How I Learned to Love the Canadian Winter

All it took was an exhilarating B.C. mountain hike for this fan of warm weather to see the true beauty of winter.

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Canadian winter - two young women at Poland Lake, B.C.
Photo: Sarah Bruce

I Normally Spend the Winter Hibernating…

Considering I am Canadian, I sure do hate winter. Especially here on the “wet” coast where we don’t even get those magical snow days when the world glistens white. It’s just cold. And it rains a lot. You see, I prefer summer—hiking the North Shore Mountains, surfing the Tofino waves and basking in the elusive sun that only shines for a couple of months each year in Vancouver. I love the outdoors, but I normally spend Canadian winters hibernating and wishing it was June. And yet, on a Friday night in early January last year, when my friend Christina asked if I wanted to go on an adventure the following day, I somehow said yes.

I allowed myself to be dragged outside on a cold, damp Saturday morning before the sun was up. We drove towards the mountains. As one hour turned to two and the rain turned to snow, even I had to admit the snowscape was beautiful.

The plan was to snowshoe through the backcountry along a mountain ridge to a small lake that would be frozen this time of year. I didn’t dare admit that not only had I never snowshoed before, but the thought of having to spend multiple hours out in the cold terrified me.

“Oh, you’ll be warm,” Christina said, grinning. “It’s 12 kilometres and up a ski slope.”

That’s what I was afraid of. My summer fitness was somewhere with my hiking boots and jean shorts, not with my snow pants and ski jacket.

We arrived at Manning Park as the sun rose pink. A warning? I hoped not. I stuffed “foot warmers” into my boots and strapped my foreign snowshoes to my feet. I looked on enviously at the skiers heading up the same hill via chairlift that we intended to climb. But enthusiastic and outdoorsy Christina led me away from such luxuries as we began our ascent.

Was she ever right about being warm. Within minutes I was tearing off layers and tucking them into my backpack. But as one step turned into two and the kilometres fell away, I looked up and realized she was also right about winter, it was absolutely gorgeous up here!

Check out more places in Canada every Canadian needs to visit.

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Canadian winter - North Cascade mountain range
Photo: Sarah Bruce

The North Cascade Mountain Range

Being someone better used to summer outdoor activities, I was surprised to find how comfortable I was out here in five feet of snow, especially as my snowshoes gave me the superhuman power of walking on top of the snow. As we were the first ones up the mountain, and away from the ski resort, we had to break our own trail on the way to the lake. Everything before us was so pristine and amazing. Up on the ridge, surrounded by snow-cloaked trees, mountain vistas reaching away from us, I was awestruck.

I’m not going to say it was easy. We had to take turns marching the six kilometres through fresh powder, as breaking trail requires a bit of hard labour, but it was worth it.

We reached the lake in a couple of hours and the smooth surface took my breath away as the sun came out from behind the trees and stretched our shadows north across the sparkling expanse of ice. After checking that the ice was thick, we crossed over, marvelling at the shoreline of evergreens. After all that exercise, and with the sun being so friendly, I found I was as warm and happy as I ever was in the middle of July.

I couldn’t believe it. Here I thought I’d have to fly to Mexico to achieve this level of Vitamin D and bliss in the middle of January and yet here, on a frozen lake, miles from anywhere, I fell in love with winter.

Check out more stunning Canadian winter photography.

Originally Published in Our Canada

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