02 October 2017
Considering travelling to Canada, but don’t know where to start? Read on. The diversity and range of destination knowledge shared by our 1,500 worldwide Travel Counsellors is unsurpassed. Here, Travel Counsellor Ruth Kolish tells us all about her favourite things to do in Canada in the winter.
“Two thoughts flooded my mind when I was invited to write a blog on the subject of ‘Canada in winter’. The first, where to start – big country, big subject. The second, a memory of being in a snowy Montreal with my Canadian ex-husband seeking advice on the top sights we should not miss on our winter visit to the city. The response from our waitress silenced us both, ‘leave now, and don’t return until the spring when everything wakes up.’
Bad advice indeed. We discovered Montreal was very much awake, with so many outdoor winter activities, historical sights, shopping districts, festivals and restaurants to choose from, all with that French ‘je ne sais quoi’.
Our favourite discovery was an annual outdoor music festival called Igloofest, running for four weekends in January and February. ‘When Mother Nature drops the temperature, Montrealers drop the bass’. Awesome!
Beyond the city of Montreal and the province of Quebec, there are many more Canadian provinces and territories to explore. Here are some of my personal winter highlights.
The well-known ski resorts in British Columbia and Alberta are some of the best in the world. Whistler, Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise all boast long ski seasons, uncrowded pistes, excellent powder snowfall and varied terrain for all abilities of downhill skiers, boarders or cross-country skiers.
I learnt to ski at Whistler Blackcomb, destination host of the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, which consistently wins awards as the number one and largest ski resort in North America. The resort is world class, my skiing ability isn’t, but the Canadian attention to detail and ultimate customer service ensures that everyone leaves feeling like a champion and with a burning desire to return.
It is at one of British Columbia’s interior ski resorts, Sun Peaks, that I had the chance to experience the ultimate in Canadian hospitality and ski with Nancy Greene Raine, Olympic champion, Canadian Senator, and the resort’s Director of Skiing. A natural ambassador for her sport and her country, Nancy is on the mountain most weekends showing resort guests of all abilities and ages the best of her own ‘backyard’.
Another highlight for me is when I went dogsledding in the Yukon at the 40 hectare ranch of Frank Turner, dogsled race champion, with his 130 Alaskan huskies. It is mesmerizing to experience the true working bond between musher and dog as you slide silently across the snow. The reality of the cold went unnoticed to me as I was so focused on the care and reward of guiding these dogs. Visitors to the ranch are either able to go on casual rides or sign up for the more immersive experience of learning the traditional ways of a sled-dog musher.
Would I return to Canada in the winter? In a flash. The Hotel de Glace, 4km north of Quebec City, remains unticked on my personal bucket list. From January to March each year, this ice hotel with huge snow vaults, spectacular ice sculptures, and 44 rooms and suites is a compelling reason to return. Anyone care to join me?