Find snowy scenes galore with a winter escape to Canada
Canada is renowned for its winter weather, but when the temperatures drop, a whole new world opens up that summer can’t compete with. Think frozen waterfalls, mountainous landscapes thick with snow, and a whole range of sports and activities that are best done in the winter months.
But it’s not just the parks and ski resorts that thrive at this time of year. Cities across Canada don their best decor and get into the Christmas spirit, with markets and festivals running throughout the holiday season.
If a wintry escape to Canada sounds enticing to your customers, we’ve rounded up some of the best ways to enjoy the colder months, from city breaks and cultural trips to winter sports and wildlife viewing. And with the borders open to fully vaccinated travellers, Canada’s winter wonderland is ready and waiting.
Best for… winter sports
There are few places in North America that do skiing and snowboarding as well as Whistler. With more than 200 trails here, it’s the perfect place for clients who want to add some adrenaline to their snowy escape.
The famous Peak2Peak gondola takes skiers between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, while the town is home to a fantastic selection of bars for memorable après-ski.
And staying just two minutes’ walk from the mountains’ lifts means you can make the most of the time on the slopes.
“With more than 200 trails here, it’s the perfect place for clients who want to add some adrenaline to their snowy escape.”
“The Crystal Lodge & Suites has one of the best hotel locations in Whistler,” says Julie Franklin, head of agency sales at Inghams.
“It’s ideally located in the village, moments from the slopes and well connected to countless shops and restaurants.”
Book it: A 10-night stay at The Crystal Lodge & Suites on a room-only basis costs from £1,218 per person, departing March 30, 2022, including flights with Air Canada and resort transfers.
Best for… wildlife spotting
It’s true that many animals hibernate for the winter, but that doesn’t mean wildlife viewing opportunities are hard to come by. Alberta is home to some of Canada’s most famous national parks, and when winter rolls around and tourist numbers dwindle, many animals venture out through the beautiful snowy landscapes.
“Canadian favourites moose and elk can be spotted in winter, often much more easily without the summer foliage to hide behind,” says Tim Greathead, product manager at Premier Holidays. “The lucky few will also have the chance to spot coyotes and wolves throughout Banff and Jasper national parks.”
“When winter rolls around and tourist numbers dwindle, many animals venture out through the beautiful snowy landscapes.”
Premier Holidays’ Alberta Winter Wonders itinerary also gives travellers the chance to try out some wintry activities too, including snowshoeing and sleigh rides.
Book it: The 11-night Winter Wonders holiday costs from £1,499, based on a December 3, 2021, departure. The price includes flights, room-only accommodation in Edmonton, Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff and Calgary, nine days’ car hire and some excursions.
Best for… Christmas spirit
Cities across Canada pull out all the stops when it comes to celebrating the festive season. Montreal and Quebec, located around three hours apart, are perfect to pair as a twin-centre break thanks to their seasonal settings. The cities are ornamented with decorations, lights and Christmas markets.
Jacques-Cartier Square is the heart of Montreal’s winter festivities, while several of the cobbled streets in Quebec City’s old town look like they’re plucked straight from the front of a Christmas card.
“Montreal and Quebec are perfect to pair as a twin-centre break thanks to their seasonal settings”
“Everyone will be mesmerised by the celebration of Christmas that both cities put on and some last minute shopping could be thrown in too,” says Ruby Briggs, managing director at North America Travel Service.
Book it: Four nights in Montreal and three nights in Quebec City start from £1,527 with North America Travel Service. The price includes room-only accommodation, flights and train travel, departing December 8.
Best for… wine and waterfalls
While some of Niagara Falls’ attractions haven’t yet reopened, winter is still a great time to visit. Outside peak season and without tourist crowds, visitors can enjoy the natural beauty of the impressive falls, before heading to Niagara-on-the-Lake to taste some of the region’s world-class wine. Combine this with a city stay in Toronto, also in Ontario, just over an hour away, which is well set up for the colder months.
The city’s network of underground walkways allows visitors to cross the downtown area without stepping outside if the temperatures are low. And you can even catch a basketball or ice hockey game while you’re in town.
“Visitors can enjoy the natural beauty of the impressive falls”
“Winter in Ontario feels like Christmas in the UK, so your clients can experience that holiday feeling all through winter,” says Stuart Rogers, product and commercial manager at Canadian Affair.
Book it: Canadian Affair’s six-night Ontario Winter & Wine Holiday starts from £827 per person, including flights from Gatwick, departing March 3, 2022, accommodation and a deluxe winery tour.
Best for… adventure
You don’t have to put on a pair of skis for a sense of adventure in Canada. The Rockies, popular in the summer months, turn into an adventure playground in winter. Lake Louise freezes over when the temperatures drop, turning it into a picture-perfect ice-skating rink, while nearby, frozen waterfalls can be seen on an ice walk in Johnston Canyon. There are also horsedrawn sleigh rides and the chance to go snowshoeing to discover Banff National Park’s forest of pine trees.
“Lake Louise freezes over when the temperatures drop, turning it into a picture-perfect ice-skating rink.”
“It’s a perfect blend of winter wonderland and snow activities for the less energetic of us and if you’re really lucky you might get to see the northern lights,” says First Class Holidays product manager Brian Hawe.
Book it: First Class Holidays’ Rockies Winter Experiences costs from £1,259 per person, based on two sharing. The price includes flights, six nights’ accommodation, transport, sightseeing and activities.
Best for… Indigenous culture
The west of Canada is a great place to learn about First Nations cultures, with significant sites including totem poles in Vancouver’s Stanley Park and the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler. There’s also a rich Indigenous culture to discover farther north in Whitehorse, Yukon, as well as the chance to see the northern lights dance around the sky.
“Advice to agents would be to stress how unique this experience would be and not to be put off by how cold Canada is perceived to be in winter,” says Denise Hunn, director of Canada tour operations at Prestige Holidays.
“There’s a rich Indigenous culture to discover farther north in Whitehorse, Yukon”
“Yes, it can be cold but, dressed for the weather, clients will be fine. Days are generally bright so sunglasses are a must.”
Book it: Prestige Holidays offers a nine-night trip – with three nights each in Vancouver, Whitehorse and Whistler, plus transfers, international and domestic flights, sightseeing tours and more – from £2,564 per person, departing March 6, 2022.
Ask the expert
Adam Hanmer, travel trade manager, Destination Canada
“Canada does winter well. Skiing, boarding, skating, sleigh rides, cross-country skiing – we have it all at world-beating resorts or lesser-known but equally stunning forests and lakes across the country.
“Holidaymakers can book into a luxury ski-in ski-out resort, find an outdoor skating rink in city centres or simply buy tickets and capture the adrenaline of a live ice hockey match. And there is no shortage of winter events to experience: Carnival in Quebec City, Winterlude in Ottawa, Sourdough Rendezvous in the Yukon, Ice Magic in Banff, Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg, although many may not be confirmed quite yet for 2022.
“Agents should be sure to check on all current arrival requirements through the official government website and check for local conditions too, as these may vary by province. They can also register for our new Canada Travel Specialist training programme, so that they are always up to date with their Canada knowledge, via canadaspecialist.co.uk.”
The Canadian borders have reopened to international travellers, as long as they have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to travel. Arrivals must also show proof of a negative PCR test and complete a pre-departure form. From October 30, travellers will have to be fully vaccinated to travel through Canadian airports or board Via Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains. This rule will also be in place when the cruise season commences.
PICTURES: Shutterstock/Nataliia Korzhenevska, Benoit Daoust; Digital-Photo.co.uk; Logan Swayze; Prestige Holidays; Paul Zizka