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The ultimate winter experiences

8 Ultimate Winter Activities Across Canada

The ultimate winter experiences

The meditative nature of ice fishing on a serene lake is a deeply Canadian outdoor experience. But maybe moving your muscles while fat-biking through a forest is more your speed. Canada has it all—and winter is the ideal time to expand your horizons, whether dogsledding in British Columbia, snowshoeing in Nova Scotia or gazing at the northern lights in the Yukon. 


Embrace the outdoors with these top winter activities in Canada.


1. Fat bike snow-shrouded forests

Fat biking, Kouchibouguac National Park
Fat biking in Kouchibouguac National Park – credit: Parks Canada

Ready for a rad ride? Despite its curious name, fat biking is like mountain biking with oversized tires that grip the snow. This means you can cycle winter wonderlands like Mark Arendz Provincial Ski ParkExternal Link Title in Brookvale, Prince Edward Island. Shred its trio of single-track routes--Shortbread Trail, Buttertart Trail, and Maple Fudge Trail--indulgent trails, especially for fat bikes. 


On the east coast of New Brunswick (between Miramichi and Moncton) cruise through the Acadian forest at Kouchibouguac National ParkExternal Link Title. Groomed fat-bike trails wind among seven warming huts stocked with firewood. (Pack a thermos of hot chocolate!) No bike? No matter. Head northward and rent a fat bike at Sugarloaf Provincial ParkExternal Link Title (near Atholville) and test your mettle on the trails.


2. Be awestruck by the northern lights

Northern Lights, Whitehorse, Yukon
Northern Lights viewing at The AuroraCentre, Whitehorse, Yukon – credit: Arctic Range Adventure

If ever there was a time to pause, gaze up at the starry sky and be captivated by gaseous green lights--aka aurora borealis--it's now. The Northwest Territories' subarctic skies are prime for aurora-spotting (a stellar 240 nights of the year), thanks to its ultra-low humidity and location. Indigenous-owned Northstar AdventuresExternal Link Title in Yellowknife offers cool ways to take in the northern lights, like snowmobile and teepee camp tours. 


In the Yukon, Northern TalesExternal Link Title in Whitehorse adds luxury to the mix with spa packages, while Arctic Range AdventureExternal Link Title's tours include wildlife photography where you're likely to see everything from musk-ox to arctic fox. 


3. Mush a dogsled across the tundra

Dogsledding Baffin Island, Nunavut – credit: Sean Scott
Dogsledding Baffin Island, Nunavut – credit: Sean Scott

Most people are familiar with the word "mush!" But dog sledding commands like "gee!" and "haw!"--not so much. Discover this exhilarating sport in Nunavut on a qamutiq--a traditional Inuit sled--while traversing Arctic  tundra or frozen ocean led by experts at Inukpak OutfittingExternal Link Title (it also offers an igloo-building workshop) in Iqaluit.


In British Columbia, even daytrippers can go dogsledding. Bundle up the kids for a three-hour tour with Canadian Wilderness AdventuresExternal Link Title in Whistler, zipping through the Callaghan Valley's old-growth forests, pulled by huskies. Or head inland to Thompson Country, where Mountain Man Dog Sled AdventuresExternal Link Title (at Sun Peaks ResortExternal Link Title outside of Kamloops) will let you drive your own dog sled. Farther north (between T?te Jaune Cache and McBride), Cold Fire Creek DogsleddingExternal Link Title offers three tours covering distances from 10 to 36 km.


4. Ice fish from a warm hut

Ice fishing at Bear Lake, Grande Prairie, Alberta
Ice fishing at Bear Lake, Grande Prairie, Alberta – credit: Travel Alberta

If you're an avid angler or fly-fisher during the warmer seasons, amp up this solitary sport's cool factor by ice fishing. To find the ideal ice-fishing spot in Saskatchewan, ask a localExternal Link Title, or watch as fishing shacks crop up on the winter ice. Then rent yourself a cozy, heated refuge and meditate on trophy-sized walleyes, pikes, and perches beneath the ice's surface. Regina BeachExternal Link Title (about 50 km north of Regina) hosts an annual ice-fishing derby, while places like Thompson's ResortExternal Link Title (near Missinipe) offer ice-fishing packages complete with self-contained lakeshore cabins. 


