Canada's Top Winter Destinations
From Whistler to Banff to Montreal, this winter’s best places to ski, snowboard—and even surf—in Canada.
Ottawa and Gatineau Park
Ontario & Quebec
Near the border of Québec
At just under five miles, the Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, is the largest naturally frozen rink in the world. Skaters glide past ice sculptures, Canadian parliament buildings, and the National Arts Centre all the way to the Dows Lake Pavilion. (Bring your own skates or rent a pair from on-ice kiosks.) For post-skate cocktails, the place to be is Zoe’s Lounge, overlooking the canal at the Fairmont Château Laurier (pictured; rooms, from $150; 1 Rideau St.; 866-540-4410; fairmont.com). The newly renovated Westin also offers great city views. The National Gallery of Canada is famous for Inuit art and its Group of Seven artists. The ByWard Market offers four square blocks of more than 120 places to eat, drink, and shop. Great places to dine are Restaurant e18hteen, housed in a 19th-century limestone building, and Le Café at the National Arts Centre.
Just minutes outside Ottawa, across the Québec border, Gatineau Park offers nearly 125 miles of trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. An hour from Ottawa, the magnificent thirties red cedar log–built Fairmont Le Château Montebello (rooms, from $210; 392 Notre Dame; 866-540-4462; fairmont.com) is arguably the most impressive resort in eastern Canada.
The Laurentian Mountains
From January through April the charming cobblestoned streets of Old Montreal are best explored with snow boots. The stylish Hotel St. Paul (rooms, from $190; 355 Mcgill; 866-380-2202; hotelstpaul.com) and the elegant St. James Hotel (rooms, from $380; 355 St.-Jacques St.; 514-841-3111; hotellestjames.com) are excellent places to warm up and settle in. Top wine bars for unwinding are Les Cavistes and Bouchonné Comptoir à Vin. For dining, it’s the romantic Club Chasse Et Pêche or the more lively Chez L’Epicier in the heart of the old city. Just outside Montreal are the Laurentian Mountains. Mont Saint Saveur is home to Canada’s only Alpine coasting experience, where sliders ride on toboggans for close to a mile along steel rails at speeds of more than 20 miles per hour. Nearby Mont Tremblant is one of eastern North America’s biggest ski resorts. Based around a colorful pedestrian village and Lake Tremblant, it features great skiing, snowboarding, sleigh rides, and skating. Both slopeside and by the lakeshore, the Quintessence Resort (rooms, from $335; 3004 Chemin de la Chapelle; 866-425-3400; hotelquintessence.com) offers 30 high-end suites, each with woodburning fireplaces.
St. Lawrence River Valley
More than 400 years old, Québec City’s unique architecture and winding streets make it the most romantic place to celebrate winter in Canada. The Fairmont Chateau Frontenac (rooms, from $195; 1 Rue de Carrières; 866-540-4460; fairmont.com) overlooks the St. Lawrence River and features a miniature maple “sugar shack” near the 270-foot Glissades de la Terrasse toboggan ride. In the heart of the old city, the Auberge Saint-Antoine (rooms, from $145; 8 St.-Antoine St.; 888-692-2211; saint-antoine.com) is Québec’s finest hotel, perfectly integrating modern style with historic accents. Its restaurant, Panache, is a treat, as are gourmet hot spots St-Amour, L’Echaudé, La Fenouillière, and Ristorante il Matto. Every January a new rendition of the popular Hôtel de Glace, or Ice Hotel, made from chunks of ice but containing fireplaces and fur-lined beds, is unveiled. Cross-country skiing can be done in the heart of Québec City for eight-plus miles along the historic Plains of Abraham, the battleground of the French and the English in the 1700s. Nearby Mont-Ste.-Anne is for downhill skiing. At Place d’Youville an ice-skating rink is ringed by the old walls. And from the end of January through mid-February, Québec City celebrates Carnival (carnaval.qc.ca) with special emphasis on an international ice sculpture competition, canoe races, dogsledding, and music.