For newbies or hard-core winter lovers
Your Canadian winter adventure could come in many different shapes and sizes, from climbing a frozen waterfall to relaxing in a hot tub while snowflakes flurry. The great outdoors is calling; just make sure you’re prepared.
As a British immigrant, one of the things that I love most about Canada is the Canadian enthusiasm for embracing the elements. I learned very soon that, in Canada, there’s no such thing as bad weather—just the wrong clothes. Epic winter adventures can take many forms: from a cultural experience learning to ice fish with First Nations in deepest Quebec and skidooing across the frozen tundra in the Yukon, to heli-skiing pristine powder in BC.
But the Canadian winter brings its own set of issues, and cold conditions need to be treated with respect. We spoke to Lawrence White, executive director of the Alpine Club of Canada, for some advice for those seeking a Canadian winter adventure.
“It’s the most obvious thing, but always check the weather before you head out,” says White. “People overlook the forecast, because they get excited and charge off into the hills without knowing what they’re getting into and end up in a tight situation.”
White suggests that, when preparing for an outdoor adventure, the correct footwear is worth its weight in gold. “Spend your money on sturdy, well-insulated high-cut boots, a good pair of gloves, and a toque.”
According to White, newbie winter adventurers should follow a few simple rules. “Do the research, know where you’re going and what hazards you’ll be facing, and be aware of your limitations,” he cautions. “People get into trouble when they overestimate their skill and fitness levels. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to turn back.”
And finally, preparation is everything. “Always hike with a backpack filled with basic supplies such as water, snacks, a headlamp, matches, and first aid kit,” says White. “Satellite phones are becoming cheaper all the time, and ‘spot’ devices, which act as personal locator beacons and send an SOS GPS message are good investments.”
Of course, not every winter adventure has to be a high-octane thrill ride requiring safety briefings. Many of us prefer our snowy pleasures to be of the (excuse the pun) chilled variety. The Danish concept of hygge can be expressed in the pleasure found hot tubbing in the snow, cold flakes kissing and cooling your skin as your hair freezes into icy spikes. The Nordic spa model cycles through slowly heating the body, swiftly cooling it, and then relaxing, ideally for at least three sessions. It can be best enjoyed in nature, so you can soak up the benefits of the thermal spa along with the stress-busting effects of being in the great outdoors.
Heading off the beaten track? You’ll need to be snow-aware. Sign up for Avalanche Safety Training (AST) at Avalanche Canada. You’ll learn about terrain, become familiar with snowpack recognition, and also discover some of the lighter science around snowpack analysis. Snow is not uniform; every snowflake is different, and snow may not be as stable as it seems. AST will teach you to read the signs.
Marianne Trotier, PR manager of the Nordik Group says, “When you have sore muscles and feel tense and stiff after snowshoeing, skiing, or other winter sport activities, there is nothing like thermal therapy to recover and feel rejuvenated. Immerse yourself in beautiful settings with cozy areas surrounded by nature to recover.”
But if you do want your snow to come with a side of heart-pumping adventure, Canada has you covered from coast to coast.
Nadio Hachey, manager of adult groups at Whistler Blackcomb Snow School, says, “ We see people of all ages and abilities taking ski or snowboard lessons at Whistler Blackcomb; it’s never too late to get up into the mountains and try something new.”
If all of that sounds exhausting, perhaps a winter festival might suit instead.