In Alberta, Sturgeon, Bear, and Snipe lakes near Grande Prairie are local go-tos. Companies like Ice Fishing AlbertaExternal Link Title use gear such as sonar and underwater video cameras on guided trips near Canmore and Kananaskis Country, among other locations. 


5. Cross-country ski past shimmering lakes

Cross-country ski outside Quebec City, Quebec
Cross-country ski outside Quebec City, Quebec – credit: Benoit Camirand/Office du tourisme de Québec

Who doesn't want to glide on groomed trails that meander fragrant forests and skirt the shores of shimmering lakes? Discover the southern Saskatchewan forest at Moose Mountain Provincial ParkExternal Link Title (23 km north of Carlyle) while cross-country skiing trails such as Corral Lake Loop, Stirrup Lake Loop and othersExternal Link Title. Want to explore more in Sask? Check out eight other parksExternal Link Title ideal for cross-country skiing.  


In Quebec, get a history lesson while exploring more than 95 kilometres of cross-country ski trails at an unconventional spot: Valcartier military baseExternal Link Title near Qu?bec City. Not to be outdone, Torrance Barrens Dark Sky PreserveExternal Link Title in Ontario about (two hours from Toronto) is another atypical treasure with cross-country ski trails and unusual topography.


6. Snowshoe solitary trails to hidden huts

Snowshoeing, Grande Prairie, Alberta
Snowshoeing, Grande Prairie, Alberta – credit: Travel Alberta

Snowshoes can transform a winter trudge into a satisfying sojourn. Whether you trek with your closest family or go solo, the snowshoe trails at White Hills ResortExternal Link Title in Clarenville on the east coast of Newfoundland and Labrador will keep you in high spirits. Scoot past Muskrat Pond, pop into a chalet to warm up, and watch the moonrise under starry skies--some trails are open until midnight. At Indian Falls ChaletsExternal Link Title (in Springdale), learn about Indigenous culture on a guided snowshoe excursionExternal Link Title, followed by a campfire. 


In Nova Scotia, easy snowshoe hikesExternal Link Title crisscross Cape Breton Island, giving you ample excuses to join squirrels and chickadees for lungfuls of fresh air. Hike Nova ScotiaExternal Link Title shares info on where you can rent, borrow, or buyExternal Link Title snowshoes.


7. Ice skate on a cranberry bog

Rideau Canal Skateway, Ottawa
Outdoor ice skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway, Ottawa, Ontario – credit: Ottawa Tourism

Ice skating outside with a bluebird sky overhead is a breath of fresh-air freedom. Ontario is flush with can't miss trails and routesExternal Link Title, including the Rideau Canal SkatewayExternal Link Title in Ottawa. The Ice TrailExternal Link Title at Muskoka Lakes Farm & WineryExternal Link Title, however, earns extra points for originality. Here, you can glide on frozen cranberries, cruise past waterfalls, and marvel at 400 tiki torches during night skating. 


From February to April, massive Paint Lake Provincial ParkExternal Link Title in northeast Manitoba takes the winter deep freeze in stride with a dedicated ice-skating area, plus warming shelters and rustic bathrooms for the ultimate outdoor experience. 


8. Take a self-guided snowmobile tour

Snowmobiling the Callaghan Valley, Whistler, BC
Snowmobiling the Callaghan Valley, Whistler, BC – credit: Tourism Whistler/Mike Crane

Gloves, helmet, layers of clothing? Snowmobiling will get your blood rushing, especially when whipping through New Brunswick's expansive winter trail system such as the Fundy Highlands, where you can embark on a self-guided tourExternal Link Title covering more than 800 km of terrain. Get away from it all on the Northern New Brunswick OdysseyExternal Link Title, a snowmobiling adventure along the Acadian Peninsula, passing massive Maritime mountains along the way.


On the other side of the country, British Columbia can brag about its own epic route: the Gold Rush Snowmobile TrailExternal Link Title (GRST), a historic multi-use trail that travels between 70 Mile House and Horsefly. Check out GPS way-pointed topographical mapsExternal Link Title to plan your winter adventure.