Canadian winters are pretty much the worst. And while it’s best to avoid them completely, sometimes that’s not an option. But, there are plenty of places in our nation where winters aren’t just bearable, they’re beautiful. We found the best Canadian winter getaways so you can enjoy the snow, instead of escaping it: hit the slopes at BC’s Revelstoke Mountain or enjoy the crisp air from a hot outdoor Scandinavian bath at Blue Mountain. Just make sure to dress accordingly.
Rideau Canal Skating, Ontario
Each year, after the Rideau Canal freezes over, Canada’s capital city transforms into a winter paradise. One must-do winter activity for every Canadian is attending Ottawa’s annual Winterlude Festival . See the ice sculptures in Confederation Park and skate along the world’s largest ice rink at the Rideau Canal. There are warm-up spots and even an outdoor gallery along the ice. The only thing that would make your winter retreat complete is staying a night at the historic Chateau Laurier, overlooking the snow-covered city.
Photography: Richard Kelland
Hotel de Glace, Quebec
Quebec’s famous Ice Hotel, the first of its kind in North America, sits on the Laurentian Mountains, only 5km north of Quebec City. Since the hotel is re-built at the beginning of winter every year, the architecture is always different, but equally remarkable. Every year you visit is a unique and one-of-a-kind experience. The hotel is complete with fur embellished rooms, a bar, café and movie theatre, all expertly sculpted from ice. And, the most important amenity, hot tubs overlooking the Laurentian landscape.
Photography: Simon Le Nippon
The Northern Lights, Yukon Territories
Sometimes you just need to get away from everything! And Yukon is the place to go. Visit the cold white north the right way by staying in one of Whitehorse’s secluded bed and breakfast spots, like the cozy Takhini River Lodge. It gives you just the right amount of privacy in the beautiful Canadian wilderness along with all the amenities; catering, transportation and tours. After a day of outdoor activities, including dogsledding, snowmobiling, and visiting local shops in town, take a Northern lights tour. This is your chance to experience an unbelievable natural wonder of the world, Aurora Borealis.
Mont Tremblant, Quebec
Another internationally-recognized ski resort, this time in central Canada, is located in the heart of the Laurentian Mountains. Mont-Tremblant Resort has so many attractions and visitors all year-round that it could be it’s own little town. This ski-obsessed city has an annual 24 hour ski event every December for you to see the sun rise and sun set while hitting the slopes. They also host multiple winter races on their Circuit Mont-Tremblant track. If you need a break from the powder, make sure to visit the village shops and casino!
Whistler, British Columbia
After hosting the 2010 winter Olympics, Whistler gained international recognition, but it seems Canadians have known this treasure all along. With more than 2 million visitors per year, this west coast city is by far one of the best skiing spots our country has to offer. After a day of zip-lining and heli-skiing at Blackcomb Resort, stroll around the beautifully lit Whistler Village or Whistler Creekside to partake in the nightlife. If you’re lucky, you might run into, Cornucopia, one of the cities internationally recognized, annual food festivals.
Banff National Park, Alberta
A true gem located in the Rocky Mountains, Banff National Park has become a winter paradise for travellers all around the world. With three separate skill hills and a thriving winter community, Canada’s oldest national park offers a variety of activities that would make any cold weather enthusiast jump for joy. Stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise for breathtaking views before you hit the slopes at Ski Louise, Norquay, or Sunshine Village. Drive into Banff for some great shopping and enjoy the town’s art scene at the Banff Centre.
Jasper National Park, Alberta
A UNESCO World Heritage site and home to the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve (a park with absolutely no artificial light pollution), this winter getaway has some extreme activities for the serious adventurer. Ride the Jasper Tramway up Whistler mountain, travelling 7472ft high for a spectacular 80km-far view of the Rockies. Or take the Maligne Canyon Ice Walk over the huge gorge to view the tremendous ice fossils created right before your eyes. If you’re planning to take your outdoor activities lightly, star gaze in the natural observatory, snowshoe across Maligne Lake or check out the nearby museums.
Blue Mountain Scandinavian Spa, Ontario
Everyone knows that Blue Mountain is a great destination for slope enthusiasts but their outdoor Scandinavian Spa is a must for anyone who enjoys relaxation after. Enjoy the outdoor saunas and baths that use hot and cold hydrotherapy to relieve stress, soothe the skin and muscles, and improve circulation.
Red River Mutual Trail, Manitoba
In the dead of winter, In downtown Manitoba, the Assiniboine and Red Rivers, freeze over to form one long skating rink called the Red River Mutual Trail. The ice path actually holds the Guinness World Record for the longest naturally frozen skating trail, stretching for almost six kilometres. Skaters, hockey players, snowshoers and even curlers can all be found along the trail enjoying nature’s ice rink.
Revelstoke, British Columbia
If hockey is our first national winter pastime then gliding down perfectly powdered mountainsides has to be the second. Revelstoke Mountain Resort is the home of North America’s greatest vertical at 5,620 ft. You’re guaranteed a memorable experience from the resort that offers both day and night skiing as well as lift, cat, heli and backcountry skiing from one village base. Heli!
Sundogs Sled Excursions, Saskatchewan
People joke that Saskatchewan is completely flat terrain but that comes in handy during the winter months. Navigate the snowy trails that lead around the stunning Anglin Lake by dog sled with Sundogs Sled Excursions for half or full day trips and overnight camping. You’ll learn how to team up your dogs and can even visit their puppy camp for an early peek at the next batch of sled dogs.
World Pond Hockey, New Brunswick
It’s a known fact that Canadians love hockey and no one shows that love more than the World Pond Hockey Tournament in New Brunswick. With over 20 pond rinks set up on top of Roulston Lake, thousands of spectators come to watch 120 teams from all over the world compete for the championship. The tournament takes place in early February.
Fogo Island, Newfoundland
Technically an island off the northeast coast of Newfoundland, the remote fishing island’s – population 2,700 – inn (Fogo Island Inn) is local from the inside out. They offer activities and excursions year round but the winter ones include storm watching & wave watching, skating, caribou watching, skidooing, snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Not so bad for a teeny island.