Quirky ways that each province embraces Canadian winter

A creative bunch, wintertime is what brings out the best in Canadian ingenuity and imagination. Here are some of the most unusual traditions, festivals and activities that occur across Canada in the wintertime.

Horses in a wintry park Photo by Nelu Goia/Shutterstock

Spreading beet juice on the roads in British Columbia

Any good Canadian is familiar with what it takes to make roads safe in the winter—typically loads of grit and salt. But did you know that some areas use beet juice, too? BC’s Southern Interior has turned to this organic solution, which reduces corrosion and causes less harm to roadside vegetation. Mixed with salt brine, beet syrup keeps the roads clear of ice in temperatures as low as -25 degrees.

Carving out mazes of ice in Alberta

Incredible ice sculptures are par for the course at Canada’s winter festivals, but none are quite as awe-inspiring as the interactive ones in Edmonton. Crafted annually by hand using only icicles and water, the acre-sized castles feature a throne room, waterfall and ice maze.

Snow-kiting across fields in Saskatchewan

With wide-open spaces, plenty of wind and lots of snow, the prairies are a premier destination for snow-kiting. A winter version of kite-surfing (or kite-boarding), participants strap a snowboard or skis on, then use a giant kite to glide across the snow and ice.

Competing to see who can grow the best beard in Manitoba

There’s no time like winter to embrace body hair, from Movember moustaches to hockey playoff beards. The residents of The Pas, Manitoba have the hair-growing hobby on lockdown, though. During the annuals Trappers Festival, residents compete in the beard growing competition, with categories such as “most colourful beard” and “hairiest legs.”

Racing dragon boats across ice in Ontario

A little ice isn’t going to stand in the way of these dragon boating teams. Held for the first time in 2017, North America’s first-ever Ice Dragon Boat Festival will be held again in 2018 on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa.

Sleeping on a bed made of ice in Quebec

Every winter, Quebec City’s 44-room Hotel de Glace is completely redesigned and resurrected for another snowy season. The hotel of its kind in North America, this is where you can spend the night sleeping on a slab of ice.

Sliding down giant slides made of ice in New Brunswick

There’s no easier way to slip and slide into winter than at Winterfesthiver. At this annual Fredericton Festival, you’ll find gigantic ice slides, a labyrinth made of packed snow, dog sledding, snow tubing and more.

Winter surfing in Nova Scotia

The only thing more counter-intuitive than the thought of surfing in Canada? The idea that it should be done in winter. Yet, this is the best season to find the biggest and best surf without any of the crowds. Head to Lawrencetown Beach (just south of Halifax), or White Point Beach (in Queens County) for the best breaks.

Swimming in ice cold water in Prince Edward Island

A New Year’s Day “Polar Bear Swim” isn’t unique to PEI, but credit has to be given to the Easterners who participate in this one. Unlike other locations with balmier weather (that would be you, Vancouver), in the past Charlottetown’s harbour has known to become ice-locked, making the swim that much more thrilling.

Mummering in Newfoundland

Perhaps the creepiest Canadian custom, “mummering” (also know an janneying) is when Newfoundlanders dress up in disguises—totally obscuring their faces—and visit their neighbours. Once welcomed into the house, they perform for their hosts, who then guess their identities.

Having a contest for the best frozen hair in the Yukon

Since 2011, visitors and Yukon residents alike have headed to the Takhini Hot Pools to take part in the annual International Hair Freezing Content. It’s exactly what it sounds like—you dip your hair into the hot springs, mould it and let it freeze. There’s over $2,200 in prize money up for grabs for the best photo.

Running a full marathon in Arctic conditions in the Northwest Territories

It’s called the “Frostbite 45 Marathon,” which pretty much says it all. Held in March in Yellowknife, teams of up to five run or ski 45 kilometres on hard-packed trails in freezing conditions. Talk about endurance running!

Celebrating the return of the sun in Nunavut

Life isn’t easy when the sun doesn’t come above the horizon for weeks at a time. That’s why in Igloolik, the residents get more than a little excited when the light returns in mid-January. Considered more important New Year’s Day, the sun appearing above the horizon is celebrated with igloo building, dog sledding and circus performances.

 

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