Montreal Snow and Ski

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Montreal Snow and Ski
Anyone who thinks of Canada surely pictures vast spaces covered in a fresh layer of snow and subzero temperatures. Fortunately, Montreal knows how to make the most of winter, and it welcomes intrepid visitors undaunted by the chill.
By Marie-Eve Vallieres, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of Linda Turgeon/Tourism Québec
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    Ideal Ski Day Trips from Montreal
    While you can practice many winter sports within the city limits, it's also exciting to hit the road and head to the massive, snowy mountains outside Montreal. Ski resorts like Bromont and Saint-Bruno are just under an hour's drive away and offer downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowboarding—even after nightfall. Local powder hounds are fond of Le Massif right outside Quebec City, with over 50% of its runs in the “black diamond” category. Other possibilities include the ski villages of Mont-Tremblant and Mont Saint-Sauveur; the latter has a dozen runs dedicated entirely to tubing.
    Photo courtesy of Linda Turgeon/Tourism Québec
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    Where to Do Winter Sports in the City
    Bundle up in your toque and mittens, because Montreal doesn’t do things by halves when it comes to wintry workouts. While it is possible to do just about any winter sport on top of Mont-Royal—including downhill skiing and tubing—avid cross-country skiers should head to Parc-Nature du Bois de l’Île-Bizard, which offers the most enchanting winter wonderland setting thanks to considerable quantities of snow and dense forests filled with mature trees. Snowshoers will enjoy the tranquil scenery at Parc-Nature du Cap Saint-Jacques and the short but challenging trails of Parc-Nature Bois-de-Liesse (not to mention its cozy chalets for post-workout hot cocoa). Toboggan fans will find their pick at quaint riverside Parc de l’Île de la Visitation.
    Photo courtesy of Tourism Québec
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    Picturesque Wintry Escapes from Montreal
    The province of Quebec is well-known for its quaint, picturesque villages. The compact forests and numerous lakes in the Laurentides region certainly make for the picture-perfect Canadian postcard, as do the beautiful lakeside chapel in Saint-Alphonse and the wholesome locals of Saint-Sauveur. Another option can be found in the rolling hills of the Eastern Townships, which are as bucolic as scenery gets. Villages like Hudson, with its gourmet market, microbrewery, and century-old houses have a slight English feel, as does nearby Sutton. The ultimate wintry escape from Montreal surely is Quebec City, with the snow-capped Château Frontenac, its 400+ year-old historic center, and festive winter Carnival, held every February.
    Photo courtesy of Marc-André Côté/Tourism Québec
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    Ice-Skating with a View in Old Montreal
    Whenever a snowstorm hits, covering the city in a fresh layer of snow, one can hardly feel anything other than excitement, especially in Old Montreal. The Bonsecours Quay is iconic year-round, but also quite festive in the colder months, thanks to a popular and entertaining ice skating rink. For just $6, skaters can relish the view of downtown Montreal and the Old Port, especially the historic Bonsecours Market, while enjoying the music and the colorful lighting, all in a truly unique urban ambience. Each night has a different theme (including Classical Mondays and Retro Fridays).
    Photo courtesy of Tourism Québec
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    Overnight in the Ice Hotel
    Because traveling to one of North America's coldest places wouldn’t be worth it without the full winter experience, right? And when Montrealers say “full winter experience,” they really mean ice hotel. While there isn’t one in Montreal as of yet, Quebec City’s hotel is popular and is just a few hours away. The ephemeral hotel mimics traditional igloos, with a few non-traditional amenities, including a bar, a chapel, a sugar shack and, of course, Nordic spas. Quebec City as a whole is an idyllic winter destination, especially near Château Frontenac and Petit-Champlain, and is well worth the short car or train ride.
    Photo courtesy of Mathieu Dupuis/Tourism Québec
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    Quirky Winter Activities in Montreal
    Because not all winter sports are born equal or are equally loved, visitors in search of an off-the-beaten-path type of winter experience are sure to find it in Montreal, with offerings like ice fishing on the mighty St. Lawrence River. If that seems too humdrum, why not play a game of curling (also known as “chess on ice”), or take a snowshoe guided tour of Mont-Royal. The city also offers a winter lights photo walk, tobogganing by Beaver Lake, and women’s hockey. For those who'd rather have their winter sport indoors, there is also the possibility of year-round ice-skating at the rink inside 1000 de la Gauchetière, one of downtown’s skyscrapers.
    Photo courtesy of Benoit Cecile/Tourism Québec
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    The Coolest Festivals in the World
    Montreal really does have the coolest festivals in the world, both figuratively and literally. Indeed, the city's social calendar seems its fullest in the dead of winter. Two of the year's most popular festivals, Igloofest and Montréal en Lumière, take place in the dark, cold months. The former is an electronic music festival held in the Igloo Village in the Old Port. Thousands of revelers clad in their kitschiest 90s one-piece snowsuits meet and dance the night away under the stars. The latter is a festival of arts that gathers over 900,000 people every year in the name of creativity, regardless of genre. And don't miss White Night, when museums and galleries stay open all night and free outdoor performances abound.
    Photo courtesy of Tourism Québec
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    Dogsledding in Montreal
    A true staple of Nordic culture, dogsledding has also been part of Canadian history for centuries. Although it is now more of a hobby than a necessary form of transport, it's no less pleasurable. From January to March, travelers can opt to go on a quick urban ride at Parc Jean-Drapeau, located on an island right in front of downtown Montreal. Cue spectacular views of the city. Visitors who really love winter may prefer to explore beyond city limits, opting to dogsled at Mont-Tremblant or in Quebec City for a genuine wintry experience. Both regions offer thrilling rides through the forests and up the mountains, where the peaceful setting is only interrupted by the panting of the huskies racing ahead at full throttle.
    Photo courtesy of Sébastien Cloutier/Tourism Québec
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    Warm Up and Smell the Coffee
    Because it just isn’t human to stay outdoors in subzero temperatures for more than a few hours at a time, coffee stops are an integral part of any winter outing in Montreal. The city has an impressive quantity of independent coffee shops that have nothing to do with the infamous Canadian chain everyone raves about. No, Montreal is the real deal. From authentic cappuccinos in Little Italy to hipster-pulled espressos at artsy cafés in the Mile End, and the odd non-touristy hole-in-the-wall in Old Montreal, coffee shops and latte art abound in this caffeinated city. Local favorites include Pikolo, Arts, San Simeon, Tommy Café, and Beaufort Café.
    Photo by Wallace Weeks/age fotostock