Get Outside This Winter: 10 Unforgettable Experiences You Can Have Right Now

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Skating in Whistler. Photo: Andrew Strain

British Columbia offers plenty of unique ways to safely and responsibly embrace winter and take advantage of the joys of a new year. Retreat on weekends or make it a week, and find unforgettable outdoor activities that will warm you from the inside out

From frolicking in the snow to soaking under the stars in secluded hot springs, here are 10 unique experiences in BC that you can enjoy this winter. 

1. Go Skating Under Open Skies

Enjoy wide open spaces and fewer faces with a winter skate at an outdoor rink or frozen lake, like the Lake Windermere Whiteway in the Kootenay Rockies. The world’s longest ice-skating pathway connects the communities of Windermere and Invermere, allowing skaters to glide for more than 30 kilometres surrounded by towering mountains. While you’re there, check out Lake Lillian Whiteway down the road; a five-dollar contribution to the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club gets you a day pass for both. Before skating in these areas, be sure to check weather and ice conditions.

In Kelowna, the Stuart Park Outdoor Skating Rink lights up each year with an outdoor fire pit to warm fingers and toes after laps around the ice (check for opening times). In Manning Park Resort, guests have the option of two outdoor skating ponds with on-site skate rentals. Sticking closer to the coast? Head for Harrison Hot Springs and glide around their newly opened Starlight Skating Rink.

In Smithers, skate under the shadow of Hudson Bay Mountain on Lake Kathlyn, or along the groomed and flooded pathways on Seymour Lake. The Prince George Outdoor Ice Oval is a 400-metre lit track on natural ice, perfect for an evening skate under the stars.

Ice skating on outdoor ponds and lakes can be dangerous. Everyone in your group should understand minimum ice depths and know what to do in an emergency. Get more information on ice safety from AdventureSmart.

Snowshoeing Kettle Valley Trail | Tourism Kelowna/Meghan Reading

2. Wander Scenic Snowshoe Trails & Canyons

Explore a winter wilderness and immerse yourself in snowy vistas by strapping on some snowshoes and heading for the trails this winter. 

The rolling, sagebrush-covered hills of Kamloops get a dusting of white each winter and offer plenty of snowy space to explore, including 40 kilometres of trails in Kenna Cartwright Nature Park and a waterfall lookout at Peterson Creek Nature Park. Just south of town, kick your heels on 12 kilometres of marked trails near Skate Lake or bring your pup for a loop around McConnell Lake. For snowshoe views without the hike up, catch a lift up nearby Harper Mountain.

Just outside Kelowna, snowshoeing through Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park and over the Myra Canyon trestle bridges is an otherworldly experience. Home base at Chute Lake Lodge, between Kelowna and Penticton, for overnights in comfy cabins complete with their own network of snowshoe trails out the front door.

Bull Mountain Cross-Country Ski & Snowshoe Area, just north of Williams Lake, is an exceptional 28-kilometre trail system with a lengthy groomed network. Skiing here means your furry friend can tag along with three kilometres of designated dog-friendly trails.

Iconic snowshoeing destinations also sit atop local mountains on Vancouver’s North Shore. Overnight at Lonsdale Quay Hotel, or a short SeaBus ride away in historic Gastown at the Auberge. Snowshoe your way to fondue at Mt. Seymour, try a Lights to the Lodge self-guided tour at Cypress Mountain to a historic warming hut, or snap on snowshoes at Grouse Mountain and try the Snowshoe Grind.

In Whistler, head out on a self-guided snowshoe through Lost Lake Park or to snow-covered lakes and frozen waterfalls in the Callaghan Valley. If you prefer to be guided, tour options are also available (as are last-minute deals on accommodations).

The Caledonia Nordic Ski Club at Otway offers both snowshoe and cross-country ski trails (rentals, including sit-skis, are available), and the Bulkley Valley Nordic Centre also offers an extensive lit trail system through rolling forests.

Snowshoeing and hiking in winter conditions or through avalanche terrain can be hazardous. Everyone in your group must be self-sufficient, carry all the proper gear, and have avalanche skills training. Read more safety information from AdventureSmart.

Black Rock Oceanfront Resort in Ucluelet | Jordan Dyck

3. Watch Exhilarating Storms on Vancouver Island

In winter, the moody skies and turbulent tides of the Pacific beckon. See nature’s power in its full glory as the sea breaks on jagged rocks and washes onto sandy shores of Vancouver Island’s west coast during the day, then cozy up by a fireplace and take in the spectacle from inside, hot bevvie in hand. 

