Amazing adventures require proper planning!
If you wait until winter is in full swing to devise your cold-weather escape, well, it'll be too late.
So we're here to inspire you, with 24 incredible wintertime adventures in Canada. From the west to the east, and north of 60 too, we have getaways for all levels.
Read—and Live the Adventure!
(Bonus: scroll to the bottom to access a free eBook with 126 more exciting Canadian adventures.)
Ski-Tour the Spearhead
Of all the Coast Range ski tours, the Spearhead Traverse is the most iconic: a three-day, 35-kilometre horseshoe-shaped tour that meanders through the gorgeous alpine of Garibaldi Provincial Park. And the accessibility can’t be beat—skiers actually start from Blackcomb Glacier, meaning you’ll ride the Blackcomb chairlift to get a push into the alpine. Along the way, you’ll hit a high point of 2,600 metres, spot 13 glaciers, stay at a wonderful backcountry hut and generally enjoy some of the finest winter alpine environments in the country.
Heli-Ski With Legends
Did you know heli-skiing was invented in British Columbia? And did you know you can actually meet, and ski with, some of the people who pioneered this wild snowsport back in the 1960s? At Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing, in Blue River, you’ll have the chance to meet Mike, one of the founders of heli-skiing, and maybe he’ll even join you for a run. Or, at Purcell Heli-Skiing, in Golden, you can shake hands with Rudi Gertsch, another heli-skiing pioneer, while you shred powder in the Selkirks and Monashees.
Ride the Ski Train
Destination BC/Jordan Manley
Start this train-trip in Terrace, British Columbia—once of the snowiest regions in the province—with a day or two at Shames Mountain. Deep snow, zero lift lines and friendly locals will make it hard to leave. But your next stop is Prince Rupert, to board the VIA Rail train toward Jasper, Alberta. Stopover at Prince George to ski a day at Powder King, then head to Hudson Bay Mountain the following day; both are located near the city. Re-board the train to Jasper and finish your trip with a day at Marmot Basin on the Alberta side.
Ski-Tour Hankin Evelyn
You may immediately notice there is something amiss about this Northern BC ski hill. Here’s a hint: the Hankin-Evelyn Backcountry Recreation Area has no chairlifts. Welcome to the only non-motorized designated ski area in the province. Slap on your climbing skins, pass through one of the avalanche beacon check-gates and get ready to earn those turns. There are two warming huts and eight dedicated below-alpine ski runs (plus connector trails) to choose from—all maintained by a local not-for-profit and volunteer army. And because it’s all self-propelled, fresh tracks are guaranteed.
Ice-Climb in a Canyon
When winter hits, Maligne Canyon reaches peak beauty. This deep slot canyon normally awash with whitewater in summer becomes an ethereal world of shaped ice, frozen waterfalls and steep cliffs. In short, it’s possibly the best place to ice climb in Canada. Ice climbing looks extreme, but it’s actually reasonably accessible—with the right guidance. If you’re a non-climber, local guides and schools will show you the ropes and have you scaling these frozen falls in no time.
Ski Rocky Mountain High
Banff Lake Louise Tourism/Paul Zizka
It’s not just the snow that makes Rocky Mountain skiing so wonderful—it’s the scenery. One run and you’ll see… though thankfully you’ll be doing a lot more than one run. Start at Marmot Basin in Jasper; a hill that’s low-key yet really high—3,000 metres to be exact. Then head to Lake Louise for the biggest of the bunch, with 145 runs over 1,700 hectares. Sunshine Village is up next—a family-run resort with a ski-bum vibe and deep snow. Finally, hit Norquay, just six kilometres from the town of Banff, and enjoy its 500-metre vertical drop and ample snowmaking.
Ski Like an Olympian
Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park has built nicely on its Olympic legacy. With 65 kilometres of groomed cross-country ski trails—including 6.5 kilometres of illuminated night skiing—XC skiers of all abilities will find a route to satisfy. Will you try an easy skate along the Banff Trail, a sweaty ski on the Lillehammer Trail or a lung-busting grind along the Rundle Trail? All are skate- and classic-compatible. Wax and warm-up on site.
Fat-Bike a Snowscape
They say necessity is the mother of invention. This is particularly true with Saskatchewan’s bicyclists. Though the open prairies offer endless summertime cycling, the frigid winters had folks hanging up their rides for half the year. Until recently—with the takeoff of fat-bikes. Effectively mountain bikes with 10-centimetre-wide tires and simplified gearing, these contraptions are tailor-made to cruise atop the crunchy prairie snow. Not only is it letting Saskatchewanites get their bike-fix year round, but it’s great exercise and unique way to enjoy the scenic splendor of a flatland winterscape.
