When winters are as long as they are in Canada, it’s best to embrace them for all they’re worth by simply enjoying whatever it is the season has to offer. From seductive spa getaways to magical ice hotel escapes, here are a few of the most noteworthy experiences in the country right now.
Few places in the world are as notable for its heli-skiing (or cat-skiing) than the Canadian Rockies, a place where adventure-seekers will find fresh, untouched powder and massive backcountry bowls. Sneak away to the elegant Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, located in UNESCO World Heritage Site Jasper National Park, for quick access to the mountains and the heli-skiing offerings. Taking the plunge is also safer than ever thanks to organizations like HeliCat Canada, which ensure safety standards are met by participants and operators across Alberta and British Columbia.
Check into an ice hotel
A fantastical sight, Hôtel de Glace, which sits snuggly just outside Quebec City, is a magical experience for discerning travelers of any age. Every year, the hotel is redesigned and built anew from ice and snow, a true work of art. (This year’s theme is space travel.) Massive vaulted rooms and ice sculptures make up 44 individual units, the hotel lobby, a wedding chapel and a bar where even the glasses are made of ice. This 15th anniversary season runs through March. Day guests are also welcome to explore the hotel’s many cool features.
Exhale on the slopes
Bask in the serenity of the Scandinave Spa in Whistler, where rejuvenation is the name of the game and best enjoyed after a long day outdoors. The 20,000-square-foot, Nordic-inspired outdoor spa, hidden among the spruce and cedar, boasts a menu of services for you to enjoy in the elements (cold plunges, open-air baths) or in rustic elegance (14 massage rooms). In addition, you can also grab a light, healthy lunch or a spot of tea during your visit. If you can’t make it to Whistler, the Scandinave Spa memories can also be made at Mont-Tremblant (Quebec), Blue Mountain (Ontario) and Montreal.
Visit a truly great lake
One of the most iconic panoramas in Canada, Lake Louise has been drawing visitors since its discovery in the 1880s. The magnificent Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, with its Swiss mountain lodge stylings, faces these bluer-than-blue waters with majestic Victoria Glacier looming in the background. Between epic photo shoots, enjoy afternoon tea while looking onto a frozen wonderland filled with children skating or playing hockey; relax at the spa after a day of skiing; or indulge in a Swiss fondue experience at The Walliser Stube before tucking into the Fairmont’s plush accommodations.
Be awed by the Northern Lights
See the aurora borealis in Churchill, Manitoba, from January to March when the illuminating phenomenon lights up the sky with waves of green, yellow, purple and pink. Churchill is considered one of the top three places in the world to see the show, making nearby eco-tours worth every penny. Sit back and take in the incredible night sky from the comfort (and warmth) of Plexiglass-covered Aurora Domes or tundra vehicles. While in the area, you also should experience the Canadian sub-arctic and First Nations heritage through cultural visits, dog sledding and other activities. If you are lucky, you might even spot a polar bear in the distance.