Photography: Charles David Robitaille
Get inspired to play outside!
Six hot Canadian destinations to savour the cold.
If there’s one place on Earth where winter reveals its magic, it’s Canada. From coast to coast, this season enchants with silver-tipped greenery, pristine snow and sparkling icy vistas just waiting to be explored. Lucky for us Canadians, we’re a hardy crew, willing to brave the elements for some physical activity. Even if these places are outside your travel comfort zone, we’re hoping they’ll inspire you to seek out your own happy place. So put on your parka and boots, skis or skates and enjoy the outdoors!
Shiver in the Valley of Ghosts
The highest point in Quebec’s Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, Parc national des Monts-Valin benefits from exceptional snowfall every winter. That makes it a real paradise for snowshoeing. It’s also an ideal place to admire trees transformed into snowy ghosts and frosty mummies.
Several marked trails of varying distances are easily accessible for daytrippers. The aptly named Vallée des Fantômes route takes you to the highest peak in the park, Pic Dubuc, for a 6 kilometre round-trip hike in a picture-postcard forested setting. (Don’t forget to reserve your spot aboard one of the Le Fantôme Express shuttles that drops you off at the foot of the trail.) Parc national des Monts- Valin also offers cross-country skiing and fat biking trails.
Photography: Andrea Hamlin
Ice fish on Lake Simcoe
Long considered the ice-fishing capital of North America, Lake Simcoe—located less than an hour north of Toronto—attracts large numbers of avid fisherpeople every winter. During the season, more than 4,000 small heated huts dot the water’s frozen surface. The lake is home to a wide variety of fish, including lake trout, perch and whitefish.
Remember to register online for your fishing license, and an Outdoors Card if you plan to fish for more than a day. To safely enjoy this experience, outfitters offer hut rentals equipped with all the essentials (fishing tackle, live bait, padded benches, etc.), while also taking care of digging the holes in the ice.
There are also comfortable accommodations in the cabins and inns that border the lake.
Photography: Noel Hendrickson
Hike to Banff’s frozen waterfalls
One of the highlights of Alberta is Banff National Park—Canada’s first—nestled in the Rocky Mountains. And some of the most breathtaking sights within the park and surrounding area are the frozen waterfalls. From December to mid- April, the imposing cascades freeze into icy curtains and present a fantastic scene. After a good snowfall, the park’s hiking trails are adorned with a magnificent, immaculate white coat worthy of a Disney fairytale. Beginners should check out a guided tour of the region as the paths are often very slippery; ice cleats are a must.
More adventurous visitors can book an introduction to ice climbing and experience the frozen waterfalls up close with professional mountain guides. Check the website for current conditions before heading out.
Photography: Roger St. Laurent
Ski and stay at Pin Rouge
Very popular with tourists in summer, the Gaspé is also worth a trip in winter. Located just 20 minutes from downtown New Richmond in Baie-des-Chaleurs, the Pin Rouge tourist resort is a destination of choice for families who want to enjoy the pleasures of winter in a setting as warm as it is sumptuous. The ski area features more than 20 ski slopes suitable for all levels, with a high point offering a stunning view of the Chic-Choc mountains.
Recognized as one of the best recreational tourism establishments in Gaspésie, the Pin Rouge resort is a wonderful winter playground offering a wide variety of activities. The tubing will delight youngsters, while 10 kilometres of marked trails will lure snowshoeing and cross-country skiing enthusiasts. To fully enjoy the experience, rent one of the 32 fully equippedchalets at the foot of the mountain.
Photography: Jake Paleczny
Go wild in Whitehorse
There are plenty of good reasons to head to Yukon in winter; seeing the northern lights is just one of them. From mid- August to mid-April, this display is otherworldly when witnessed from Whitehorse, where light pollution is minimal. Yukon is also a fabulous place to wrap yourself up and take to the trails with some canine companions in a dog sled. The territory is home to several world-renowned dog-sled races throughout the year.
If the cold gets to be too much, immerse yourself in your hotel’s hot tub (many of the region’s accommodations have them). If you happen to look up and catch the northern lights while you’re doing it, so much the better.
Photography: iStock Photo
Skate the Rideau Canal
Running through downtown Ottawa, the Rideau Canal becomes the world’s largest skating rink when frozen (typically early January to early March), and it’s an iconic image of the Canadian winter. This 7.8-kilometre waterway is available for skaters of all proficiencies to take to the ice, free of charge. Even if you don’t bring your equipment, you can either rent some, or just wander along the edges of the canal or the pathways above it to see twirls, tykes (and tumbles) aplenty. Remember to check the latest conditions on the Rideau Canal Skateway website before setting out, as temperature fluctuations can affect the safety of the ice. The site also lists whether amenities and concessions are open.