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!
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.
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).
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.
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
BUTCHART GARDENS • DESTINATION CANADA/BUTCHART GARDENS