Canada is vast, and its climate varies widely. From Vancouver to Halifax, winter months may be wet, dry, mild, cold, or extremely cold. Nevertheless, they will always be interesting: Canadians take winter seriously, and the range of activities on offer means you definitely don’t want to stay inside over the next few months. Read on to learn more about how Canadians — and students — enjoy winter across the country.
- Daily mean temperature in winter (Halifax): 0 to -5 degrees Celsius
- Average snowfall, January (Halifax): 11 inches to 17 inches
Nova Scotia is perfect for snowshoeing, a popular winter sport across Canada. Snowshoes are specially-designed boots that enable walking on top of snow, and allow access to stunning trails and walks that may otherwise be inaccessible in winter. For those who feel like staying in the city, the Halifax Oval is a popular destination for ice skating. In February, the city hosts the Dine Around festival to encourage locals and visitors to discover new restaurants.
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- Daily mean temperature in winter (Fredericton): -5 to -9 degrees Celsius
- Average snowfall, January (Fredericton): 16 to 25 inches
New Brunswick loves its outdoor winter activities: the province has four ski runs, and boasts the highest vertical slope in the Maritimes. The provincial parks host a range of activities during the winter months: it’s even possible to try dogsledding. Several towns and cities host winter festivals as well, including the largest winter festival in the Maritimes: Fredericton’s FROSTival.
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- Daily mean temperature in winter: -5 to -9 degrees Celsius
- Average snowfall, January: 18 to 22 inches
With some of the coldest winter temperatures east of the prairie provinces, Montreal is known for its extreme winters. However, the city is well-designed to cope, and even flourish, in winter. The “Underground City” — a network of malls and food courts connected by boulevard-like tunnels — connects much of downtown Montreal with the metro (subway train) network. Indeed, in certain locations you can go from your apartment to work to dinner with friends without ever stepping outside.
Nevertheless, stepping outside is worth it. From magnificent winter lights to fireworks to outdoor festivals, the city pulls out all the stops to keep its residents entertained in the colder months. If you like to party, try Igloofest, the annual ice-themed dance festival. If you’re more of a foodie, savour local treats at numerous craft markets. And for the whole family, La Fête des Neiges (Snow Festival) offers games, music, and sports for kids of all ages.
Montreal is not the only city that loves its winter: across the province, ice festivals and winter sports are on the must-try list. Quebec City’s winter carnival, Carnaval, draws enthusiasts from all over the world. The province also has some of the best skiing in North America, including the well-known Mont Tremblant resort.
- Daily mean temperature in winter: -0.5 to -4 degrees Celsius
- Average snowfall, January: 9.5 to 15 inches
Across Canada, winter isn’t winter without that truly Canadian sport — ice hockey (although here, it is simply “hockey”). Every major city in Canada has a hockey team, and in Toronto the Maple Leafs are almost a religion. If you can’t get tickets, watch from Maple Leaf Square — a 80-by-50-foot TV screen broadcasts every game in this public square.
Not interested in sports? Winter is also the time for food festivals — try Winterlicious in particular — outdoor skating, trade-shows, and craft markets.
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- Daily mean temperature in winter: -13 to -16 degrees Celsius
- Average snowfall, January: 9 inches
Winnipeg Tourism’s motto is, “When the weather gets cold, Winnipeg only gets hotter!” and event programming lives up to this. The city hosts one of the longest ice skating trails in the world. The Assiniboine Park Zoo’s Arctic exhibit, complete with polar bears, is a seasonal favourite. Winnipeg values its cultural heritage year-round, and winter is no exception: the Festival du Voyageur puts the region’s Francophone culture in the spotlight with food and music. Or visit national historic site The Forks to experience indigenous foods and storytelling.
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- Daily mean temperature in winter (Regina): -12 to -15 degrees Celsius
- Average snowfall, January (Regina): 8 inches
Saskatchewan is known for its family-friendly neighbourhood and cities, and the activities don’t stop in winter. Museums, sports clubs, science centres, and other public attractions put on special winter activities for the whole family. Hockey is as popular in Saskatchewan as it is elsewhere in Canada, but another winter sport is also a firm favourite here: curling.
In terms of winter festivals, the range on offer across the province is diverse and exciting. From pow-wows to craft markets to agriculture fairs (including the Canadian Western Agribition in Regina, the largest in the world), there is something for everyone. Particularly unique to Saskatchewan is the Sâkêwêwak Storytellers Festival in Regina, featuring First Nations storytelling and performance.
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- Daily mean temperature in winter: -7 degrees Celsius
- Average snowfall, January: 6 to 7 inches
Banff may be Alberta’s best-known provincial park. Featuring stunning mountain landscapes, hot springs, and picturesque villages less than two hours from Calgary, this is a perfect destination for a day trip or cabin weekend. It is even possible to try ice fishing and dog sledding.
However, you don’t have to leave the city to have a good time in winter. Calgary hosted the Winter Olympics in 1988 and the stadium still hosts winter recreational activities for the public.
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- Daily mean temperature in winter: -9 to -10 degrees Celsius
- Average snowfall, January: 6.5 to 9.5 inches
Edmonton can boast something almost unique among Canadian cities: Edmonton Ski Club a ski slope just minutes from the downtown centre and the campus of the University of Alberta. Another popular resort is Sunridge Ski Area, just 20 minutes from downtown, and accessible by public transport. If you’re not sure about skiing, try one of the other activities such as snowtubing (gliding down a slope on a large tire), or sip a hot chocolate and people-watch.
There is more on offer than sports: marvel at stunning icicle castles at Hawrelak Park, or get in from the cold and remember summer with the botanical displays at Muttart Conservatory. Edmonton Valley Zoo is also a popular winter destination, as they feature arctic animals such as Siberian tigers and Arctic foxes.
- Daily mean temperature in winter: 5 degrees Celsius
- Average snowfall, January: 3 to 4 inches
Downtown Robinson Square opens as a skating rink every winter, with live music and cheap skate rentals. A popular gathering in December is the city’s Christmas Market, with dozens of vendors offering a wide range of crafts and delicacies for those last-minute presents. Vancouver celebrates Chinese New Year with great enthusiasm — the city has a sizeable Chinese population, and the Chinese New Year Parade is a major event in the calendar.
For real snow lovers, ski slopes such as Grouse Mountain are located within a short drive of downtown Vancouver. Grouse Mountain is also a favourite destination for its snowboarding, snowshoeing, skating, ziplining, ‘Skyride Gondola,’ and other activities. If you’re looking for a unique winter sport, join thousands of Vancouverites on New Year’s Day for the annual Polar Bear Dip — an icy swim in English Bay.
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To learn more about your options for studying in Canada, click here. There is also a range of tools and resources available for prospective students in Canada, including Canada School Search and School Match Canada.
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