SHOW-STOP­PING SEA­SONS

Travel Guide to Canada - - Table Of Contents - BY SU­SAN MACCAL­LUM-WHITCOMB

Cana­di­ans, on the whole, are low-key char­ac­ters un­ac­cus­tomed to mak­ing flashy ges­tures, but Mother Na­ture here knows no such mod­esty. On the con­trary, she or­ches­trates her sea­sonal dis­play with dra­matic flair, turn­ing each of the four acts— win­ter, spring, sum­mer, and fall—into an at­ten­tion grab­ber. So come: en­joy the show!

WIN­TER

Ar­rive in the cold­est months and you’ll un­der­stand why Canada is nick­named the “Great White North.” Vast quan­ti­ties of snow fall on much of the coun­try, but there’s no need to hi­ber­nate be­cause win­ter pro­vides am­ple out­door op­por­tu­ni­ties.

SKI­ING AND SNOWBOARDING

Im­pres­sive moun­tains and deep pow­der trans­late into high-cal­i­bre ski­ing— par­tic­u­larly in the Rock­ies, which strad­dle the Bri­tish Columbia/Al­berta bor­der. Whistler Black­comb, one of the con­ti­nent’s largest ski re­sorts, has slopes ap­pro­pri­ate for ev­ery skill level, plus cross-coun­try trails, tricky ter­rain parks, amenity-filled ac­com­mo­da­tions and après-ski ac­tion, all within two hours of Van­cou­ver (www. whistlerblack­comb.com).

Kick­ing Horse (www.kick­inghorsere­sort.com), Fernie (www.skifer­nie.com),

Sun­shine Vil­lage (www.skibanff.com) and Lake Louise (www.skilo­uise.com) are other re­gional stand­outs. Away from their well-groomed runs, adren­a­line junkies can take ad­van­tage of many off-piste pos­si­bil­i­ties as well. It’s es­ti­mated that 90 per­cent of the world’s heli-ski­ing oc­curs in Bri­tish Columbia, and lo­cal op­er­a­tors let skiers and snow­board­ers ac­cess pris­tine pow­der by air (www.he­liski.com).

Veer­ing east, On­tario’s premier ski resort is Blue Moun­tain, about two hours north of Toronto (www.bluemoun­tain.ca); Québec’s lead­ing ones are Mont-Tremblant north of Mon­tréal (www.tremblant.ca) and Mont-Sainte-Anne near Québec City (www.mont-sainte-anne.com). New­found­land’s Mar­ble Moun­tain (www.ski­mar­ble.com) is also note­wor­thy. Aside from hav­ing Atlantic Canada’s high­est ver­ti­cal drop, the area fea­tures Whistler-es­que perks such as win­ter zip-lin­ing.

ICY AL­TER­NA­TIVES

From climb­ing frozen water­falls in the Rock­ies to snowk­it­ing over frozen lakes on “The Rock” (New­found­land), cool op­tions abound. If you want to stick with the clas­sics, you can skate al­fresco al­most any­where—even in the mid­dle of ma­jor cities—given the wealth of nat­u­ral and ar­ti­fi­cial rinks. Vari­a­tions on to­bog­gan­ing, sim­i­larly, are avail­able on count­less hills and slick pro tracks, like those at WinS­port’s Canada Olympic Park in Cal­gary (www. wins­port.ca) or the Whistler Slid­ing Cen­tre (www.whistler­s­lid­ing­cen­tre.com). And don’t for­get snow­shoe­ing, an an­cient mode of trans­porta­tion made eas­ier by to­day’s lighter equip­ment.

Folks who dream of yelling “mush” can try dogsled­ding, an­other time-hon­oured tra­di­tion, in most prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries. Snow­mo­bil­ing is a speed­ier up­date, and there’s no short­age of trails; you’ll find more than 22,000 km (13,670 mi.) worth just in Man­i­toba and Saskatchewan. Of course, sim­ply sit­ting back to savour the aurora bo­re­alis is ap­peal­ing, too. While Mother Na­ture’s daz­zling light dis­play is vis­i­ble in many north­ern lo­cales, clear skies and an en­vi­able po­si­tion be­low the aurora oval make Yellowknife an op­ti­mal ob­ser­va­tion point (www.as­tron­o­mynorth.com).

Not to be out­done, city dwellers host their own daz­zling sea­sonal cel­e­bra­tions. Fore­most among them is the Québec Win­ter Car­ni­val—the world’s largest win­ter fes­ti­val—which brings snow sculp­tures, sleigh rides and cold-weather com­pe­ti­tions, all en­hanced by the joie de vivre of his­toric Vieux-Québec, from the end of Jan­uary through mid-Fe­bru­ary (www.car­naval.qc.ca/en).

Top draws else­where in­clude Win­ter­lude in the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion (www.canada.ca/en/cana­dian-her­itage/cam­paigns/win­ter lude.html) and Win­nipeg’s Fes­ti­val du Voyageur (www.fes­ti­valvoyageur.mb.ca/en).

SPRING

The first day of spring can look very dif­fer­ent de­pend­ing on where you are. Some Cana­di­ans will be dig­ging out from the lat­est snow­storm; oth­ers will al­ready be in gar­den­ing mode. No mat­ter when the thaw sets in, though, it’s greeted warmly.

TRAIL MIX

Events like the World Ski and Snow­board Fes­ti­val, staged in Whistler each April, prove how per­sis­tent the white stuff is (www.wssf.com). As the mer­cury rises, how­ever, even win­ter won­der­lands morph into play­grounds for sun­nier pur­suits. In fact, once the snow melts, it isn’t un­com­mon to see moun­tain bik­ers tack­ling the ver­tigo-in­duc­ing slopes that Alpine skiers for­merly swooshed down, or na­ture buffs tak­ing to the paths their Nordic coun­ter­parts tra­versed ear­lier.

Each prov­ince and ter­ri­tory has trails that put lovely land­scapes within easy

SHOP­PING • TOURISM LAURENTIANS

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