Canada is one of the best places for an awesome winter experience. From adventures like dog sledding, snowmobile tours and ice fishing, to relaxing in a Nordic spa and eating deliciously hot comfort food, Canada is great in the wintry season. Picture yourself in the mountains surrounded by crisp white snow and elegant pines as you take in the fresh air and open vistas or having fun ice skating with friends and family on the world’s largest skating rinks. If this sounds like you, then look into a trip to Whistler in British Columbia, to the mountains of Alberta or to Canada’s capital city, Ottawa. They are truly magical places to visit and know how to take on the cold winter months.
At the top of our list of things to see when visiting Whistler is the Olympic Park. Admire the mountainous landscape and learn about the incredible history behind the 2010 Olympic and Paralympics Games. You can imagine yourself an Olympian for the day as you take part in extreme sports such as cross-country skiing, tobogganing, base boarding, snowshoeing and fat tire biking. If you are a keen shot, you must book yourself in for a lesson at the Biathlon shooting range. With a safe and skillful instructor, you are sure to hit a bulls-eye!
For a fantastic view of the entire park, be sure to have a cross country ski to the top of the ski jump. If this view isn’t enough for you, then there is no better scenic experience than zip lining. Fly through the vast expanses of open air and admire the craggy mountains peaks, old growth forests and deep valleys. Perhaps not one for the faint-hearted, this one-of-a-kind experience explores an intricate network of trails and boardwalks ready to get the adrenaline pumping as you fly between each of the high-altitude peaks.
As the Guinness Book of World Records-holder for the longest and highest lift, take a ride on Whistler’s Peak 2 Peak Gondola. Travelling from Whistler to Blackcomb Mountain, enjoy a stunning 360-degree view of Whistler Village, towering volcanic peaks, lakes, glaciers and the coastal rainforest. Following this, you can dine on the rooftop of the restaurant before making your way down the mountain.
A uniquely Canadian way to explore the forests and trails surrounding Whistler is to go dog sledding. Wrap up warm and snuggle under the fur blankets as you embark on a magical journey through the snow. Wind in-between trees as you race across the landscape pulled by a team of exuberant Arctic sled dogs, mastered by an expert guide. Available by night, the Whistler Snowmobile Tour allow you to dart across the magical landscape as the moonlight gleams above. Children can also try their very own Mini-Z snowmobiles on a specially designed track.
Alberta loves the season of winter so much that it has a festival dedicated to the season. Winter City in Edmonton (running from the end of January to the beginning of February) has ice carving lessons, an ice sculpture competition from artists around the world, deep freezer races and ice skating accompanied by an orchestra! Getting bigger every year, the event now has winter activities including snow tubing and cross-country skiing.
Another fun event is the Canadian Finals Rodeo, also in Edmonton, which takes places in early November when it may not be quite cold and snowy enough for all winter activities. This five-day event includes a full range of events and entertainment including bareback riding, steer wrestling, roping, saddle bronc, barrel racing, bull riding and live concerts.
Ice walks are also very popular amongst visitors to Alberta, particularly if you are after a slightly less heart-racing activity. Banff’s Johnston Canyon and Maligne Canyon near Jasper are our favourite destinations as the frozen waterfalls and other natural winter sculptures boast an atmosphere of true tranquility and natural beauty.
In the heart of Banff National Park, the enduring resort of Lake Louise has been a favourite winter retreat for more than a century. The beautiful glacier-fed lake freezes over in winter, its icy surface surrounded by high peaks and overlooked by the impressive Fairmont Chateau. The lake’s frozen surface becomes the setting for a range of winter activities from ice skating, snowmobiling and ice climbing to helicopter tours and ice fishing. For a unique and iconic experience, take a horse-drawn carriage ride across the glittering ice before warming up with a hot chocolate in the Fairmont hotel. To warm chilled bones, you can even relax in their lavish spa!
Strap on your bladed boots and glide along one of Canada’s most famous World Heritage Sites: the Rideau Canal in Ottawa. In winter the canal freezes over to become the world’s largest skating rink. The vast space allows you to skate along almost eight kilometres of ice as you begin your fun from downtown Ottawa all the way to Dows Lake, breathing in the fresh breeze and taking in the snow-dusted city.
Winterlude is one of Ottawa’s best festivals and spans over three weeks in January to February. The special highlight for children is the SnowFlake Kingdom, the largest snow playground in the world. Located in Jacques Cartier Park in Gatineau, it has a fantastic collection of huge snow slides allowing hours of entertainment to be had!
For a much more soothing and relaxing time, take a trip to Nordik Spa-Nature where North America’s largest spa offers a variety of pristine relaxation areas. Ten minutes from downtown Ottawa, you can enjoy the ‘Therman Cycle’ which alternates between hot and cold dips for a serious detox. For a day pass, you can have access to Nordik’s seven baths, eight saunas and an infinity pool.
Whether you are an adventure-seeker or looking for a relaxing break, Canada is an awesome place to visit in winter. There is always something for everyone in the beautifully snowy landscapes of Whistler, Alberta and Ottawa.
Kathryn Munro is Managing Director at Canadian Affair.
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