Icefields Parkway

By  Hostelling International / Photo by Edward and Caroline

Ice Climbing and Winter Activities in Canada

Winter Activities in Canada—with so many breathtaking sites to see and adventures to experience closer to home, Icefields Parkway and Ice Climbing for example,  the best way to side-step hibernation is to get out and do one of the many winter activities on offer.

Western Canada

Icefields Parkway Cross-Country Skiing

A popular route during the summer, the Icefields Parkway has the reputation of being one of the most scenic winter activities on earth. It stretches 230 kilometres through Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta. In winter, the overwhelming and impressive environmental tableau of the Icefields Parkway is transformed into an awe-inspiring winter scene. Explore the scenery throughout the Parkway more closely on cross-country skis. Whether you enjoy the groomed trails of Lake Louise, following the tracks of earlier skiers up Mosquito Creek or forging your own route through undisturbed powder to access a Hostelling International wilderness hostel, cross-country skiing is a great way to enjoy the serenity of the great outdoors.

Try Ice Climbing

Rock climbing is a major summer sport and in winter, frozen waterfalls are an ice climbing dream. There are two main types of ice climbing: alpine and waterfall. Endless opportunities to develop a passion exist throughout the Rockies—a mecca for ice climbers and its here you can find one of Canada’s most famous ice climbs—the Weeping Wall. The size of six football fields, it is caused by snow melting high on Cirrus Mountain and resembles a mountain crying a river of tears. The main fall, at more than 100 metres, is known as the Teardrop. Visit HI-Banff Alpine Centre in winter and climb the ice wall right outside the hostel.

Hike Through an Ice Canyon

In winter, an ice-covered canyon is an impressive sight. Maligne, Mistaya, Marble, Johnston and Grotto are all magnificent canyons located throughout the Rockies. Whether you go on a guided tour or own your own, a canyon hike through ice pillars, frozen waterfalls, crystals and clear springs key among winter activities.

Go Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is one of the best ways to see the forest in winter and it’s a great way to keep fit during the colder months. Most of the HI hostels in Alberta will lend you a set of snowshoes for free. You don’t need trails or tickets, just open the door, point toward the woods, and go (with a compass and winter gear). In Vancouver, Cypress Mountain offers interpretive day hikes as well as a popular evening hike that involves après fondue. (

Magical Lake Louise

Lake Louise transforms into an enchanting winter scene, where you can go ice-skating on the frozen lake, see the ice castle built outside the romantic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, enjoy the comfort of a sleigh ride or hike or ski to the end of the lake for a breathtaking view.

Experience Dogsledding

The thrill of being pulled by a powerful pack of racing dogs through snow-covered forests and meadows is a time-old tradition. There are many tour operators throughout Western Canada with dogs ready and eager for a run.

Shred the Slopes

Whether you’re a ‘never ever’ or a ‘shred some gnar’ skier or snowboarder, there’s an abundance of resorts to choose from in Western Canada. 

Improve Your Skill Set

Train as a ski or snowboard instructor and get paid to travel the globe doing a few winter seasons. Avalanche training is also great for the adventurous, backcountry advocate. Check MEC and mountain resorts directly for courses.

Outdoor Hot Springs

Imagine relaxing in an outdoor hot spring surrounded by distant snow-covered peaks and frosted alpine trees. Try the Upper Hot Springs (south of Banff) or the hot springs in Radium (Kootenay National Park).

Hardcore Hockey

Ice hockey isn’t a sport—it’s a Canadian obsession. Catch a local game and experience passionate Canadian hockey culture. The speed, agility and grace of the players is surprising, and the tough fighting and intense physical slamming is what makes this sport world famous. If you’re in Vancouver, check out a Canucks game with HI-Vancouver Central or HI-Vancouver Downtown.

Central Canada

Visit Churchill, MB. for Lights and Bears

Churchill has the highest intensity of aurora activity in the Artic, making it an ideal viewing place for the aurora borealis, or northern lights. During October and November, you can also watch polar bears waiting for the Hudson Bay waters to freeze so they can begin hunting. (

Eastern Canada

Festive Montreal

The Montreal High Lights Festival is an annual winter celebration that has been entertaining Montrealers for 11 years. The festival is a “triple-threat festive, artistic and gastronomic celebration” and each year a featured international city influences the program. The festival includes: the Bank of Montreal Celebration of Light; the Montreal All-nighter Party (an established tradition and the city keeps transit running all night specifically for the party with 275,000 attendants in 2009); and a wine-and-dine program, which focuses on the featured city’s gastronomic goodness and venerable vintages. 2009 held a special 10th birthday party—a multidisciplinary event featuring stilt-walkers, musicians and acrobats, blended with digital arts, dance, acrobatics, projections and fire-handling, which is set to become an annual event. (

Carnival de Quebec

Join one of the largest winter celebrations in the world and head to Quebec for the annual winter carnival. Check out the ice palace, the canoe race along the frozen St. Lawrence River, the intricate ice sculptures, the colourful night parades and sip some Caribou—an alcoholic beverage that became popular in the early carnivals and contains a potent mix of brandy, vodka, sherry and port. (

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