By Afton Aikens
Banff is famous for its world-class skiing, but those who’ve been here know the community’s appetite for all things winter is just as remarkable. When in Banff, you don’t hide indoors from the snow—you run outside and dive in (not necessarily literally).
SnowDays is an annual festival that runs from January 10 to February 8 this year, and offers tons of opportunities for you to have a ball in a winter wonderland.
This original winter festival is back to celebrate its 45th year. Explore Winnipeg’s French pioneer history with the whole family, during this interactive extravaganza. Try traditional treats, like maple taffy, marvel at magnificent snow sculptures, toboggan, or catch live music performances happening by day and night. Feb 14-23.
The Nathan Phillips Square skating rink is a popular spot for cold-weather revellers.
There may not be a lot to like about sub-zero temperatures, but one positive that Torontonians all agree on is that cold weather makes for some great outdoor skating. Long a favourite winter pastime for young and old alike, heading out for a spin around the ice is easy to do in this city, especially at two popular spots: Harbourfront Centre’s Natrel Rink offers lakeside views and special DJ skate nights, while at Nathan Phillips Square you can glide beside City Hall. Both rinks offer skate rentals so there’s no excuse not to hit the ice with the whole family. —Ana Taveira >> Natrel Rink at Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W., 416-973-4866; harbourfrontcentre.com, map and reviews
>> Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen St. W; toronto.ca, map and reviews
(photo: City of Toronto)
NOVEMBER 17 As winter weather arrives, there are few better ways to keep warm outdoors than by gathering with thousands of revelers to enjoy the Cavalcade of Lights. For the 45th year in a row, Toronto’s official kick-off to the holiday season decks City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen St. W.) with thousands of festive bulbs and a massive, beautifully decorated Christmas tree, and celebrates their inaugural illumination with musical performances and a fireworks display. The lights will remain aglow through the end of December, while public skating draws crowds so long as there’s a chill in the air. Free admission; dial 311 (within Toronto) or visit here for more information. —Ana Taveira
Leon Basin has a message: rollerblading is back, and he wants you to try it
By Sheri Radford
Leon Basin enjoys the challenge and creativity of rollerblading. Photo by KK Law
It was 1994 and Leon Basin was 12 years old, growing up in Tel Aviv, when the rollerblading craze swept the world. He wanted a pair. His parents, having watched Basin lose interest in swimming, chess, martial arts and handball, were hesitant to buy shiny new skates that might end up mothballed under the bed, so he saved every cent until he could afford to purchase a pair of his own.
It was love at first skate.
Canadian skater Kurt Browning is the choreographer of this year's Stars on Ice Canada tour
He’s been skating with Stars on Ice Canada (May 18 at Rogers Arena) since it began 21 years ago, and now Kurt Browning (pictured) is finally in the driver’s seat. This year marks his first as show director, leading an all-star line-up that includes recently minted World Champion ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Browning, himself a four-time World Champion and the first skater ever to land a quadruple jump in competition, says he’s excited to end the tour in Vancouver, where he once hiked Grouse Mountain. “If I didn’t think my 45-year-old legs would hate me during the show, I would do it again!” —Kristina Urquhart
We round up the best spots to grab a bite with the added enjoyment of watching skaters on the Rideau Canal.
Skaters take a snack break at the BeaverTails counter.
Located on the Rideau Canal Skateway, you can skate up to the window, order one of these delicious Canadian treats, and grab a spot on a picnic bench without ever leaving the ice. Be honest: isn’t one of the main reasons you go skating here to have a BeaverTail and a hot chocolate after?
Several locations along the Rideau Canal. www.beavertailsinc.com
This Italian restaurant boasts one of the most scenic views of the canal and is located right near one of the entrances to the skateway, so after you’re done your meal it’s easy to lace up your skates and join in on the fun. Rather watch? Snag a seat by the big windows and curl up with a specialty coffee.
375 Queen Elizabeth Dr. (at Fifth Avenue), 613-238-8998. www.canalritz.com
Part of the Royal Oak Pubs chain, this unique two-storey location is situated near the Pretoria Bridge, which crosses over the canal. Order a pint, relax by the fire, and enjoy some colourful people watching. It’s also a top spot to head after you’ve traversed the ice and need to refuel.
221 Echo Dr., 613- 234-3700. www.royaloakpubs.com