Kite-Ski the Flatland
What Saskatchewan lacks in elevation change, it makes up with ingenuity. Without a hill to compete with the West and East’s best, our Prairie province still manages to dish up ski and snowboard thrills by harnessing the power of wind and making use of the wide open spaces that so typify the Land of Living Skies. This is kite-skiing and kite-boarding: outfitted with conventional downhill skis or a snowboard, you’ll learn to wrangle a kite that can propel you at eye-watering speeds overtop snow-blanketed farmland.
Skate for your Supper
If you travel to Winnipeg in winter, you’d better learn to love the cold. Thankfully, the city is setup to take advantage of these chilly months. Take The Forks Arctic Glacier Winter Park, for example. Families love to skate around the Olympic-sized rink, but for real excitement head to the 1.2-kilometre-long skating trail that meanders through this national historic site, connecting attraction-to-attraction. Visit in late-January/early February (2018) and there’s a good chance Raw Almond will be open—a pop-up, skate-access restaurant that merges fine dining with puffies, toques and mittens.
Skijor in Ontario’s Winter Wilds
Pack your pup and drive a couple hours’ north of Toronto to Arrowhead Provincial Park for a skijoring lesson with sports clinicians Lowell Greib and Katherine Ahokas of Huntsville’s The SportLab. Skijoring is like dogsledding—except on cross-country skis—and it’s a great workout for both you and Fido. Sunday afternoon clinics are held weekly during winter on Arrowhead’s three-kilometre-long cross-country trail. If you still have energy afterwards, trade skis for skates and finish your day with a few laps through the park’s forested skating trail.
Get Your Yurt On
Located about 60 kilometres east of North Bay and dwarfed by the juggernaut of Algonquin Provincial Park to its south, Ontario’s Mattawa Valley is a bit off-radar. But within Mattawa, the theme of cultures colliding makes Nature’s Harmony Eco-Lodge’s kicksleds and Mongolian yurts an intriguing winter secret. The eco-lodge was founded by Jen and Tzach Elnekave, two world travellers from Canada and Israel, respectively, who chased one another around the globe for a few years before starting this business in northern Ontario. Visitors can traverse Mattawa’s frozen wonderland via traditional Scandinavian kick-sled, a contraption similar to a street scooter but riding on skis, and then sleep in a handmade yurt imported from Mongolia.
Skate the Rideau Canal
Winter in Ottawa means access to the world’s largest ice rink. At 7.8 kilometres long, and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rideau Canal Skateway stretches from downtown to Dows Lake, running right through the centre of Canada’s capital. It’s open late—often to 11:00 p.m., and in the morning some people even use it for commuting. Dress warmly, and hit up hot chocolate and coffee stands along the way. It’s universally beloved in Ottawa and by all visitors who partake in this unique Canadian experience.
Are you familiar with Abitibi-Témiscamingue? This region in western Quebec, about 2.5 hours east of Timmins, Ontario or six hours northwest of Montreal, is a 65,000-square-kilometre adventure mecca of lakes, rivers, woodland and unbridled potential for winter recreation. While certainly no secret to the area’s 145,000 residents, tourism is a burgeoning industry in Abitibi-Témiscamingue—crowds and high-prices are not on the ledger. Pack your snowshoe gear to explore this region properly, starting in Parc national d’Aiguebelle. Offering 38 kilometres of backcountry trails, the park is best experienced in either the three-day/two-night tour dubbed “The Faults,” or the four-day/ three-night “Northern Getaway;” varying-difficulty routes that link together rustic shelters for comfy multi-night touring.
Dogsled for Days
Hugo Lacroix/Tourism Abitibi-Temiscamingue
There are a lot of Canadian tour operators who will take you out for a dogsled run. Only a few will let you handle your own 10-dog team. Chenil du Chien-Loup, in Amos, Quebec, is the latter. Their Forfait Expédition Three Jours (Three-Day Expedition Package) is aimed at folks looking for a unique wintertime adventure. The package includes training, equipment, a team of 10 huskies, two nights in a teepee or prospector’s tent, all meals and 100 kilometres of self-drive dogsledding through the beautiful boreal forest of Abitibi- Témiscamingue.
XC The Capital Region
Gatineau Park, located just across the river from Ottawa, is one of Canada’s premier cross-country ski destinations. With more than 50 marked trails for all skill levels totalling more than 200 kilometres, half of which is suitable for skate-skiing, it’s easy to see why. Add in reliable snowpack and top-notch maintenance and it’s a hard place to beat for cold-weather fitness. There are even 45 kilometres of backcountry ski trails, with as much as a 320-vertical-metre drop to keep even devoted ski-tourers happy. Day shelters, public transit access, warming huts… need we say more?
