Some people hibernate all winter. But not you. You know this season is rife with adventure.
Fill your winter calendar this year—right across Canada, new and exciting winter experiences await:
High-Altitude Ice Diving, AB
On paper, this seems like a bad idea. With your scuba gear prepped and always with a buddy (or two), you’re going to cut a hole in the thick ice covering Banff National Park’s Lake Minnewanka, climb in and dive beneath the frozen surface to seek out the ruins of a ghost town hidden below 14 and 100 metres of water. Sixteen different historic sites await the experienced diver; the former resort town of Minnewanka Landing appearing like an apparition in the green glow of the winter underwater environment.
Submerged in 1941 when Calgary Power Co. built a dam (with authorization granted via the War Measures Act), the townsite holds as-they-lay artefacts from the turn of the last century, made ever more mysterious by their cloak of water and ice. If this seems beyond your current experience level, Calgary’s Aqua Sport Scuba Centre offers ice diving certification courses. With the right skillset, bad ideas can be the best ideas.
Find Winter’s Phantoms, QC
One of Canada’s most compelling snowshoe trail networks lies hidden in Quebec’s Saguenay-Lac Saint Jean Region: La Vallee des Fantomes. Accessed via snowcat, which departs daily from the Parc national des Monts-Valin Discovery Centre in Saguenay at 10:30 a.m. and arrives at the trailhead some 45 minutes later, ‘shoers set out on a six-kilometre tromp to the summit of Pic Dubuc, 980 metres above sea level, passing innumerable “Phantoms” along the way—stubby treetops caked in windblown snow that appear as ghosts in the bleached-out environs.
From there, take in the boundless views of Mont-Valin Massif and the Saguenay Lowlands before heading to the transfer station for a picnic lunch and back to the awaiting snowcat for its 4:00 p.m. departure. Winter huts are available and there are seven other snowshoe trails in the area, ranging from three to 16 km. (Fees apply.)
Start Here: sepaq.com
Secret Storms, NS & BC
The Gulf Stream rushes off the southeast coast of Nova Scotia throughout the cold-months and creates a two-fold natural phenomenon: first, it can melt snow with ferocity, and second, it brings the gnarliest surf of the year to beaches like Lawrencetown, Martinque and White Point as well as super-secret footpath-accessed locals’ favourites in between. Perhaps best of all, due to frigid water temperatures and barely-warmer beaches, these breaks dwindle in popularity once the last storms of September send the tourists home, yet One Life Surf School (Lawrencetown) and White Point Beach Resort (White Point) remain open for lessons and rentals year-round.
Not secret enough for you? Well, the Pacific Coast has winter waves too—much has been penned about the beaches of Vancouver Island, but few know about the wicked surf punishing the coast of Haida Gwaii from October to May, or the upstart North Beach Surf Shop in Masset. Untouched? Check. Rugged? Check. A secret? Not anymore.