There’s more to winter in Canada than world-class skiing and snowboarding. A variety of outdoor and indoor winter activities is available in every province, with the highest concentration in Ontario and Quebec.
Seasonal events include Winterlude, North America’s greatest winter festival, staged in Ottawa over the first three weekends of February. Expect snow and ice sculptures and the world’s longest skating rink along the Rideau Canal.
Ontario Tourism reports that specialist and educational holidays are becoming a popular choice for Brits who want to explore Canada’s winter beauty. Visitors can climb a frozen waterfall, photograph frozen landscapes, learn how to drive Siberian huskies or develop yoga skills in a snowy retreat, to name but a few.
Canadian Tourism Commission marketing manager Nim Singh said: “Winter tourism represents about 10% of the total traffic to Canada and is the area that represents the largest growth.
“While skiing and boarding are the predominant reasons for Britons visiting Canada in the winter, other options include the Northern Lights, Christmas shopping, dog-sledding, ice hotel visits, snowmobiling trips, wolf calling and storm watching,” said Singh.
Destination Quebec UK director Josephine Wiggall-Lazarus added: “Quebec has some of the most romantic cities. They look just like a Christmas card, with streets, shops and trees decorated with fairy lights all winter.”
The big cities are also wonderful shopping destinations, with the world’s two biggest shopping malls in Edmonton in Alberta, and Burnaby in British Columbia.
There are lots of new holiday options available for short winter breaks, including city breaks and winter outdoor activities and, with more flights to Montreal this winter with British Airways, Air Canada, Zoom and Air Transat, the choice is now even greater.
As well as the variety of experiences on offer, another big plus for winter visitors is the price. A spokesman at tour operator Ski Dream said: “People spend in excess of £3,000 per person for a two-week itinerary through the Rockies, but in the winter it is half the price.”
So if skiing isn’t your clients’ thing, there are plenty of other reasons for them to slope off to Canada. Prices shown are for February 2008 unless stated otherwise.
History with some French flair
Quebec celebrates its 400th anniversary in 2008 and the annual Winter Carnival, from February 1-17, will be more colourful than ever. The world’s largest event of its kind features night parades and a host of daytime activities and entertainment.
Sample product:Crystal Ski offers seven nights’ room-only in Quebec from £529 per person, with the option to include one night in the Ice Hotel outside Quebec City. The price includes flights and transfers.
Let the train take the strain
Travelling by train is a great way to explore Canada’s stunning scenery of glacier-fed lakes, majestic mountain ranges and snow-dusted forests – without getting cold.
Tourist trains offer a great onboard service and feature glass-roofed observation domes to make the most of the views. Typical itineraries will include a couple of days in Toronto and Vancouver and stops in the mountain resorts of Jasper and Banff.
Sample product: Cosmos Tourama features a 10-night Grand Canadian Winter Rail itinerary, taking in Toronto, Jasper, the Rocky Mountains and Vancouver, from £1,619 per person. The price includes accommodation, train travel, wilder-ness cabins, flights, transfers, a tour director and some meals.
Long before snowmobiles arrived on the scene, winter travellers relied on dog sleds. Today, holidaymakers can follow in the paw prints of early explorers with exhilarating husky-sled tours.
As well as the short excursions that are available from most ski resorts, there are dedicated mushing safaris, where participants drive their own team of Siberian huskies, help care for the dogs and sleep in cabins in the wilderness.
Sample product: Explore Worldwide has an eight-night Dog-sled Quebec tour starting in March 2008, from £1,249 per person with flights. The price includes a four-day dog safari, bed-and-breakfast accommodation in hotels and wilderness lodges and some lunches and dinners.
Winter pick and mix
For clients who prefer to dip into a variety of outdoor experiences, several multi-activity itineraries are available. It may be cold but the activities will keep you warm.
Walks Worldwide offers a new Quebec Winter Wonderland tour, including snowmobile, dog-sled and snowshoe expeditions from £1,830 per person in January 2008. The price includes flights, hotel and log cabin accommodation and most meals.
Sample product: Canada offers great value for money and cosmopolitan Vancouver, also known as the gourmet capital, is a good choice for a shopping and cultural winter break. Air Transat offers six nights in Vancouver from £679 per person, including flights.
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