Published on April 20th, 2017 | by Tia Duck
The cold air cure: why you HAVE to experience winter in Canada
Read time: a bit over 4 minutes
Feel that? That tingling in your feet? That voice in your mind, reminding you over and over that, as you sit in your office chair, or classroom, or on your couch, somewhere someone is experiencing something incredible.
The travel bug is real, my friends! And when it bites, all the security in the world won’t help you fight the urge to take flight and explore. Humans are a roaming species, designed to move – not remain sedentary for eight hours a day, eating biscuits and trying to convince the boss that Facebook time is totally work related.
At Geckos Adventures, they get it. All of it. That’s why they’re constantly working on creating fresh journeys for the wild at heart; those chasing the sun, with nothing but a backpack, a passport and a lust for adventure. Geckos understands this need because they live it daily and know that nothing nourishes the soul more than travel. If you dream of walking in the crisp European air, or feeling the warm kiss of a Mexican sunrise, they’ve got you covered – and then some.
Recently I teamed up with Geckos Adventures, along with Billabong athletes Tanika Hoffman and Pacha Light, to explore the Canadian Rockies. Our challenge? To bring back enough information on this incredible location for them to curate a fresh winter tour for their snow-loving travel enthusiasts. Having experienced their amazing Best of Canada itinerary in the summer months, we eagerly set off with smiles on our faces and wanderlust running through our veins, excited to delve into this beautiful wilderness and explore the local surrounds during a different season.
It was minus twenty degrees Celsius when we got there. Minus. Twenty.
The cold air woke us from our jet lag like an icy slap across the face and we scrambled through suitcases searching for layers to pile on. Once we were over the initial shock (and our lungs had adjusted to the temperature), there it was. Whistler.
Stepping into the Canadian mountains during winter is like walking into a snow globe; the streets are lined with fresh powder, the pine trees wrapped in glistening white cloaks and I could have sworn I saw a Disney character dancing across the main street at least twice.
Whistler is located in the coastal mountains of British Columbia, two hours north of Vancouver. And it’s the perfect place to begin any winter venture through Canada. Made up of 50% international travellers, 50% adventure-based activities and 100% fun, this place defies statistical sense. If the snowboarding doesn’t grab you, the zip-lining will. If not that, then the nightlife, or the bobsledding, or the sightseeing; the snowshoe tours, the snowmobiling, the peak to peak gondola, the complimentary cups of hot chocolate at your hotel – there is SO much to enjoy while you’re here.
We recommend trying everything in Whistler – seriously, this is the location to go wild. Make sure you head to the handmade chocolate stores at some stage too (you can thank me later by sending samples).
Next up? Banff. Located in its own national park in Alberta’s Rocky Mountain range, it’s hard not to fall a little bit in love with Banff. The streets are quiet throughout the winter months – it’s not uncommon to spot a deer or elk strolling down Main in early hours of the morning.
There are three separate ski fields nearby, and heaps of awesome options in town for dinner and drinks after a long day attempting to master the slopes. Take the scenic chair lift at Mount Norquay for unforgettable views, or book yourself in for a Heli/Snowshoe tour (if you’ve ever considered taking a helicopter ride, this is the place to try it). Pack your camera and your warmest woollies, and keep in mind they pop Baileys in your hot chocolate – if you ask nicely!
Banff made it up to two degrees while we were there. Not exactly board-short weather, but pack your swimmers – if you don’t make it to the hot springs, you’re sure to find the hot tub soon enough at your accommodation.
Staring into the rear view mirror and considering a stowaway mission in Canada, we left Banff, making our way to Jasper, Alberta.
Also located in its own national park, we expected big things from Jasper, and it delivered. Our guide took a deep breath in as we pulled into the beautiful town. We smelt it too. The scent of maple syrup. We emerged from the van and stepped into what I will always remember as truly Canada. This town is unsurpassable.
Tucked a little out of the main tourist routes, Jasper offers spectacular slopes at Marmot Basin. It’s completely uncrowded during the week and is perfect for anyone learning to ski or snowboard. Big Horn sheep and elk graze in nearby fields while the shrieks and giggles of kids (or possibly us) echo throughout the park.
Jasper stole a little piece of us on this trip; we would’ve asked for it back, but returning sounds like more fun.
So what did we learn from this journey into Canada’s scenic winter wonderland? That experiencing a Canadian winter should be on everyone’s bucket list. The activities, the atmosphere, the wildlife; this place is where Pinterest would holiday for winter, based on scenery alone.
Geckos new Canadian winter festivals itinerary will show you exactly what I’m talking about when I say the cold air cures everything, so stay tuned. And don’t forget to pack your thermals, because those minus twenty temperatures really bite.
See what all the fuss is about on a Geckos small group adventure in Canada.
All images c/o Tia Duck.