Before I begin, I should point out that I am a Californian born and bread. Choosing to move to Montreal in the Quebec province of Canada in the dead of winter was therefore an experience I will never forget. I had to think about things to do during a French Canadian winter, when snow is pilled higher than your head in huge fluffy clouds, the temperature dips below 30 degrees Celsius, wind howls, and it feels like your face will shatter like a thin piece of ice. And despite all of this people are out and about. Walking down the ice cover streets, lining up for clubs in high heels and mini skirts, participating in winter sports. I was both shocked and amazed as the only thing I could contemplate doing was staying as close to my heater in my apartment as possible. In this article I will discuss some of the extraordinary things to do during a French Canadian winter. Canadians feel the need to do instead of staying by a fire in winter.
Things to do during a French Canadian Winter
Ice skating in the world’s largest natural ice rink
The Rideau Canal in Ottawa has officially been named so by the Guinness World Records and spans almost 90 Olympic rinks. Whilst enjoying the beautiful view of the country’s capital city you can also stop at rink side stands to purchase a beaver tail, fried dough smothered in your choice of cinnamon sugar, whipped cream, chocolate or other sugary condiments. Keep in mind though that in order to eat it you must first uncover your mouth and expose your face to the artic temperatures. No one seemed to mind this but me.
Go dog sledding
Yes, it’s a thing. Perhaps a little touristy, but there are many places that bread and train dogs specifically for sledding. Imagine sitting in a sleigh as a team of beautiful huskies whisk you through an enchanting winter forest, pristine and white, and yet still so cold you feel like your toes will simply fall off of your feet.
Flying up a mountain on a snowmobile is quite fun, and there is nothing like the views on top of a snow covered mountain to take your breath away. I am a high adventure person myself and loved zooming around the trees and racing up the mountain.
Indoor farmers market
For me the most appealing event to attend, the indoor Jean Talon market, emphasis on the indoor. This is also one of my favorite places in the summer as it opens into an outdoor market. You can purchase fresh fruits and veggies, fresh baked goods, and of course maple syrup. Did I mention it’s heated?
I don’t know about you but when it’s cold out it seems that I can’t get enough carbs. Pasta, bread, potatoes, they are literally all I think about, all I dream about. And poutine is the answer. It is a heaping dish of fries and cheese curds, smothered with gravy. You can add other toppings like bacon, ham, veggies, guacamole, pretty much anything you can think of. La Banquise in Montreal is one of the most well-known poutine restaurants, but you can find it almost anywhere.
Go to the winter carnival
Ice carving contests, snowman building competitions, sledding parks, hockey areas, games in the snow, giant ice sculptures, and snow bath dancing where people put on bathing suits and dancing in the snow, competitions to see who can lay in the snow the longest in their underpants. It’s all fun and games until someone freezes to death. Most likely me.
A giant evening concert with multiple stages, DJs, bars, and dancing. What makes it so special? It’s outdoors and everything is made of ice. Feet tired? Here have a seat on this freezing cold ice bench. Need a drink? Step on up to this bar made of ice. Bored of dancing? Play on this slide made of ice. Pro tip: costumes are encouraged and rewarded.
Stay in an ice hotel
Although I never slept in one, I think it would indeed be something unforgettable. Every year they carve a new hotel out of ice and it is no one room igloo. They are palatial and grand hotels, intricately carved and beautifully decorated. And yes everything from the chairs to the bed is made of ice.
Snowshoeing, ice fishing
To me the concept of doing either of these things was far too much for my warm blooded California brain to wrap around so I simply listened as friends described their experiences. Strap on snowshoes and walk around in the snowy wilderness, possibly for miles (many kilometers) or sit on the ice, waiting for a fish to bite.
The moral of the story? Dress warmly. Winter is a beautiful thing to see in Canada but not to feel if you are someone like me. If you think about things to do during a french canadian winter, now you have the answer, many things can be in your schedule! Don’t miss out on all the fun by avoiding a Canadian winter. There is so much to do during a french canadian winter! and if anyone knows how to enjoy the season it’s Canadians! They don’t let a little weather stop them, they relish in it.
If you want to know more about Canada, here is the official webpage on the Embassy of Canada to Spain, enjoy!