When the snowflakes start falling, you’ve got two choices: set up camp by the fireplace and count down the days until spring, or get outside and enjoy the best the season has to offer. Luckily, outdoor adventures abound at the country’s top ski resorts, even if skiing and snowboarding aren’t your style. Here are 15 ways to have fun on and off the slopes across Canada this winter—no skis required.
Ice Canyoning, Mont-Sainte-Anne, Que.
Kick your crampons in and take a deep breath as you descend the 41-metre Jean-Larose Waterfalls on a guided rappel with Canyoning-Québec. From December through March, this beginner-friendly, three- to four-hour tour lets you learn technique with rope and crampons while enjoying the icy view. Climbing gear is included, but be sure to dress warmly.
Ice Skating, Apex Mountain Resort, Penticton, B.C.
Strap on your skates at this Okanagan resort, where the ice surfaces are something special: besides open skating and pick-up hockey games on the NHL-sized rink, skaters can practice (or show off) their skills on an additional one-kilometre, Zamboni-maintained, floodlit loop through the trees, open until 11 p.m. Book ahead for your own private bonfire to make it the perfect skating party.
Bobsleigh and Skeleton, Whistler Sliding Centre, B.C.
Speed-lovers are in luck: the Whistler Sliding Centre, a legacy of the 2010 Winter Olympics, lets you take a ride down the fastest sliding track in the world. Choose bobsleigh and a trained pilot will lead your four-person vehicle along 938 metres of the track at speeds of 125 km/h or more; with skeleton, you can launch yourself head-first down the track’s lower portion, reaching up to 100 km/h.
Snowshoe and Fondue, Sunshine Village, Alta.
Get up close and personal with Banff National Park by strapping on snowshoes and taking the gondola, then a chairlift, for an afternoon’s journey on the untouched powder of Sunshine Meadows at 2,180 m elevation. Enjoy panoramic views of the Rockies as you follow your guide along historical First Nations trade routes and hear stories of early explorers before dining on cheese and vegetable fondue at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge.
Songs and Sweets, Cypress Mountain, West Vancouver, B.C.
The 11 km of mountain trails at Cypress are open until dusk for self-guided snowshoeing through the subalpine forests and meadows. Multiple guided tours are available, too: the evening chocolate fondue tour, for instance, leads you through headlamp-lit terrain before sampling sweet treats at historic Hollyburn Lodge, while the Saturday night music tour concludes at the same place with appies and a different live band every week.
Happy Trails, Sun Peaks, Kamloops, B.C.
Head out on your own or join a tour to explore the 16 km of maintained snowshoe trails at this Interior B.C. resort. Guided tours last from two hours to a full day, are open to kids ages five and up and include instruction on technique. Book a sunrise outing complete with hot drinks and baked goods, or challenge yourself with a day-long, cardio-intensive journey to the McGillivray Lake Outpost warming hut, 457 m higher in elevation than the village.
Snow Limo Rides, Grouse Mountain, North Vancouver, B.C.
Can’t ski, but want to know what it’s like to make S-turns down the snowy piste? Let your driver do the work as you enjoy a peaceful ride in a “snow limo,” a B.C.-invented sled that’s like a chaise longue on runners. Get a taste with a 15-minute trip down classic green run The Cut, or commit to a 60-minute journey that lets you see more of the mountain, including the 1,250 m summit.
Winter Ziplining, Marble Mountain, Nfld.
Race across the icy Steady Brook gorge at speeds of up to 80 km/h on this two-hour excursion that takes guests across nine ziplines, each between 122 m to 610 m long and 87 m high. Catch your breath on platforms between each ride, with guides providing instruction and support and taking photos along the way. Tours are open to ages six and up; come dressed in ski gear, with a neck or wrist strap for your camera.
Extreme Sledding, Le Massif, Que.
No mere Krazy Karpet hill, sledding at Le Massif is a two-hour adventure on the slopes for ages 10 and up. Meet your group and guides, pick up your sled and ride a snowcat to the trailhead. Learn to turn on the bunny hill (lean one way to turn the other, or put one foot or both down to slow down) before making your way along the dedicated 7.5-km trail to the foot of the mountain at the edge of the icy St. Lawrence River.
Ride and Dine, Silver Star, Vernon, B.C.
On-mountain dinner excursions here let you choose your mode of transportation to either of two mountain cabin locales. Take the chauffeur-driven snowcat or cross-country ski by the light of headlamps to Paradise Camp for a lantern-lit three-course meal. Or you can take a horse-drawn sleigh to the more-rustic The Wild Horseman’s Cabin for a part-buffet, part à la carte dinner.
Dinner and Dancing, Lake Louise, Alta.
There’s no need to leave after an afternoon of sightseeing via gondola or chairlift. Instead, make a night of it by booking a dinner and dancing package at the Sitzmark Lounge. The evening includes live entertainment and a buffet dinner, plus the chance to watch the group from the Torchlight Dinner & Ski package—who’ll be joining you for your meal—glide down the slopes at dusk. Transportation back to Lake Louise or Banff is an optional add-on.
Wine Excursions, Big White, Kelowna, B.C.
Skip drawing straws for designated driver and hire a pro to take you from winery to winery. Six- or eight-hour tours include tasting fees and guided explanations, plus door-to-door service. Or stay in and let sommelier Shalyn Syrianen-Ross come to you, with themed (and customizable) packages focused around food and wine pairing that might include a Pinot Noir face-off that pits Okanagan and Oregon vintages against Burgundy heavyweights.
Off the Hill
Fire & Ice Show, Whistler-Blackcomb, B.C.
Every Sunday evening during winter, Whistler’s Skiers Plaza comes alive with free fire-themed entertainment. Watch fireworks, fire spinners, lighting displays, a live DJ and a snow show featuring skiers and snowboarders jumping, twisting and flipping through a flaming hoop. Afterward, join the adults-only crowd at the Garibaldi Lift Co. for the Afterburn Party, with prize giveaways and live music.
Ice Fishing, Mont-Tremblant, Que.
Whether you’re experienced at ice fishing or want to try your hand at the sport, you can join an experienced fishing guide on a two-hour excursion to learn expert tips as you dangle your line through one of several drilled holes in a lake just 20 minutes from the hill. If you get cold, it’s easy to warm up in the heated tent on-site. A commitment to sustainable fishing means any pike, smallmouth bass or perch you catch will be released back into the water.
Walk with Wolves, Golden, B.C.
At the edge of Yoho National Park, just half an hour from Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre strives to educate visitors about wolves and their role in nature. Drop in for a 25-minute, family-friendly interpretive talk, held every half hour, to learn the basics and have the chance to view the resident wolves in their habitat. Or book ahead to join professional wolf handlers on a photography hike (ages 16 and up), to walk with the wolves and get prime photo ops as they treat you like one of their own.
Three Days in Whitehorse, Yukon
Set in a scenic mountain valley beside the winding Yukon River, Whitehorse is an artistic, outdoorsy city with adventure on its doorstep. Paddle along the river past clay cliffs and spruce forest, find artsy treasures at North End Gallery and sip craft beer at Winterlong Brewing Co.