Last Saturday was the first day of snow. The first snow is always beautiful and I always forgot that it’s the beginning of a long Quebec winter. I was thinking to write-up an article about activities in winter in Quebec. I thought I will do it later on, perhaps in January when the snow is up to my butt, then BAMMMMMM!! This happens the very next day. Everything is white and frozen…
It’s only the beginning of November, y’all, and I already need to put on my crampons to walk. I guess I don’t need to wait till January to write the article, so here it goes.
This winter marked my 7th year of living overseas. I have been experiencing all sorts of badassery in these past years. Mostly unnecessary ones. One of the basic skills of surviving I learned from winter in Quebec is how to keep warm. When the temperature plunges below -20 C, it is acceptable by society to wear double sweatshirts, a flannel long sleeves shirt, a pair of fleece long johns, a pair of thermal leggings, heated socks, a pair of jeans, a knitted, double layered wool beanie, merino scarf, and a full-body snowsuit with the hood up. You might want to skip wearing a bra tho because that would be just too much. Yet you will always see Canadians who still wear shorts in winter. They are basically polite zombies with a nice attitude.
Quebec is truly a winter wonderland. Winter lasts EIGHT frickin’ months every year, which means all the other seasons are compacted in only four months! Don’t blink or you will miss summer. Yep, the weather getting colder and colder starting in October, by Halloween, no kids can even go trick-or-treating in their costume without a thick layer of clothings. The weather plummets aaaall the way to -30 C easily in February and by this time, the snow would pile up higher than myself, and I am 5’7’’ btw. You can only see the ground again sometime in June when the snow has melted.
Canadians, Quebecois (Quebeckers) in particular, shine in winter. They are as happy as puppies and mud they shouldn’t be rolling in. Their ancestors have accepted their faith to have winter as a way of living. They came up with tons of interesting activities in winter. Easy example, guess what they do to entertain toddler having tantrums in -20C? They pour liquid maple taffy on the snow and give the toddler a stick so he/she can roll up the frozen taffy to make their own taffy candy stick. This trick works for adults with tantrums too. Okay fine, the adults mean me.
Forget about throwing snow fight or make a snowman, because that’s amateur. There are far more advanced and badassser winter activities available in Quebec, here are the 10 of them that end up become my activities every winter:
1. Ice skating in the forest
Yes, at one point, even lakes and forests freeze over. The whole province is suddenly a big giant rink. So why don’t we just skate on it, shall we? It’s just like another romantic stroll in the forest, holding hands your partner while wearing knives on our shoes.
2. Ice fishing
Oh wait, the lakes are frozen solid on the top layer, but the fish are still alive down at the bottom right? And they must be hungry, let’s fish’em!!
Do you know that the Ste. Anne river in Quebec is the world capital for tomcod winter fishing? For more than 70 years, colorful fishing villages are set up along the river every winter, make it one of the most known place to do winter fishing in the world.
Licensed fishing outfitters will set up wooden cabins over the frozen lake for you to fish in. These cabins are rentable per 10 hours for as cheap as 60$ each, and although it looks tiny, it can actually fits up to 10 adults comfortably. The price includes a heated fishing cabin, baits, parking (at your cabin door), power outlet, firewood, anti-fall fishing holes system, and fishing license. PS: there's no limit of how many fish you can fish per visit, you can fish as much as you can. Tomcod fish is lazy. They tend to fall easily for baits made of shrimp, it makes it very easy to fish them. Seriously, I caught more than 60 fishes and it was my first winter fishing.
3. Visiting Christmas market
Shopping indoor? Why shop indoor while you can shop outdoor enjoying the cold weather, showered with nature’s unicolor frozen confetti called snow?
With the surplus of snow, we have every winter, you can do almost any types of skiing in Quebec; alpine, backcountry, cross-country, you name it, I hate it.
5. Winter carnival
When winter reaches its peak and it’s bitter cold outside, it’s time to party according to the Quebecois’s logic. Quebec City holds the biggest annual winter carnival in North America on January. The city lights up and rocks the two-weeks festivities with over 200 activities, including ice sculpting competition, parade, and more. And somehow all the party-goers, which mostly the Quebecois, seem to be able to actually enjoy and have fun when they are susceptible to frostbite.
6. Hotel de Glace
Each and every year since 2001, Quebec holds the biggest and the only true ice hotel in North America. The event last for 3 months, from January to March. As literal as it sounds, ice hotel or Hotel de Glace we call it here in Quebec, is a temporary hotel constructed from ice and snow. Basically an igloo for the bourgeois.
Can you really sleep in it? You bet you can! The decoration of each room is different from one room to another, which is pretty cool. You can even have your wedding here since Quebec Hotel de Glace does not only have rooms but also ice chapel and bar! I will visit this hotel next year, and surely will write about it :)
Snowshoeing is one hell of a killer winter workout I learned to love. The best place to snowshoe is actually in national parks. Imagine being surrounded by nothing but white, fluffy, snow in utter silence (except for your heart beating hard from all those heavy steps you take while snowshoeing (and perhaps yourself panting)).
8. Nordic spa
You haven’t really experienced winter until you’ve experienced the body tingling, nipples harden, moustache frozen results of a Nordic spa treatment amidst Quebec’s winter natural glory. The nordic spa is a relaxation method using the sharp contrast between hot and cold. This kind of spa will make you wear nothing but your swimsuit and your winter beanie outdoor. Soaking in an outdoor hot pool while the snow pour down on you is pretty relaxing, until you have to get out of that pool and run to take the next pool which usually an ice-cold pool (or a natural river!) and take a quick dip, before you take a refuge in the sauna, and end the circuit in the steam-bath. Although it might sounds like extreme, this kind of spa is actually good for body immune and skin elasticity.
9. Village Nordik
Quebec City’s port (Bassin Louise) at the downtown freezes solid by the end of December for approx. 3 to 4 months. The frozen surface then transformed into a wintry fun for visitors of all ages to skate, slides, and even experience an urban winter fishing. There is even a service for those who caught some fishes and wanted to eat their fish on the spot. Since it’s located right in the downtown area, this place usually is packed with winter tourists.
10. Romantic stroll in Vieux Quebec
This one is my absolute favorite. Vieux Quebec area is beautiful all year long, but I find it most beautiful during winter when everything is covered by snow and all you see is colorful historical buildings lit up with lights.