Wondering when the best time is to visit Canada’s British Columbia? For champion snowboarder Lyndsay McAlpine, the answer is easy.
“Winter is magical,” says the BC local. “Canadians love the outdoors at all times of the year, but there’s always a celebratory mood when the snow starts falling around December.”
Anchored by the urban sophistication of Vancouver and boasting soaring alpine peaks and multiple world class ski resorts, BC is Canada’s westernmost province and an ideal destination for adventurers of all stripes.
But as Lyndsay says, the allure isn’t confined to adrenaline junkies. “It’s the smell of winter; the pines and the peaceful stillness and silence of the snow. It’s a place where you can speed downhill or simply take your time to appreciate the beauty of nature.”
Here, she shares five of the most magical ways to enjoy winter in Canada.
Ultimate family adventure: Jump on a dog sled expedition
“Whether you’ve got big kids or little kids, they’ll love the dog sledding tour at Big White Ski Resort. It’s a really great way to see the alpine back country while getting a unique taste of Canadian culture; mushing through the snow while being pulled by the gorgeous sled dogs.
“The tour starts at Candle Creek Kennels, where they introduce you to the dogs and demonstrate how to harness them before you head off on a six-kilometre trail. The scenery around Big White is amazing – it’s in the southern interior of BC, about 450 kilometres from Vancouver – and the resort itself is one of Canada’s biggest. It’s famous for being really family friendly.
“As for the dogs, they absolutely love it. It's what they were born to do.”
Ultimate food experience: Dine at Whistler’s hottest restaurant
“Il Caminetto is a lovely Italian restaurant in the heart of Whistler on a busy section called the Village Stroll. You can sit outside on the heated patio for great people-watching, or head inside to the fire in the lounge.
“It’s sophisticated and romantic, with dishes like a lasagne bolognese made with wagyu beef and seared tuna with a Sicilian caponata. My husband says he realised for the first time he loved me at this restaurant when I polished off his pork belly dish as well as my own plate!
“Whistler is one of my favourite parts of Canada. It’s around 90 minutes’ drive from Vancouver along a picturesque road called the Sea-to-Sky Highway, which is memorable in itself.”
Ultimate Instagram moment: Go on a magical winter night walk
“For something really incredible, the night walk through the forest at Vallea Lumina, in the Whistler back country at Cougar Mountain can’t be beaten. It means Valley of Light and uses illuminations, music and sound effects to tell the legend of two lost hikers.
“You wind your way through the old growth forest once the sun goes down, and enjoy this amazing multimedia experience that’s perfect for children and adults. The light effects are dazzling, especially against the winter snow backdrop.
“You’ll see glowing orbs in the sky and holograms and firework-like effects. It’s completely otherworldly. Before or after the hour-long walk you can sit at base camp and enjoy a hot chocolate or s’mores around the fire pits.”
Ultimate city moment: See Vancouver from the top of a mountain
“The great thing about Vancouver is that it’s so close to ski slopes. Grouse Mountain is a short drive from downtown – I’d suggest staying at Shangri-La Vancouver Hotel – and it has stunning views of the city as it lights up at night. A lot of people go up when they’ve finished work for the day to ski or snowboard.
“You don’t even have to drive thanks to the Skyride, which is an enclosed gondola that will take you up the mountain in around 10 minutes, with some pretty special views as you pass over the top of the forest. You can rent skis and there’s a huge outdoor ice-skating pond as well.”
Ultimate relaxation: Soak at a natural hot spring
“There’s nothing better than soaking in natural hot mineral pools outdoors in the middle of a snowy Canadian winter. The hot springs are around two hours east of Vancouver at the southern end of Harrison Lake. They’re known for attracting Hollywood stars!
"Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa has its own indoor and outdoor hot-spring-fed mineral pools. Each one is a different temperature so you can hop in and out and experiment. Some people swim laps, others play with their kids, or you can just relax and chill out. Before you have a soak there are loads of outdoor activities to enjoy, such as boating on the lake and hiking in the forest.”
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