Winter in Canada is not just about snow and cold; it's about embracing the season and making the most of it. The vast and diverse nation is known for its passion for winter sports, offering locals and tourists various activities. Canada's winter sports culture is one to behold, whether it's the heart-pumping thrill of downhill skiing, the strategic game of curling, or the graceful glide of ice skating.
Canada's geographical diversity, with its expansive forests, towering mountains, and frozen lakes, provides the perfect backdrop for winter sports. These sports are deeply ingrained in the Canadian culture, and participating in them is a wonderful way to immerse oneself in the Canadian winter experience.
The Top 7 Winter Sports in Canada
Winter sports in Canada are recreational activities and a way of life. Every province has unique offerings From east to west that cater to various skill levels and interests. Whether you're a beginner looking to try something new or a seasoned pro wanting to challenge yourself, Canada's winter sports scene has something for everyone. So put on your warmest winter gear, and let's explore the top 7 winter sports in Canada you cannot miss.
1. The Thrill of Ice Hockey in Canada
Ice hockey in Canada is not just a sport; it's a religion. The nation is known globally for its love and passion for ice hockey. Whether it's the neighborhood rink or the professional arenas, the spirit and enthusiasm for this game are omnipresent. With its fast pace, physicality, and strategic gameplay, Canadian ice hockey offers an adrenaline rush.
Ice hockey in Canada brings communities together, with local leagues fostering social interaction and camaraderie. The passion for this sport starts young, with children taking to the ice as soon as they can walk. This enthusiasm carries on into adulthood, making ice hockey a lifelong pursuit for many Canadians.
The professional level of ice hockey in Canada is equally thrilling, with the nation boasting some of the best teams in the National Hockey League (NHL). Witnessing a live game, with its energetic crowd and intense action, is an experience not to be missed. Whether you're a player or a spectator, ice hockey in Canada is a winter sport you cannot overlook. However, if you cannot attend an NHL game, you can still get involved in Canada's rich hockey culture through events like the following:
- Hockey Canada's National Championships
- Hockey Canada hosts national events nationwide, including the Centennial Cup, Esso Cup, and Men's U18 Club Championship. These events unite some of the best amateur and junior players nationwide to compete for national titles.
- CHL Canada/Russia Series
- The Canadian Hockey League (CHL) organizes this annual junior ice hockey exhibition tournament, featuring a select Russian player team and all-star teams representing the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League, and the Western Hockey League. The tournament consists of six games yearly, with the Russian Selects playing two games versus each league's all-star team.
- Memorial Cup
- The Memorial Cup is one of the most prestigious trophies in Canadian ice hockey and is awarded annually to the top junior-age men's team. The tournament features the champions of Canada's three major junior hockey leagues and a host team. The tournament has been held annually since 1919 and is considered one of the most important events in Canadian ice hockey.
2. Canada's Love for Alpine Skiing
Alpine skiing in Canada is a winter sport that combines the thrill of speed with the awe-inspiring beauty of the Canadian landscape. With its numerous ski resorts set amidst stunning mountain ranges, Canada offers some of the finest alpine skiing experiences in the world.
Whether you're a beginner or an experienced skier, the diverse terrain and well-maintained ski resorts cater to all skill levels. The feeling of gliding down snow-covered slopes, with the crisp winter air and panoramic mountain views, is truly exhilarating. Alpine skiing in Canada is not just about the sport; it's about embracing the winter in all its glory. If you want to witness what makes Canadians love alpine skiing so much, these should be top on your list of local events to visit:
- FIS Alpine World Ski Championships
- Skiing in Sun Peaks
- Sun Peaks in British Columbia is a popular ski resort in Canada offering various skiing activities. Visitors to the resort can participate in the Sun Peaks Winter Okanagan Wine Festival, which features 17 events showcasing the best of the region. The festival is a great way to experience Canada's love for skiing and rich culture.
