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Explore Canada’s Rich Culture with these Winter Activities

Eight cold-weather activities from across the country to enjoy this season, indoors and out

A person is shown from behind, carrying a pair of snowshoes while walking on a pedestrian bridge

All stereotypes aside, winter really is the most Canadian season of all. Across the country, there are so many rich traditions observed between fall and spring. From the first snowfall, it’s hard to resist getting outside to do some activity and then coming home to warm up with a hot drink. Here are 10 ideas to make the most of winter from (or at least close to) home this year.

Whip up some beaver tails

An overhead photo shows four beaver tails with different toppings like chocolate and granulated sugar

No Canadian winter is complete without at least a few beaver tail pastries. The fried-dough staple, made with whole wheat flour, is hand-pulled to resemble the tail of a beaver. Happily, you can fry up your own at home any time: check out Vijaya Selvaraju’s YouTube channel for an easy recipe and demonstration. Complete the experience by setting up a toppings bar with options like cinnamon and sugar, Nutella, maple butter, whipped cream and sliced fruit.

Go snowshoeing

Four people are shown snowshoeing in a single file line in a forest in the winter

Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, going solo or with the family, snowshoeing can be one of the most fun and rewarding winter sports. Rent or buy a pair of snowshoes and tap local knowledge or do a bit of web research to find adventure-ready trails close to home. Fresh powder is perfect for snowshoeing, ideally at least six inches deep. If you’re setting out for a longer hike, be sure to take along enough water and snacks for the trail so you can truly enjoy the peaceful nature.

Make some maple taffy

Strips of maple syrup are shown on a long tray covered in snow with a hand rolling one strip with a popsicle stick

This is one of the easiest—and tastiest—treats to make during the winter months. Recreate the Québécois sugar shack tradition by heating maple syrup to 115°C and then pouring it into small rows over clean snow. The syrup will cool into a taffy-like consistency, which you can then roll up with a Popsicle stick and enjoy. All you need is some pure Canadian maple syrup—which is available everywhere, considering we produce around 80 per cent of the world’s supply—to make the experience complete.

Throw a CanCon festival

Two lead actors are shown on the set of Kim's Convenience, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Andrea Bang

A blustery day is the perfect time to throw your own festival in your living room. Create a Polaris Prize winners’ playlist and listen to tracks from past winners, including Haviah Mighty, Lido Pimienta and Tanya Tagaq. For some Canadian comedy, cue up The Baroness von Sketch Show and Kim’s Convenience or re-watch Schitt’s Creek on Netflix. And be sure to check out the National Film Board’s Indigenous cinema section online to find a catalogue of free content, including Cree director Alexandra Lazarowich’s 2019 short film Lake, a contemporary portrait of Métis women net fishing in northern Alberta.

Take a dim sum cooking class

Dumplings are shown on top of carrot coins in a steamer basket

Get ready for the best brunch ever when you sign up for an online dim sum class with Renée Chan, registered dietitian and owner of True Nosh Company Ltd. in Vancouver. Learn to make dishes like egg tarts, an authentic Chinese dessert, via live stream. When you sign up, you’ll receive the recipe so you can prep ingredients and supplies beforehand. Chan also shares traditions and teaches participants some Chinese words and phrases. Alternatively, you can book a private live-stream cooking class, either one-on-one or with other pals tuning in. For recipe videos you can follow any time, check out Hot Thai Kitchen, where Vancouver chef Pailin Chongchitnant demonstrates how to make such dishes as pork belly stew, garlic noodles and Chinese doughnuts.

Watch the northern lights

Green northern lights are shown in a swirl in the night sky with an inuksuk in the foreground

The spectacular northern lights are one of the seven natural wonders of the world, touted as nature’s laser show. Folks living in northern Saskatchewan, the Yukon or the Northwest Territories are particularly lucky as they tend to have the best spots to view the show, but occasionally you may be able to catch a glimpse further south. If you can’t see the northern lights from where you are, visit explore.org and look up the Aurora Borealis-Northern Lights live cam in Churchill, Manitoba, where you can watch the Aurora Borealis in action.

Learn bhangra dancing

Gurdeep Pandher is shown dancing in the snow

Learn a routine from Gurdeep Pandher, whose joyful videos of bhangra dancing—a lively folk dance that originated in the Punjab region of India—in the Yukon wilderness have gone viral. Last spring, he started offering online dance classes so that even those of us living a little further south can learn too. Each class is pay-what-you-can, and Pandher donates 25 per cent of the proceeds to causes related to Covid-19 and mental health. Clear some space in the house to learn a routine, or take a cue from Pandher’s viral videos and dance outside in the snow.

Have an icewine tasting

A man with glasses holding a glass of white wine is shown on the screen of a video call, a hand holding a glass of white wine is shown in the foreground

Icewine, a sweet wine made from grapes left to freeze naturally on the vine, is a flavourful highlight of the season. The Niagara Peninsula is famous for its offerings, many of which are available for order online. Try the options from the family-owned Ice House Winery; their 2017 Signature Series Vidal Icewine recently won the 2020 Monde Selection Gold Medal. Hosting a tasting is easy to do via video chat, no matter where friends are. Have everyone purchase the same bottles to sample together and compare notes about your faves.

Get more with CAA

When you’re ready to travel, speak to a CAA travel expert for help planning a great Canadian adventure. Make sure to ask about travel insurance when booking your trip. Even when you’re vacationing within Canada, OHIP highly recommends supplementary coverage to help pay costs and services that may not be covered. A CAA travel consultant can help you choose the right coverage for your trip.

Image Credits: Ali Kazal/Unsplash, Courtesy of Vijaya Selvaraju, Cavan Images/Alamy, Courtesy of Sugar Shack TO, Courtesy of CBC, Courtesy of True Nosh, Richard McManus/Getty, iStock.com/Giuseppe Lombardo