From skating to storm watching, skiing to cool festivals, plus the best of the Northern Lights, we do winter best
Whether in search of Northern Lights, Pacific waves or city celebrations, travellers in-the-know head to Canada to experience winter at its best.
Outdoor skating: Old Man Winter breathes heavily on many Canadian cities — perfect for ice skating au natural. In the cool climes of Edmonton, skate William Hawrelak Park’s five-hectare lake while mellow music flows from rink-side speakers; then make a side-trip to Calgary and glide along Olympic Plaza’s urban ice. Hum Joni Mitchell’s River as you “skate away” on Cameco Meewasin Skating Rink in Saskatoon, or head to Winnipeg’s Forks National Historic Site. Ottawa’s Rideau Canal offers nearly 8 km (5 miles) of scenic skating but don’t pass over Mount Royal Park in Montreal for a freebie skate on Beaver Lake.
Storm watching: British Columbia’s West Coast near Tofino on Vancouver Island gets wild in the winter — six-metre-high waves crash the shoreline of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve with such ferocity, folks travel from around the world just to witness it. Whether you brave the elements to enjoy a beachside vista of this artful symphony of destruction or reserve a cosy room-with-a-view at the Wickaninnish Inn, you’re sure to be awed.
Cool festivals: Join us in our snowy celebrations! In February, Vancouver’s City & Slope Festival pairs live music at downtown venues with on-slope events at the city’s North Shore ski resorts. Edmonton’s Ice on Whyte (Jan. 25 - Feb. 3, 2013) showcases ice carvings throughout its shopping and entertainment district. In Winnipeg, celebrate the spirit of early explorers at the musical Festival du Voyageur (Feb. 15-24, 2013). Ottawa hosts Winterlude (Feb. 1-18, 2013), which features ice skating, ice sculptures and North America’s largest snow playground. Québec City is home to the world’s largest winter festival, Québec Winter Carnival (Feb. 1-17, 2013), where you can enjoy raucous dogsled and canoe races, vibrant parades, luminous nightlife and the famous Ice Palace.
Nordic skiing gems: Edmonton exemplifies urban Nordic skiing — explore 60 km (37 miles) of River Valley trails, right in and around downtown. In northern Saskatchewan, Prince Albert National Park has 16 secluded ski tracks. Québec is also renowned for its cross-country skiing prowess — Gatineau Park (next door to the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau) provides visitors with 200 km (25 miles) of capital-region routes. For a more remote ski experience, discover Nordic trails half-a-billion years in the making at Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Aurora Borealis viewing: Did you know Yellowknife sits directly beneath the “Aurora Oval” — the halo of Northern Lights that encircles our planet? Snowshoe tours from town to nearby Aurora Village are popular, or book a Dogsled Aurora Tour with Beck’s Kennels for a True North experience. Whitehorse is also a prime-viewing locale. Nestle up in nearby Takhini Hot Springs to watch the light show while you enjoy a steaming soak. Don’t delay, 2012-2013 is a period of Solar Maximum and astronomers forecast the best Aurora Borealis viewing in 50 years.
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