- Whistler Blackcomb
- Whistler Blackcomb in Whistler, BC, is one of Canada's best ski resorts and home to some of the country's most exciting skiing events. The resort hosted the alpine skiing events during the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The event showcased Canada's love for skiing and its ability to host world-class events.
Alpine Ski Canada is also a great way to stay active during winter. The sport provides a full-body workout, improving strength, flexibility, and endurance. Whether you're looking for an adrenaline rush or a way to enjoy the winter season, alpine skiing in Canada is a must-try.
3. Curling in Canada – A National Pastime
Curling in Canada is more than just a winter sport; it's a national pastime. Known as "chess on ice," curling combines strategy, teamwork, and skill uniquely and engagingly. The sport has a rich history in Canada, with the first curling club established in Montreal in 1807. Since then, curling has become popular, with numerous clubs nationwide and a dedicated Curling Day in Canada to celebrate the sport.
Curling in Canada is a social sport, with clubs fostering community and camaraderie amongst players. The game's strategic nature requires communication and collaboration, making it a great way to meet new people and strengthen relationships. If you want to get involved in Canada's vibrant curling community, you can't do better than to visit one of these events:
- Tim Hortons Brier
- Scotties Tournament of Hearts
- This is Canada's women's national championship and a highly regarded curling event. This event's location also changes every year. For example, the 2023 Scotties Tournament of Hearts will be held in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
- Canadian Mixed Curling Championship
- This is a national championship where teams consist of two men and two women. This event's location also changes yearly, but the 2023 Canadian Mixed Curling Championship will be held in Swift Current, Saskatchewan.
Competitive curling in Canada is equally exciting, with the country frequently excelling in international competitions. Whether you're sliding stones or cheering from the sidelines, curling in Canada offers a unique winter experience.
4. Ice Skating in Canada – Grace on Ice
Ice Skating in Canada is a quintessential winter activity. The country's numerous ice rinks, both indoor and outdoor, provide the perfect setting for this graceful sport. Whether recreational, figure, or speed, ice skating in Canada is a wonderful way to enjoy the winter season.
Ice skating in Canada is accessible to people of all ages and skill levels. It's a fun pastime with numerous health benefits, including improved balance, coordination, and cardiovascular fitness. Whether you're gliding across the ice for the first time or perfecting your triple Salchow, ice skating in Canada is an experience not to be missed.
Canada's ice skating culture also extends to the professional level, with the nation producing many world-class figure and speed skaters. Watching these athletes perform on the ice, with their impressive technical skills and artistic expression, is truly inspiring. If you can, visit one of these events to see Canada's best ice skaters.
- Canadian Figure Skating Championships
- This annual figure skating competition is held in Oshawa, Ontario, to crown Canada's national champions. Skate Canada organizes it and has been held since 1905.
- Skate Canada
- This international figure skating competition has been held annually since 1973. It is part of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series and is one of the six senior international events hosted in different nations. Last year, this took place in Mississauga, Ontario.
- ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final
- This is the final event of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series and features the top six skaters or teams from each discipline. The location of the event changes each year, and it is usually held in December.
If you're looking for a winter sport that combines elegance with athleticism, ice skating in Canada is the perfect choice.
5. Cross-Country Skiing in Canada – Nature's Winter Workout
Cross-country skiing in Canada offers a unique way to explore the country's stunning winter landscape. Unlike downhill skiing, cross-country skis allow you to glide across flat terrain and up and down gentle hills. This sport provides a peaceful and serene winter experience, allowing you to connect with nature.
Cross-country skiing in Canada is also an excellent form of exercise. It's a full-body workout that improves cardiovascular health, strength, and endurance. The sport is also low impact, making it a great option for people of all ages and fitness levels. If you want to see the best of cross-country skiing in Canada, these events are a great place to start:
- Gatineau Loppet
- This is the largest international loppet held in Canada, attracting over 2,500 skiers from beginner-through-elite who participate in races from 2 km to 51 km in Gatineau, Quebec.
