20 great Canadian winter activities and traditions

By: Doug O'Neill

Author: Canadian Living


20 great Canadian winter activities and traditions

By: Doug O'Neill
Just because it's winter is no reason to stay indoors. Discover how hearty Canadians in 20 communities across the country embrace the winter chill with one-of-a-kind outdoor traditions and winter festivals from Dutch speed skating and Polar Bear swims to bum sliding and Beaver Tail Jamborees.

1. Beaver Tail Jamboree, Fort Simpson, N.W.T.
Break winter's cold spell each March with a week of snowmobiling, ice-skating, fireworks, bingo, community dances and more.

2. Skate the Rideau Canal, Ottawa
Strap on your blades and glide along Canada's largest skating rink, the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Start at the foot of the Parliament Buildings and skate along almost eight kilometres of ice. The canal usually freezes over in January or February, depending on Mother Nature, of course.

3. World Pond Hockey Championships, Plaster Rock, N.B.
More than 100 teams from around the world converge on this small New Brunswick town (there are 20 rinks) for four days of pond hockey each February. Play or be a spectator -- both are heaps of winter fun.

4. Winter zip-lining, Marble Mountain, N.L.
Who says zip-lining is just for tropical rainforests? Try zip-lining daytime -- or nighttime -- at Marble Zip Tours, which is reportedly the longest and highest zip-line in Canada.

5. Nova Scotia Winter Icewine Festival
Food and wine are among the best antidotes to counter the frigid blast of February. Sample products from Nova Scotia winemakers and chefs throughout the province over a 10-day period. There are more than 40 events on the roster. Bonus: Chocolate lovers get a special treat!

6. Hit the slopes and trails at Tod Mountain, Sundance and Mount Morrisey, Sun Peaks, B.C.
Spend an afternoon -- or weekend -- downhill skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing in the interior of British Columbia all winter long.

Page 1 of 3 -- Discover family-friendly winter festivals in Ontario, northern Quebec, B.C. and Alberta on page 2

7. Skate the Assiniboine Credit Union River, Winnipeg, Man.
It's a wintertime tradition for Winnipegers to head down to the Forks in the heart of downtown for hiking, running or ice-skating on one of the longest naturally frozen skating rinks in the world.

8. Bon Soo Winter Carnival, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
Northern Ontario's largest winter carnival is almost 50 years old. Think polar bear swimming, music, bum sliding, skating, sculptures, a kids entertainment area and more. Plus, chances are you can catch a Soo Greyhound Hockey Game, as well. February 3 to 12.

9. Hiking, snowshoeing, birdwatching and skiing at Kouchibouguac National Park, N.B.
This wilderness park on New Brunswick's eastern coastline (it's pronounced "Kou-she-boo-gwack") is home to 25 kilometres of shifting sand dunes and endangered species. The park contains 60 kilometres of cycling and hiking paths for spring and summer fun that become magnets for outdoor snowshoe and cross-country ski enthusiasts when the snow flies.

10. Puvirnituq Snow Festival, Northern Quebec
The largest Inuit community on the eastern coast of the Hudson Bay has long-hosted a winter cultural festival each March. One of the biggest draws: snow sculptures in the shape of caribous. Other events include igloo-building competitions, relay races, dog-sled races, plus a challenge to build the tallest Inukshu.

11. Vernon Winter Carnival, Vernon, B.C.
Each February, the folks in Vernon, B.C., host a winter festival with an impressive roster: a Shriners Masquerade Skating Party, broomball, Ukrainian cook-offs, country dancing, an Irish pub night, peewee hockey and more.

12. Silver Skate Festival, Edmonton, Alta.
It's the city's longest-running winter festival (held in the latter half of February) hosting snow sculpture competitions, speedskating and Kortebaan races (a traditional Dutch sprint race) -- not to mention lots of other skating events in Hawrelak Park, Edmonton.

13. Jack Frost Children's Winterfest, Charlottetown, P.E.I.
One of the biggest draws at this annual children's winter festival is Scotties Magical Outdoor Skating and Curling Rink, located at the Bell Aliant Snow Kingdom at Sherwood Greens. The festival usually takes place the first week of February.

Page 2 of 3 -- Run a marathon on hard-packed snow in Yellowknife, or try "snow-kiting" in Saskatchewan with more one-of-a-kind Canadian winter activities on page 3

14. Corner Brook Winter Carnival, Corner Brook, N.L.
The folks in western Newfoundland mark this wintertime festival on their calendars and for a good reason -- it lasts an entire week with events including ice sculpture judging, decorated house competitions, skating, snow carving and more. "Leif the Lucky" is the carnival mascot, a nod to Newfoundland's Viking roots.

One stanza in their carnival song says it all: "Build a giant snowman on your lawn/Try to get to bed before each dawn/Sliding down the mountain on your skis/Bundle up the kids so they won't freeze." The festival is usually held around the last 10 days in February.

15. High Country Winter Fun, Canmore, Alta.
Yamnuska Adventures, located inside the Banff Park gates, offers mountaineering, ice climbing, rock climbing, winter trekking and back-country skiing all winter long.

16. Frostbite 45 Marathon, Yellowknife, N.W.T.
In this one-day event, held each mid-March, teams of up to five run or ski a 45-kilometre loop from Yellowknife to Prosperous Lake and back, on trails that have been hard-packed by snow machines. It's not for the faint of heart!

17. Snowboarding and snow-kiting in Saskatchewan
Kite-surfing is all the rage throughout Canada, and Saskatchewan is no exception. Some diehards have even developed a winter version called "snow-kiting."

18. Wine and dine at the Ice Bar in Regina, Sask.
La Bodega Tapas Bar and Grill is known for its amazing patio, wine cellar and great organic food year-round, but in winter, they have an expertly carved ice bar. The stools, tables and bar are all carved out of pristine ice.

19. Trappers Festival in The Pas, Man.
This annual February festival, which has attracted the likes of Canadian comic Rick Mercer, has been described as "one of the most oddball festivals in Canada." In addition to dog races and chain saw events, you don't want to miss the selection of the King Trapper and Queen Trapper of the year.

20. Treat yourself to a caribou drink at the Quebec Winter Carnival
You've heard about the ice palace, Bonhomme and the toboggan races which are so integral to the highly popular Quebec Winter Carnival (which takes place January and February each year), but have you ever tried a caribou drink? It's a potent combination of red wine, liquor (typically whisky) and maple syrup or sugar. And it's guaranteed to warm you to your toes.

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20 great Canadian winter activities and traditions