When I told my friends and family I was going to Canada for the year they always asked, “Are you crazy going there in winter?! Do you know how cold it gets?”. I always responded with “Ach, it’ll be grand!” , but as winter approached and the city started to prepare for the snow, by removing summer terraces and closing some paths, fear started to kick in. Was my winter coat thick enough? What snow boots do I buy? Will I get frostbite? I had all these questions and no one seemed to be able to give me the answers, so I have found out the hard way and I am going to pass on what I have learnt to you.
Before I start, I must explain that 2016 has brought a very mild winter. The whole of first semester I waited for snow, and waited, and waited, and waited… it never came. Montréal is normally a city which is guaranteed a white Christmas, but not this year. In fact on Christmas Eve it was 18 degrees Celsius in Montréal, which in Glasgow would mean “taps aff”. January has brought some snow but it doesn’t stay long due to the few warm days (3 or 4 degrees Celsius), causing the snow to melt and ice rinks to melt. Even the refrigerated ice rinks have had to be closed because it is too warm to keep them frozen.
- FEAR NOT – It is not as bad as you think. I thought I would just want to stay indoors all the time with a cup of tea and a wee French book, but it is quite the opposite! Every time it snows I just want to get “happed up”, go outside for a walk and see all my favourite places under a fresh blanket of snow. In Glasgow we are used to rain everyday and in autumn some nice colours, a bit of snow in winter if we are lucky, but Montréal is like a totally new place in every season. For this reason it is very difficult to get bored, there is so much to do, which brings me to my next point..
- WINTER ACTIVITIES ARE GREAT –
- pick up a pair of second-hand skates (mine were £4) and skate on natural frozen lakes in parks (for FREE!) – I thought I would get fat in winter as I wouldn’t be exercising but actually I have found I exercise so much more with all the winter activities. I have found a love for ice skating and am making the most of it! And actually, tonight I am going to a contemporary ice skating show at my local park, where they do a performance then help beginners. There is also a 12km ice skating path in the forest a few hours away from Montréal. How unique!
- Snow tubing
- Dog sledding
- Horse and sleigh rides
- Snow Yoga – I am a big fan of the free snow yoga lessons that take place throughout several parks in the city every week.
- Snow shoeing
- Cross-country skiing – this can be done on Mont-Royal, the mountain in the middle of the city.
- Ice climbing
- Ski/snowboard – at Mont Tremblant, the nearest resort (approx. 1.5hours from Montréal)
- Igloofest – an electronic music festival which takes place four weekends in Jan/Feb
- Winter Festivals – Montréal hosts it’s very own winter festival called Fete-des-neiges and Québec hosts a very well known winter festival featuring an ice hotel.
- and these are just a few activities!
The activities and opportunities are endless and there are so many things to take advantage of during a Canadian winter, which are not possible in the UK. It is such an unique opportunity and has a lot of positives if you’re willing to wrap up warm and face the cold!
Many student organisations (e.g. Interstude, various Universities, and even my halls of residence) in Montréal organise trips to the countryside so you can take full advantage of these activities.
I have a lot more winter advice to give regarding how to dress and where to shop for winter clothes without spending $600 on a coat, but I will save that for my next blog!
This weekend is to be -27 degrees and I am going to the Québec Winter Carnival, so maybe next week I will be writing a blog on how awful and unbearable winter is but for now, it is nothing to worry about but rather something to look forward to!
As always, please get in contact with any questions!