- Canadian Birkebeiner
- This is Western Canada's Premier Nordic Ski Event and one of only three Birkebeiner Loppets worldwide. It is a three-day celebration of cross-country skiing and Nordic Legends in Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area, 48km east of Edmonton, Alberta.
- Coureur de Bois
- This is a series of three cross-country skiing events in Quebec, each of which must be completed in succession. It is considered one of the most challenging cross-country skiing events in Canada.
Whether skiing along groomed trails or exploring the backcountry, cross-country skiing in Canada offers a fresh perspective on the winter season. With its combination of physical activity and natural beauty, it's a winter sport that embraces the Canadian winter spirit.
6. Snowshoeing in Canada – A Walk on the Winter Side
Snowshoeing in Canada offers a unique and enjoyable way to experience the winter season. This sport involves walking over snow-covered terrain with specialized footwear that distributes your weight over a larger area. This allows you to move across the snow without sinking, providing a unique winter adventure.
Snowshoeing in Canada is a great way to explore the country's diverse winter landscape. Whether trekking through snow-covered forests, exploring frozen lakes, or climbing snowy hills, snowshoeing offers a unique perspective on the Canadian winter.
Snowshoeing in Canada is also great, providing a full-body workout that improves cardiovascular health and strength. It's a low-impact activity suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. If you're looking for a winter sport that combines nature, adventure, and fitness, snowshoeing in Canada is a must-try. If you want to dive deep into snowshoeing in Canada, here are three great places to get started:
- Island Lake Lodge Catskiing in the Canadian Rockies
- A luxurious resort retreat in Fernie, British Columbia, offering all-inclusive cat skiing packages throughout the winter season.
- Elfin Lakes Winter Trail
- A scenic winter hiking trail in Vancouver, British Columbia, that offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and lakes.
- Albion Hills
- A popular outdoor recreation area in Toronto, Ontario, offers hiking, mountain biking, and skiing activities.
7. Dogsledding in Canada
Dogsledding is a popular sport in Canada for several reasons. Before the advent of snowmobiles and other modern transportation, dogsledding was one of the primary ways of getting around Canada during the winter months. It has a long and rich history in Canada and is still an important part of the culture in many northern communities.
Dogsledding is an iconic tourist draw in Canada over the cold winter months. Many visitors come to Canada specifically to experience dogsledding and learn about the history and culture of the sport.
Sled dog enthusiasts train teams for various activities, from touring wilderness areas to racing for fun and cash prizes. Many types of dogsledding experiences are available, from short introductory rides to multi-day expeditions.
Several breeds are part of the sport, including the Siberian Husky, the Alaskan Malamute, and the Alaskan Husky. These dogs are bred for their strength, endurance, and ability to work in cold weather conditions.
Dogsled races have become popular in the 20th century, and dogs have been bred more for speed than freighting abilities. The purebred Siberian Husky was imported from Russia because of its smaller size and speed as a racing dog. It was crossed with other racing dog breeds, such as greyhounds, to develop the mixed-breed Alaskan Husky. Some Alaskans are bred for all-out speed in sprint races, others to endure multi-day, long-distance races.
While dog sledding is not currently an Olympic sport, there have been efforts to include it in the Winter Olympics. Many mushers believe that dog sledding deserves a place in the Olympic spotlight and would help raise awareness of the sport and its cultural significance. The biggest dog sledding events in Canada are:
- Yukon Quest
- This is considered the toughest sled dog race in the world, covering 1,609 kilometers over rugged hinterland in mid-winter.
- Caledonia Classic Dog Sled Races
- This is an annual 3-day event on and adjacent to beautiful Stuart Lake in Fort St. James, British Columbia, Canada. It includes 320km (200-mile) races plus sprints on well-maintained trails on and off the lake.
