Travel

Winter sports and fun activities to enjoy the outdoors

By: Doug O'Neill

Author: Canadian Living

Travel

Winter sports and fun activities to enjoy the outdoors

By: Doug O'Neill

1. Play Yukigassen (Japanese Snowball) in Saskatoon
You're in a park in downtown Saskatoon in the depths of winter and a snowball comes flying at you. Your gut response: It must be a misbehaving prankster. It's more likely that you've stumbled upon an enthusiastic game of Yukigassen, a playful form of Japanese snowball fighting that is taking Canada by storm.

The game involves a team of seven players that tries to capture the opposing team's flag and eliminate rivals with regulation-size snowballs – all in the name of good fun. And it's not just in Saskatoon. Expect a friendly snowball coming your way soon. yukigassensaskatoon.com

2. Have a "boil-up" in Newfoundland
For Jill Curran of Ferryland, N.L., it's tradition to heat up the kettle in the middle of the woods or down by the shore on a chilly day. "We say we're having a boil-up," says Jill. "It could be toast and beans, anything that makes for a light meal while you're hiking, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing."

The Dictionary of Newfoundland English defines a boil-up as "a brew of tea, and sometimes a snack, often taken during a rest from work in the country or on a vessel." In times past, a boil-up could have included salt fish and homemade bread. newfoundlandlabrador.com

3. See the aurora borealis in Iqaluit, Nunavut
There are actually respites from the -30 C temperatures and total darkness that engulf much of Nunavut during winter. Many feel it's the best place in the world to admire Mother Nature's light show, the aurora borealis. gov.nu.ca

4. Play pond hockey at Lac La Biche, Alta.
Each winter the Kinsmen Club of Lac la Biche floods the lake in this little hamlet, located 220 kilometres northeast of Edmonton. The rinks have no boards or blue lines. It's simple. It's hockey "just for the fun of it," according to organizers. Lac la Biche also hosts an annual polar bear swim. laclabichekinsmen.ca


Page 1 of 4 -- Surfing isn't just for the summer months. Learn where to surf during the wintertime on page 2.

5. Party outdoors at le Grand Hé Ho in St. Boniface, Man.
Le Grand Hé Ho is a lively outdoor party held at the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain, as part of the Festival de Voyageur. Winnipegger Jen Zoratti says the rest of "the country questions our sanity as we 'Peg people put on our long johns, get hopped up on maple sugar and brave terrifying windchills to party like voyageurs – in the middle of February." festivalvoyageur.mb.ca

6. Ski or snowmobile The Confederation Trail in Prince Edward Island

In the midst of winter, Islanders from Tignish to Elmira have 470 kilometres of railway lines repurposed as recreation trails for snowmobiling or cross-country skiing. The trails weave through woodlots and fields, and run along beachfronts. tourismpei.com/pei-confederation-trail

7. Surf At Lawrencetown Beach, N.S.

Picture this: It's a cold winter's day at Lawrencetown Beach, 30 minutes north of Halifax. Out in the freezing Atlantic are surfers – yes, surfers! – from nearby towns and around the world, squished into protective wet suits, bedevilling the rip currents and choppy waters. And on the shore are scores of onlookers, stamping their feet and blowing into their mitted hands to keep warm. It's a regular winter's day at the beach. lawrencetownbeach.com

8. Build an igloo in Grand Falls, N.B.

Last winter Eric Ouellette and his mates in Grand Falls acquired 2,500 ice blocks and built the world's largest dome igloo. It measured 9.3 metres in diameter and 5.4 metres tall, and held about 300 people. It was the second time Grand Falls earned the Guinness World Record for the biggest dome igloo. Check out this year's igloo-building feats during the Winter Festival in February. grandfalls.com


Page 2 of 4 -- Want to try your hand at axe throwing in the Yukon or ice fishing? Find out where to get involved in these unique winter sports on page 3.

