Top 5 Ways to Enjoy Winter in BC

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Don’t hibernate this winter—embrace it. Here’s our guide for celebrating all that BC has to offer this season, from city escapes to exploration of Mother Nature’s best.

Crooked Lake | @kaleighbrinkmanphotography via Instagram

1. Wander Winter's Wonderland

Staring into a sky of flickering green, blue, and purple light is an ethereal experience. Luckily, for British Columbians, the aurora borealis can often be seen in Northern BC from November through March⁠. When the geomagnetic activity is high, head for Northern Rockies Lodge along the Alaska Highway and look up on cold, clear nights for a spectacular show.

For a more rugged experience, winter camp or RV at Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park. Here you can warm up in hot pools while you gaze into the sky.

Prefer to be active? Hike amongst snow-covered trees to frozen waterfalls in Wells Grey Provincial Park. Visitors can take a self-guided hiking tour to four waterfalls, including the largest, Helmcken Falls, towering at 141 metres (463 feet). Depending on the temperature, this otherworldly show is a mix of tumbling water, mist, icicles, and snow.

Gliding through nature is an option, too. In the Kootenay Rockies, visitors can skate along the Lake Windermere Whiteway, the longest ice-skating pathway in the world—at 34 kilometres (21 miles) long—for a perfect winter’s day out.

BC’s 13 major ski resorts make for the perfect winter escapes even if you don’t ski. Across the province, these mountain towns have snowshoeing routes, cross-country ski tracks, and trails for wintery walks.

Lake Windermere Whiteway | Kari Medig
Liard River Hot Springs | @insta_ines_travels via Instagram
Ainsworth Hot Springs | Kari Medig

2. Relax and Decompress

Sometimes chilly days and snow-covered landscapes are best enjoyed from inside cozy cabins, relaxing yoga dens, and soothing spas.

For an island escape, hop over to Galiano where Bodega Ridge and newly-opened sister resort, Bodega Cove, offer a quiet escape for those looking to curl up by a fire with a good book.

On Salt Spring Island, rejuvenate in a wood-burning barrel sauna at Salty Pear.

Visit Bowen Island and Nectar Yoga B&B for yoga classes in a geodesic dome and overnights in forest cabins.

Venture to the Sunshine Coast, where Painted Boat Resort Spa & Marina hides amongst the islands and inlets of Pender Harbour. This spa beckons weekend warriors looking for an experience like Whistler’s Scandinave, but without the crowds. Spend hours soaking in the hot and cool pools, sauna, and around the outdoor fire pit after a deep tissue massage.

Up for adventure? Follow the Hot Springs Circle Route and soak in five different outdoor, mineral hot springs nestled between mountain towns in the Kootenay Rockies.

Tofino | @entwistlephoto via Instagram

3. Feel Nature’s Power at the Edge of the World

It’s easy to become hypnotized the rhythmic energy of waves as they crash into the edge of the world.

BC’s storm-watching capital of Tofino is a regular go-to, but if you seek something different, head for Haida Gwaii. Curl up in a cozy cabin to witness a consistent swell break onto a remote beach or gaze upon powerful storms as they move across the Pacific Ocean. Here you will find locals willing to teach you a few things, about the ocean, and a whole lot more.

Learn about the living Haida culture and peoples of Haida Gwaii at the Haida Heritage Centre and Haida Gwaii Museum, or in conversation with locals who have been protecting this powerful place since time immemorial.

If you’d rather be amongst it, grab a surfboard and jump in. Cold-water surfing is not for the faint of heart, but those who dare know there is nothing quite like moving in tandem with the sea. Surfing or storm watching, both experiences will instantly connect you to nature’s power.

Victoria | Reuben Krabbe

4. Take a City Getaway

BC’s urban centres come alive with vibrant celebrations to pass the darker and drearier days of winter. It’s the perfect time to leave your hometown and venture to a new city.

Vancouver’s Eastside Culture Crawl welcomes art-lovers inside the studios of more than 400 artists from November 14-17.

For more art and cultural inspiration, check out the bold, contemporary expression of Cindy Sherman at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Emily Carr’s display of French modernism paintings at the Audain Art Museum in Whistler, or the Maya civilization exhibit at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria.

If food and drink is your travel inspiration, attend Whistler’s Cornucopia, where culinary experiences are celebrated in the mountains over 11 days in November.

In Steveston, on select Sundays from October through April, visitors can visit the Cannery Farmers’ Market and browse local artisans inside the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site.

Make a trip to Kamloops for a brewery-hop around town and the annual Chefs in the City event, celebrating restaurants and emerging chefs, held on November 4.

A trip to the Okanagan in winter is perfect for wine-lovers, too. Visit during Light up the Vines, held on certain nights in November and December, when 18 wineries, three cideries, a brewery and distillery get festive with twinkling lights, live music, outdoor firepits, wine pairings, and cuisine tastings along Summerland’s Bottleneck Drive.

Old Fashioned Victorian Christmas at Barkerville | @mary.mclay via Instagram

5. Embrace the Holiday Spirit

Holiday celebrations at Butchart Gardens in Victoria and the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver are staples to get into the festive spirit, but there are lesser-known events in BC worth discovering too.

The eclectic town of Nelson holds a Winter Kickoff, from November 21-December 1, with markets, live music, events, and carnivals to welcome the season.

On December 1, Downtown Kelowna is host to a Winter Street Market with outdoor skating and firepits, live entertainment, food, and artisan vendors.

In Kamloops, a long-standing tradition continues through December on the Spirit of Christmas holiday train. Travel through a wintery landscape and enjoy on-board carols, hot chocolate, festive décor, and a surprise from the jolly man in red.

Go back in time at Barkerville’s Old-Fashioned Victorian Christmas, running December 14-16, and celebrate in this historic gold rush town.

Or head to Sun Peaks for their annual Holiday Kick-Off Weekend, December 14-15, with an artisan market, caroling, sleigh rides, and more.

Winter is the perfect time to explore BC, and you don’t need skis to do it. Discover a new town, a new activity, or a new event around the province this season.

Header image: Halcyon Hot Springs | Kari Medig

POSTED BY: Leah Adams-Chute

From: Vancouver
Leah Adams-Chute likes to pedal bikes, wander trails, and chase snow. She spends her weekends exploring BC and all her other free time searching for cheap flights to places she's never been to.

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