and all the fun that comes with it. Whatsmore, visiting Canada in winter can work cheaper than doing so in summer (particularly if you avoid skiing) as the winter months are considered to be off-season in most cities, meaning you’ll enjoy cheaper flight prices and better hotel deals on your trip to Canada.