There are plenty of accommodation options in Tofino and Ucluelet. Choose from a cozy beachfront cabin or ocean-view yurt, or stay at a harbour-side hotel or luxurious resort. All are perfect for a storm-watching escape. For an especially “front-row” experience, book the Storm Watchers package at The Wickaninnish Inn on Chesterman Beach. Or tuck in at Black Rock Oceanfront Resort with their Storm Watching specials and find rooms that perch over the rocky cliffs and enjoy access to the Wild Pacific Trail out the front door.

It is imperative to practice safe storm watching by dressing appropriately, checking daily tidal information, and avoiding rocky areas or cliffs.

Gold Rush Snowmobile Trail | Chris Wheeler

4. Venture Into The Wilderness on a Snowmobile

Using throttle power to glide through a snow-covered wilderness between towering evergreens and across frozen landscapes is nothing short of an adrenaline rush.

For beginner riders, snowmobile tours with Canadian Wilderness Adventures in Whistler is the perfect introduction to the sport. Choose from unique experiences like the family-friendly Callaghan Cruiser, a three-hour trip designed for new riders, or their Wilderness Run and Mountain Explorer trips for adventurous beginners and more intermediate riders.

For skilled snowmobilers, plan a once-in-a-lifetime trip to ride the Gold Rush Snowmobile Trail in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast. Riders can venture across 170 kilometres, from 70 Mile House to Horsefly, along this volunteer-maintained route. Book overnights in warm cabins or bed and breakfasts along the way before heading out to tackle this iconic trail. 

In Smithers, take a guided tour of the Babine Mountains with Harvey Mountain Adventures. The outfit offers half-day and full-day options, as well as multi-day tours with lodging. Call ahead to learn about their safety procedures and other information concerning bookings for 2022/3.

Encountering avalanches and severe weather is a risk while snowmobiling in the backcountry. Everyone in your group must be self-sufficient, carry all the proper gear, and have avalanche skills training. Read more snowmobiling safety information from AdventureSmart.

5. Take Cozy to New & Unique Places

It’s now more than ever that we need a change in scenery and a break from being at home. And a getaway to someplace new is the perfect way to do it. 

At Snow Valley Lodging, in the mountain town of Fernie, guests can book a stay in one of six newly built tiny homes. Each one is within walking distance to the centre of town and features views of the towering Three Sisters Mountains overhead. Or, pack light and walk-in to one of seven backcountry yurts at Radius Retreat, just outside Radium Hot Springs in BC’s Rocky Mountains. 

For cabin lovers, retreat to Miska Haven Bed & Breakfast north of Vernon for a scenic and private stay with access to a large property for winter activities. Alternatively, enjoy snowy views from your wrap-around patio at Quaaout Lodge in the Shuswap, or head to the Thompson Plateau and settle into one of 22 lakeside cabins at Beaver Lake Mountain Resort.

Further north, in Terrace, book a tranquil getaway along the banks of the Skeena at Skeena River House or the unique Hidden Acres Farm and Treehouse Resort. For those who want a unique ranch stay—and a trot in the snow on horseback—head to Big Bar Guest Ranch or Wettstone Guest Ranch in the Cariboo.

Want to pair your snug stay with a soothing winter soak? Head for BC’s outdoor hot springs and spas for a relaxing getaway. What about backcountry snowshoeing right up to your cabin? Try Azouzetta Lake Lodge at Powder King Mountain Resort, north of Prince George.

Tiny Homes in Fernie | Snow Valley Lodging

6. Celebrate Winter Under the Lights

Just because the holidays are over doesn’t mean the new year can’t be bright. Whistler’s newest attraction, Vallea Lumina, sparks the imagination with an immersive light show hidden in the forests of Cougar Mountain. 

On Vancouver Island, witness the glowing city of Victoria. Stroll along the Inner Harbour to see the thousands of lights sparkle on the Parliament Buildings, the Fairmont Empress, and the tree-lined streets of downtown. Or indulge in a stay at Kingfisher Spa and Resort in the Comox Valley and enjoy the return of their annual Serenity Gardens Winter Light Display (on until the end of January)—including 10-foot dandelions!

In North Vancouver, visit the lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park for a display of sparkling bridges, boardwalks, canyons, and cedar trees. Don’t miss the Cliffwalk for an adrenaline rush or the Treetops Adventure for a squirrel’s eye view of the rainforest.