9. Play snow volleyball in Yellowknife, N.W.T.
Who needs beach sand to play volleyball outside? Certainly not the hardy souls (in mitts and parkas) who sign up for the Yellowknife Snow Volleyball Tournament, held each March at Yellowknife Bay. ykbeach.com

10. Try axe throwing and swede sawing in Whitehorse
Yukoners go to extremes. These are the folks who host the annual Yukon Quest, a 1,600-kilometre dogsled race. And during the annual Yukon Sourdough Rendez-Vous (Feb. 23 to 26 this year), locals head down to Shipyards Park in Whitehorse to cheer on their favourite lumberjacks, who ply their muscle at swede sawing and axe throwing. yukonrendezvous.com

11. Go tube sliding in Montreal
Who can resist the temptation to glide down a hill in an air-filled doughnut? Head for the hills at Parc Jean-Drapeau during Fête de Neige (held from the end of January to February) or at Mount Royal Park on a snowy day. parcjeandrapeau.com

12. Ski, run, skate, run, splash in Prince George, B.C.

How do you embrace winter in a city where temperatures can dip to -30 C? Try the Prince George Iceman marathon, in which participants ski eight kilometres, run 10 kilometres, skate five kilometres, run five kilometres and then head indoors for an 800-metre swim. Who does this sort of thing? According to marathon booster Susan Hubbard, "Last year I met a team whose members were 68 years and older, and then a junior team which had kids as young as 10 years old. We're a hardy bunch in this town!" pgiceman.ca


Page 3 of 4 -- Have you always been intrigued by polar bear swims? FInd out where you can participate on page 4.

13. Try ice fishing on Bald Lake, Ont.
On a winter's afternoon on iced-over Bald Lake, near Bobcaygeon in the Kawarthas region of Ontario, you'll see small huts scattered over the ice, and here and there you'll find solitary snowsuited fishers on collapsible stools, patiently awaiting a tug on the line.

Paul Clark, who runs Kawartha Lakes Ontario, has fished Bald Lake and nearby Pigeon Lake his entire life. He promises a fry-up of crappie, blue gill and perch at the end of an outing on the lake. huntandfishkawartha.com

14. See the Kortebaan races (Dutch speedskating) in Edmonton
The Silver Skate Festival, in William Hawrelak Park, is Edmonton's longest-running winter festival, held at the end of each February. Not to be missed: the Kortebaan races, traditional Dutch speedskating sprint competitions. silverskatefestival.org

15. Guzzle a Caribou in Quebec City
The Quebec Winter Carnival (which takes place in January and February each year) offers lots of entertainment: the ice palace, Bonhomme and toboggan races to name a few. Be sure to sample the festival's signature drink, the Caribou, a heady mix that often includes red wine, liquor (typically whiskey) and maple syrup or sugar. carnaval.qc.ca/en

16. Skate the Rideau Canal in Ottawa

Strap on your blades and glide along Canada’s largest skating rink, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Depending on Mother Nature's whim, the canal usually freezes over sometime in January or February. canadascapital.gc.ca


Page 4 of 5 -- One of the best parts of summer is enjoying a cold pint on an outdoor patio. Find out which bar in Canada operates a year-round patio -- with a bar and stools made of ice! -- on page 5.


17. Have a cold one at the Ice Bar in Regina
In summer months, locals flock to La Bodega Tapas Bar and Grill on Albert Street in downtown Regina for its hopping patio scene. But in winter, patrons like to order a cold one (literally) at the carved outdoor ice bar, complete with stools, a bar, bowls and tables sculpted from blocks of ice. labodegaregina.com

18. Strip down for the Polar Bear swim in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
The Bon Soo Winter Carnival (Feb. 3 to 12 this year) is a big draw in northern Ontario. Not only is there a hugely popular polar bear swim, but you can count on concerts, bum slides, skating, kids' entertainment and other cold-weather activities. You could even catch a Soo Greyhound hockey game. bonsoo.on.ca

19. See the dog races and chain saw events in The Pas, Man.
The Trappers Festival (which occurs each February) has been described as "one of the most oddball festivals in Canada." It's attracted the likes of Canadian comic Rick Mercer. A big part of the festivities includes the naming of the King and Queen Trapper of the year. trappersfestival.com

20. Hang out with Leif the Lucky in Corner Brook, N.L.
Folks in western Newfoundland look forward to the Corner Brook Winter Carnival each February. The weeklong lineup of activities includes ice sculpture judging, decorated house competitions, skating and snow carving. And, in a nod to the province's Viking roots, you have the chance to cuddle up with carnival mascot Leif the Lucky. cornerbrookwintercarnival.ca


This story was originally titled "Thrill of the Chill" in the Febuary 2012 issue.

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Travel

Winter sports and fun activities to enjoy the outdoors