Snow Tag in La Mauricie
Have you heard of snow tagging? This is where the ephemeral meets the outdoorsy; a mix of fitness and Zen gardening. In La Mauricie National Park, snow taggers head into the winter wilds after a fresh snowfall shod with snowshoes. Then, they carefully stomp out elaborate designs in the snow—like the Canadian version of Crop Circles—over a period of several hours. (Solitaire Lake or Lac aux Chevaux are good spots.) You can use a GPS, compass, ropes or just free-form; there are drawings available at the park office for inspiration. When your creation is done, hike to a high point, admire the results and take solace in the non-permanence of your artistic endeavor.
Sled in Charlevoix
Le Massif De Charlevoix/B. Gagnon
You remember the simple joy of sledding, right? Well, relive your childhood delights with an adult take on a classic winter activity. La Luge awaits at Le Massif de Charlevoix. Far from a kiddie-hill, this is a 7.5-kilometre-long sled track with steep drops and tight turns throughout. It’s an exhilarating way to see the mountain and a surefire method to get your heart racing fast. But it’s also mellow enough for all—there is even a midway break with a chalet to warm up in. Then, it’s back to the slide…
Ski the Chic Chocs
Rest assured, there is quality ski touring in Eastern Canada too. Head into the Chic Chocs, home to the namesake Mountain Lodge, for Quebec’s best backcountry skiing. Located 615 metres above sea level, the lodge is accessed by a track-equipped van and offers guests luxury in the wilderness—gourmet meals, comfy accommodations and views galore. Days are spent carving deep powder, skiing steep chutes and weaving through glades. There’s even a spa to relax your muscles post-ski.
Traverse the Gaspe
Forgo the usual Caribbean beach-week and spend your vacation with Traversee de la Gaspesie—an all-inclusive six-day trek across the winter environs of Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula. Open to skiers and snowshoers as young as seven, you’ll embark on a self-propelled journey along the Gaspe Peninsula, marveling at the icy Gulf of St. Lawrence and Chaleur Bay on one side and the 1,000-metre peaks of the Chic-Chocs on the other. This trip includes organized activities, regional-fare meals, lodging, luggage transport and daily routes ranging from 20 to 40 kilometres (ski) and 10 to 15 kilometres (snowshoe).
Tour Nunavik’s Winter Wilds
Are you ready for a true Arctic experience? Nunavik’s Parc national Kuururjuaq awaits. Reaching from Ungava Bay to the highest peak in Eastern Canada—Mount d’Iberville—and marked by a swath carved by the Koroc River, 4,460-square-kilometre Kuururjuaq is wild and remote. It’s the traditional home of the Inuit, as well as the George River Caribou Herd. It’s also home of world-class ski touring and backcountry snowshoeing. Trek along the frozen Koroc River, sleeping under the aurora borealis. Midway, a comfy cabin awaits. From there, ski the foothills of the Torngats. Walk into Labrador. Spot polar bear tracks. You’ll be telling your grandchildren about this one.
Snowshoe to the Spout
Newfoundland & Labrador
The hardest part of snowshoeing to The Spout could be actually finding the trailhead—it’s only unofficially mapped, located some 35 kilometres south of St. John’s. The trail is open year-round, but it’s best done in winter when you can snowshoe over the bogs on a beeline to The Spout. Along with the coastal scenery, you’ll have a laugh watching waves crash under this rocky blowhole then jet through the snow and into the icy Atlantic air.
Visit Aurora Village
Yellowknife, capital of the Northwest Territories, is the best place on Earth to spot the Northern Lights. The reasons are simple—Yellowknife is easy to access, is home to dark and clear winter night skies and it’s also set directly below the ring of aurora activity that orbits the Earth. In fact, Yellowknife boasts more than 200 nights of aurora activity per year. If the sky is clear and dark, chances are you’ll see this impressive spectacle. Tours range from luxury heated teepees, to adventurous dogsled excursions, to self-guided snowshoe explorations.
Dogsled like a Sourdough
Yukon Government/F. Mueller
You’re brave right? Brave enough to head north of 60 in the cold months and traverse the frozen landscape of Yukon via dogsled? Imagine—boundless winter wilds stretch out before you. Your trusty team of canines yelps and howls in anticipation. Mush! Perhaps you’ll spend and hour or two with an adept guide handling the team. Perhaps you’ll do an overnight, spending all day at the helm of your own sled. Or maybe a multi-day trip is in order—perfecting your dogsledding skills and camping beneath the Northern Lights. However you sled, you’re sure to fall in love with not only the Yukon winter but the energetic canines with which you explore.
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