50th Parallel Estate Winery | Tourism Kelowna/David Vassiliev

7. Get Whisked Away on a Winter Wine Getaway

Winery touring shouldn’t be restricted to sunny summer days. Come winter, many of the vineyards and wineries in Kelowna and across the Okanagan Valley remain open for tastings, tours, and dining. Take a tour of world-class wineries along the Naramata Bench, in Summerland, or along the Black Sage Bench, including newly-opened Phantom Creek Estates, perched on rolling terraces in Oliver. 

Come February, indulge in the Thompson Okanagan’s Dine Around event, with dining and wine experiences at over 50 restaurants. For an activity pairing, snowshoe or hike the Kettle Valley Rail Trail and fuel up with drop-ins at wine tasting rooms along the way. Of course, you’ll need a few days to explore this vast wine region and all its delicious winter offerings. Rest your head at comfy Chute Lake Lodge or the spacious suites of Summerland Resort.

Always drink responsibility while wine touring. Assign a designated driver or book a wine tour to explore BC’s wineries safely. 

8. Be a Kid Again: Go Tubing!

For kids, and kids-at-heart, tubing is a great way to spend a few hours giggling away in a winder wonderland. And who couldn’t use a bit of laughter? 

On Vancouver’s local mountains of Grouse, Seymour, and Cypress, snow sliders can twirl, twist, and bounce down designated tube zones. Book an overnight stay on Vancouver’s North Shore for easy mountain access. On Vancouver Island, whoop-de-do at Mount Washington‘s newly expanded Tube Park, where timed tubing slots make it a breeze with fewer lineups and more tubing. 

Heading out to the Fraser Valley, The Polar Coaster is Manning Park Resort’s very own tube park. Enjoy a day of tubing on four beginner and advanced groomed runs. Lift service is provided so you can tube down and ride up.

Near Kamloops, pair tube rides with panoramic views at Harper MountainOutside Vernon, the tube park at SilverStar Mountain Resort comes with a lift up, saving precious energy for smiles and screeches on the way down. 

Tube parks in the Kootenays, such as at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, have an added bonus of jaw-dropping alpine views and resort accommodations for tired tubers. 


Whistler Blackcomb Tube Park | Rick Collins
Richmond Dumpling Trail | @lesleychang

9. Awaken the Senses with an Urban Escape

Award-winning restaurants, arts, and culture thrive in BC’s cities and are sure to brighten up a cold winter. Drive up the scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway and follow Whistler’s Cultural Connector. Gaze at masterpieces in the architectural wonder of the Audain Art Museum and learn about living Indigenous cultures at Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre.

Pair culinary destinations with brewery hops along the BC Ale Trail in urban foodie hot spots. In Victoria, get a jolt of caffeine at Murchie’s Tea & Coffee before roaming the Victoria Ale Trail. In Kelowna, enjoy sips of pints between reservations at award-winning winery restaurants, and in Kamloops, bring wildlife viewing indoors at the BC Wildlife Park rescue centre.

In Vancouver, wander exhibits at the Vancouver Art Gallery and Museum of Anthropology before eating your way along Richmond’s Dumpling Trail or Food Street, with more than 70 restaurants in just three blocks. Or gaze at photography and video exhibits at The Polygon Gallery on Vancouver’s North Shore before sampling artisanal goods at the Lonsdale Quay Market.

Take advantage of special travel deals on right now, from attractions to accommodation, in Vancouver, Richmond, Victoria, Kelowna, and Kamloops.

Eagles on Vancouver Island | Eagle Wing Tours/Clint Rivers

10. Look up to See Majestic Migratory Birds

British Columbia is situated on the Pacific Flyway, a major migratory path between Patagonia and Alaska. Every year, thousands of birds travel this route in search of wintering homes and food sources. 

Bird-lovers can follow the BC Bird Trail, with trip ideas and bird-watching routes through the estuaries, marshlands, and riverbanks of Vancouver Island, the Fraser Valley, and Richmond/Delta, the heart of BC’s Pacific Flyway. In winter, spotters can look for unique species like snow geese, northern shrike, and gyrfalcon. 

For some of the best eagle viewing in the province, head to Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park just north of Squamish anytime between November and January. Here, you can spot hundreds of eagles perched in the trees along the Squamish and Cheakamus rivers.

Consider making your wildlife viewing excursion an overnight adventure with time to acquaint yourself with the sights and sounds of these unique ecosystems. Search for accommodation options near Squamish, Richmond, along the Fraser River from Langley to Hope, or on the east coast of Vancouver Island. 

Originally published in October, 2022.

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