Sleep in an ice castle in Quebec
Each year from January until the end of March, a unique structure appears in the slopes of the Laurentian Mountains, just outside Quebec City. The only hotel of its kind in North America, Hôtel de Glace is constructed entirely of ice. Time your visit to coincide with Quebec Winter Carnival (January 27–February 12, 2017). If the cost of an overnight stay is too steep, don your parka for a hotel tour and be sure to stop in at the Ice Bar for a warming drink instead.
Cruise down an ice road in the Northwest Territories
For a truly Canadian road trip, travel down a road that only exists during the winter months. The ice roads of the Northwest Territories are open from January until March, allowing visitors to access remote northern communities. This winter also marks the last year to drive the iconic 187-kilometre ice road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk; in 2017, an all-season road will replace it.
Soak up the warmth of a natural hot spring in B.C.
The Liard Hot Springs in northern B.C. may be open year-round, but winter is the ideal time to visit. Not only will there be fewer visitors, you also won’t have to contend with mosquitos. Go in the evening to catch a glimpse of the northern lights through the snow-covered trees and steam-filled air.
Slip and slide down the slopes in Quebec
Maybe skiing isn’t your thing—but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a need for speed. While a reputable neighbourhood tobogganing hill may do the trick, take it up a notch by visiting a wintertime park that specializes in the childhood pastime. At Glissades des Pays d’en Haut there are 36 different slopes to choose from. In addition to solo snow tubes, larger groups can choose to ride a “tornado” (which spins as it goes downhill) or a snow raft. Meanwhile, Valcartier Village Vacances is the largest winter playground in Canada. This is where you can try the Himalaya Slides, which will send you downhill at speeds of up to 80 km/hr.
Try Olympic-style skating in Halifax
Originally built for the 2011 Canada Games, Halifax’s outdoor Emera Oval is the size of three NHL rinks and can accommodate up to 1,500 skaters at one time. However, while hockey can be played on any old pond, this is the best place to try out speed skating. Visitors can borrow speed skates and helmets for free. If skating isn’t your thing, snowshoes are also on offer for use in the surrounding commons.
Feel the cool runnings in Whistler, B.C.
Form your own bobsled team and head to Whistler’s Sliding Centre, home to the fastest ice track in the world. From December to April, visitors can ride down the 1,450-metre long track in either a passenger bobsled or a self-direction skeleton sled.
Go dog sledding in Alberta
Dogsledding is a popular wintertime sport throughout Canada, but arguably the most picturesque place to do it is in Alberta’s Rockies. Dependent on snow conditions, tours are available from November to April. Learn to drive your own team or just lay back and enjoy the ride.
Pedal across the snow in Ontario
Fat biking is one winter trend that isn’t going anywhere. These bicycles, which look like members of the monster truck family, allow riders to coast over the surface of the snow rather than sinking in. Horseshoe Resort outside of Barrie offers 20 kilometres of trails, as well as bike rentals and beginner’s packages.
Watch polar bears in Manitoba
The northern outpost of Churchill, Manitoba is famous for its inhabitants—most notably the white and furry ones. While polar bears can be spotted year-round in the area, the best time to see them is from October to November. Closer to March, you may even be lucky enough to see mothers emerging from their dens with newborn cubs.
Listen to seal pup cries in Newfoundland
If you’re looking for cute and cuddly, but polar bears seem a bit terrifying, head to Quebec’s Îles de la Madeleine instead. Here, you can take part in a seal observation tour, which allows you to explore the ice floes where thousands of harp seals come to give birth each year in March.
Want to take a winter vacation—but don’t love rushing downhill? Here are 10 great spots to visit across Canada—perfect for those who don’t want to hit the slopes.
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