- Canadian Championship Dog Derby
Dogsledding is one of Canada's top sports due to its historical significance, popularity as a tourist attraction, variety of activities, breeds of sled dogs, racing culture, and potential for Olympic recognition.
What is Winter in Canada Really Like?
Winter in Canada is one of the most beautiful yet challenging seasons. It is characterized by a blanket of snow covering the vast landscapes, freezing temperatures, and shorter days. However, the season is not merely about cold weather and snowstorms; it also brings many unique experiences and activities, making the winter in Canada truly unique.
The onset of winter in Canada varies depending on the region. In some parts of Northern Canada, winter can start as early as October and last till April, while in Southern regions, it typically begins in December and ends in March. During this time, temperatures can drop to as low as -40 degrees Celsius in some northern parts, while in southern parts, it averages around -10 to -15 degrees Celsius. Snowfall is a prominent feature of Canadian winters, with some areas receiving more than 200 cm annually.
The chilly weather conditions might seem daunting, but Canadians have adapted well. Buildings are well-insulated and heated, cars have winter tires, and people dress in layers to keep warm. In addition, cities are efficient at snow removal to ensure life goes on as normally as possible.
Winter in Canada is also a time of celebration and outdoor activities. Festivals like Winterlude in Ottawa and Carnaval de Quebec attract tourists from all around the world. Amidst the cold, there is also a sense of warmth from the holiday season celebrated with much enthusiasm.
Moreover, Canada's winter landscape offers breathtaking views. The frozen lakes and rivers, snow-capped mountains, and icy forests create a serene and picturesque environment. One cannot forget the spectacular Northern Lights that paint the sky in green, pink, and purple hues.
Winter in Canada combines extreme weather conditions with its people's remarkable adaptability and resilience. It brings unique experiences, from thrilling winter sports to captivating natural phenomena. Despite its harsh conditions, it is a season that embodies Canada's identity and culture.
How To Travel to Canada This Winter
Traveling to Canada in the winter requires some planning and preparation. Before traveling, check Canada's current travel advisories and entry requirements. If you plan just to visit Canada and enjoy the sights, you may need a tourist or visitor visa. A Canada tourist visa is an official document issued by a Canadian visa office placed in your passport to show that you have met the requirements for admission to Canada as a temporary resident. It is an official document showing that you meet the requirements to enter Canada.
Most travelers need a visitor visa to travel to Canada, and it is required for citizens from visa-required countries to travel to and enter Canada as a visitor for up to 6 months. However, certain countries like the United States of America are visa-exempt, meaning that you will not have to get a visa. Learn more about if you need a Canada tourist visa and how to apply.
On top of a tourist visa, you will need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) if you travel to Canada by air. An eTA is an online pre-screening process that allows visa-exempt foreign nationals to travel to Canada by air. It is electronically linked to a traveler's passport and is valid for up to five years, or until the passport expires, whichever comes first. Learn more about getting an eTA Canada.
Also, ensure travel insurance coverage. With some planning, your winter trip to Canada can be a memorable and exciting adventure. Winter sports in Canada offer a thrilling and unique way to experience the season. Whether it's the high-paced action of ice hockey, the serene beauty of cross-country skiing, or the strategic game of curling, Canada's winter sports scene is one to explore. So embrace the cold, get active, and experience the Canadian winter like never before.
What is the Most Popular Winter Sport in Canada?
Ice hockey is the most popular winter sport in Canada. It's a major part of the Canadian culture, with millions playing and watching the sport.
Is it Safe to Participate in Winter Sports in Canada?
Yes, it's safe to participate in winter sports in Canada. However, it's important to take safety precautions, such as wearing appropriate gear and following safety guidelines. If you're new to a sport, consider taking lessons or hiring a guide.
Can I Rent Equipment for Winter Sports in Canada?
Most ski resorts and winter sports facilities in Canada offer equipment rental. This includes skis, snowboards, ice skates, and snowshoes. It's convenient if you're traveling or trying a new sport.