Winter in Canada: 15 tips for survival

Check out these tips from an Aussie that came to travel Canada, and who’s short winter vacation has turned into a permanent new home between Banff & Vancouver. She learned from the locals how to make the most of winter in Canada.

Snowboarders on a chair lift in Banff

Time to relax after a long day on the hill

Get prepared for winter vacations in North America and travel Canada in comfort with this “Survive winter in Canada” checklist:

Winter in Canada minus 36

Minus 36 and sunny! During the winter in Canada, sun equals cold.

1. Check the average temperature of your destination for the month you arrive.

You wouldn’t believe how many people arrive in Banff in January and say “I actually had no idea it would be THIS cold!! Research your winter vacations and know whether you’ll be expecting 0 degrees & raining (Vancouver), the -5 to -20 bracket or getting the extremes of -40 (Banff). Winter in Canada can change every year – so be prepared to be flexible. But be warned – winter in Canada is cold!

2. Purchase appropriate clothing for your winter vacation.

If you’re budgeting, then it’s understandable to get what you can at a thrift store (and most small Canadian towns will have good second hand options). However, there is a reason why that new jacket in the window is $280; you will feel like a super hero wearing it for 4 days in minus 30. Prioritize one or two important items you might buy new to make you most comfortable for winter in Canada.

3. Get proper winter socks.

Spending $30 on a pair of socks might seem strange at first (I thought so) – but when they are dry at the end of a snowboarding day & you can still feel your toes wiggle, you’ll realize it’s a good investment. This item alone could change your experience of winter in Canada!

4. Learn from the Russians but drink from Central America!

Many cultures have used their locally crafted vodkas in the Northern Hemisphere to keep up the body warmth during long winters. But instead of slamming down vodka, imagining yourself in a furry Russian hat, try drinking AGWA coca leaf liqueur and imagine yourself bathing in the sunshine in a hammock next to a beach!! (See your Beaver bartender for this tropically powerful AGWA elixir).

iceskating during winter in Canada

Stay active through the long winter in Canada & try indoor or outdoor ice skating

5. Stay active.

Winter in Canada offers a playground of endless activities to keep you from going stir crazy. So don’t just stay indoors for 6 months. Besides the obvious snowboarding and skiing, try winter activities like snowshoeing, ice fishing, tobogganing, tubing, curling or ice skating. (Your local Samesun Backpackers will have lots of fun group events to try during your winter vacation).

6. Perspective.

Think of how everything else in your life after this will feel that much warmer. Appreciate the comparison to living through a winter in Canada.

Frozen eyelashes actually happen!

Frozen eyelashes actually happen!

7. Be prepared for your boogers to freeze.

Yes, this is a high probability if you live a winter in the Canadian Rockies. It feels weird but kinda funny so you’ll laugh at the same time, which will cause your frozen eyes to water and then your eyelashes will start to freeze over. Yes this is the truth of winter in Canada. How to deal with it….. walk quickly!

8. Be careful on black ice (or any ice for that matter).

A lot of injuries happen during extreme winter sports like snowboarding, but you need to be careful just walking back from the shops on sections of sidewalk that might be 6 inches of ice. Watch your step!

Snowboarding on Cypress Mountain

Snowboarding on Cypress Mountain

9. Soup.

Soup is good during the long winter in Canada. Make lots of it and share it with your friends.

10. Make lots of friends

…. and hug them all the time (after sharing a bowl of soup). Sharing body temperatures is a great way to stay warm and a good excuse to get to know someone better (wink wink).

11. The best protection from the winter in Canada is

….. a condom. Best way to warm up is to hop in the sack with a new friend (or old friend) so make sure your doing it right!

12. Try Canada’s famous Fireball whiskey!

If you haven’t yet tried this local cinnamon whiskey, a few sips from a concealed hit flask (or a quick shot from your local Beaver Bar) and you’ll get a warm buzz building in your chest. A staple item for any Canadian winter survival kit and good for putting tips 10 & 11 into action.

how to dress for winter in Canada

Spend an extra minute making a nice tight bundle so the winter weather can’t sneak inside

13. Learn how to wrap layers.

Here’s an example of dressing for a minus 35 winter day in the Rockies. Start with a tanktop, a long sleeve thermal, a t-shirt, a flano (flanollette), a hoodie, a neck warmer & toque, then pull the hood over the toque, wrap a scarf around the hood & toque covering your mouth so only the eyes are showing. Then add the jacket. Pull the jacket hood over the neck warmer, toque, hoodie hood & scarf. Zip up jacket. Put on gloves. Now you are locked in. (Side effects are; you can’t feel, hear or answer your phone when it rings nor recognize anyone walking along the street towards you).

14. Learn to say toque.

It will come in conversation nearly everyday during a long winter in Canada. Don’t let Aussies try to argue that it’s a beanie – if you feel the weather outside – Canadian’s definitely have the right to name this essential winter item (just as Aussie can name board shorts “boardies”).



Watch as many hockey games as you could possibly fit in, once you get addicted you’ll never want winter to end.


Then next year you just can’t wait for winter in Canada to start again so you can get rugged up, drink fireball & AGWA while eating lots of soup with friends that might soon be more than friends, while watching hockey, wearing a toque talking about your awesome day snowboarding & how winter in Canada is the best!

Big White Ski & Snowboard Resort is a 45 min drive from Samesun Kelowna

Big White Ski & Snowboard Resort is a 45 min drive from Samesun Kelowna!


• Don’t mind freezing your balls off – get great winter packages in Banff!

• Like it mild & damp – Vancouver’s weekly rates will tempt you.

• Feel like settling down for a long quiet season – Kelowna’s monthly rates will make you part of the family.