Short on things to do in Canada during the winter? Check out some of these popular winter activities in Canada. Winter is a tough time of the year for everyone. It’s sometimes easier and more appealing to just hunker down in the warmth of your home and avoid the cold outdoors. Pushing yourself in the winter to try new things, or pickup new winter hobbies is a great way to stay sane in these long winter months. This list below should hopefully kick you in the butt to get outdoors and learn how to embrace the cold and have some fun!
Snowboarding / Skiing
One of the most popular winter activities in Canada. Snowboarding and skiing is available nearby just about any major city centre. Most people end up road tripping to the mountains, or the nearest ski/snowboard hill. Even in places like Regina, SK, my hometown, you can make a quick 45 minute jaunt over to Qu’Appelle Valley and enjoy the cute little valley resort of Mission Ridge. These little micro resorts aren’t exactly the best Skiing or Snowboarding you’ll come across in Canada, but provide a great weekend day trip.
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Cross Country Skiing
The first time I went cross country skiing I was 13. It may look like an easy way to spend a sunday, and I’m sure it is if you do it often enough, but I still to this day think Cross Country Skiing is one of the most intense workouts you can do in the winter. Cross country ski rentals are available in many towns, and can be picked up very cheap at used sporting good stores or online at websites like Kijiji. Most Canadian cities also have Cross Country Ski clubs, where you and a group of similar aged people will head out and explore nearby trails.
Snowmobiling, snow-machining, skidooing, same diff. Whatever you call it, just know that it’s one of the best winter activities you can get into. While there’s a high barrier of entry to snowmobile, if you can make friends with a snowmobile owner, or join a group or find a snowmobile rental company that can get you out on the trails, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much fun you’ll have, despite the cold.
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Nothing says rugged Canadian winter sport like Dogsledding. Dogsledding is a little harder to just pick up as a hobby, but you can certainly find tour operators across Canada that are experts in the subject. Head out on a weekend trip and experience one of the most unique Canadian winter activities you can find. Bundle up, and explore the great outdoors with your own team of dogs. Mush!
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Many Canadians proudly claim to have learned to skate before they could walk. While I’m not sure exactly how that’s possible, it’s safe to say that we’re all a big fan of this winter passtime. Ice Skating is probably one of the cheapest, easiest ways to get outside and enjoy the fresh winter air. Most cities have free skate rentals at local outdoor skating arenas. Nearly every Canadian school has an Ice Rink near the playground. Outdoor rinks are almost always community run, allowing any ordinary person to enjoy this awesome winter activity.
Nothing says Canada quite like hurling yourself down on a hill with no form of steering. Despite the occasional injury, it’s still one of the best things to do in the winter across Canada. Find a local hill, rent, borrow, or buy a Toboggan, GT, Saucer, or Crazy Carpet, and let the fun begin. I was having a tough time tracking down hills last winter here in Regina, SK, so I decided to create a website dedicated to Regina Toboggan Hills. Hop on google and see if you can find something similar near you.
While it’s not exactly the most adventurous thing to do in the winter, shopping is a great time killer, and on top of that, it’s great for the economy (let’s ignore that it’s hard on the wallet). Mall visitors greatly increase in the winter months, and with the weather being so cold, you have an excuse to shop for multiple layers.
Ice fishing isn’t exactly the most exciting winter sport, but I have to admit, there is a peaceful serenity to cutting into the ice, dropping a line, and catching food in the face of -30 degree celcius weather. Hop onto your local tourism board’s website and look for ice fishing outfitters that can walk you through the process. Or make friends with an old fisherman. If they don’t ice fish, chances are they know somebody that does.
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Polar Bear Dips
Probably not everyones idea of a good time, winter swims are growing in popularity across Canada. Most of the time polar bear dips are done to support a fundraising event or charity, and it’s typically supervised by professionals or emergency services. I wouldn’t recommend this activity unless you’re nuts. Or like the idea of yours shrinking.
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Check out the Courage Polar Bear website for more information.
Every wanted to climb an ice wall? Ice climbing is a fast growing sport in Canada, and challenges not only your strength and endurance, but also your fear of heights. Ice climbing courses are available with Whistler Alpine Guides, Yamnuska, and Summit Mountain Guides. Again, this isn’t exactly a “head out on your own” winter activity. You’ll need proper training, instruction, and safety in order to turn this into a regular pastime.
The sound of blades slicing through hard ice. Pucks echoing off sticks, snow spraying stops. Pond hockey can be heard from miles away, and joining a game is just a matter of bringing a pair of skates and a stick out and introducing yourself. Most pond-hockey spots are privately maintained on public lakes or ponds. If you can’t track down an authentic pond-hockey arena, you’ll have to make due with the local outdoor hockey arenas that are free to play, and easily found near schools and parks.
Ice wine is a sweet, very concentrated wine, made from frozen grapes. This curious type of wine is typically enjoyed as a dessert drink. While purchasing quality bottles of it can set you back quite a bit, icewine festivals allow you to sample multiple types of this very Canadian, very unique wine without having to spend an arm and a leg on one singular bottle.
The winter variety of a horse-drawn carriage, sleigh rides might not be as popular as they once were 60 years ago. But you’ll often find local farmers that arrange sleigh ride tours within or around the community. I’d recommend talking to your local tourism board. Some sleigh ride operators require that you book a group, rather than singing up just yourself. But in Late December you’re more likely to squeeze yourself in.
Little is known about the history of snowshoeing. Most experts claim that they appear to be an invention older than the wheel. Regardless of when humans figured these bad boys out, it’s safe to say it was a good invention, as they’re still regularly used by hunters, trappers, and outdoor enthusiasts.
Snowshoes can be purchased for fairly cheap, but tour operators and outdoor outfitters will typically rent out snowshoes by the hour or by the day. Exploring winter trails by snowshoe provides you with the ability to get some tremendous winter photos that you wouldn’t have been able to get in ordinary boots.
Sore from all the other fun winter activities you’ve enjoyed? Sometimes a relaxing gondola ride is all you need in order to make your day feel a bit more exciting. Whistler’s Peak to Peak Gondola, or Banff’s Gondola up Sulphur Mountain are terrific ways to view the mountain terrain. While they’re not exactly the cheapest activity to enjoy, it’s worth it in photos you can score.
Winter Kiteboarding / Kiteskiing
Kiteboarding is a growing sport. Harness yourself into a giant kite, strap on your snowboard or skis, and let the power of wind propel you as you sail over snow drifts and icy terrain. You’ll easily hit the speeds that you’d experience when enjoying downhill ski or snowboarding. While the gear may be a bit out of your price range, kiteboarding tour operators are popping up all over the place. Allowing you to sample this winter sport without the initial cost.