Winter Weather in Canada:
interesting facts, stereotypes and trivia
If you’re looking for igloos everywhere…
or furry coated Vikings…
Oops! That’s not a Viking! Well, anyways, you’ll be out of luck!
Canada’s winter climate is anything but dull and not always what people expect.
This should give you some idea of what we Canucks endure over the winter:
Let’s start with British Columbia, home to Vancouver where the 2010 Winter Olympic games were held. British Columbia has the warmest climate in Canada, and places where it rarely snows in the winter. Temperatures around Vancouver and Victoria may drop to around -7C at the absolute coldest.
During the 2010 Olympic games, snow was at such a premium that they had to bring in snow making machines, so the skiers and snowboarders had something to race on. Winter temperatures in parts of British Columbia can be so mild you will often see people out wearing shorts and sandals.
Even some Canada Post Carriers wear shorts all year long!
People often sit outside on patios enjoying the fresh air even in January as many of the restaurant and coffee shop patios come equipped with patio heaters and even throws to keep you cosy. There are even palm trees planted along English Bay that live here year-round.
If you’re planning on visiting one of the prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan or Manitoba get ready to enjoy temperatures sometimes reaching down to around -35 or more! In fact, Edmonton, Alberta reached a balmy -42C on February 05, 2019! When I lived in Edmonton, sometimes it got so cold in January that the snow squeaked when walking on it and when starting my car, snow blew in from the vents making it look like it was snowing inside my car!
Most people who live here use block heaters on their cars. A block heater is basically plugging your engine in when you’re not using it to keep it warm enough so that it will start when you’re ready to use your car. Talk about cold!
However, all that cold weather gets compensated with some spectacular views of the Northern Lights also known as the Aurora Borealis.
Calgary, Alberta is home to a warm winter wind call the “Chinook”. When this wind blows by, it often raises those cold winter temperatures up to around 20C in less than an hour! No surprise that in Blackfoot, “chinook” means “snow eater”.
One thing about the cold prairie winters is that it always gives you something to talk about. In fact, in 1980, an Alberta group of musicians called “Showdown” got so inspired by the cold temperatures that they wrote a song called “The Rodeo Song” which became a big hit. It starts with “Well it’s 40 below and I don’t give a … “well, I’ll let you go ahead and check out the rest of the lyrics for yourself.
The eastern provinces of Ontario, Quebec and parts of the Maritime provinces sometimes have to weather ice storms, which is basically frozen rain. In 1998, there was an ice storm that hit southern Ontario, Quebec and parts of the Maritimes. It was so intense that power lines froze, roads turned into sheets of ice, huge chunks of ice fell from buildings and barns and roofs collapsed under the weight of the heavy, ice and snow. Some people were without power for nearly one month before the lines could get repaired.
The northern territories of Canada, known as the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunuvut, all begin north of the 60thparallel, with parts located within the Arctic Circle
An old friend of mine lived for a few years in a little town by the name of Tuktoyaktuk located in the far north of the Northwest Territories. This town is found in the “land of the Midnight Sun” in the summer, and also the land of no sun in the winter! Yes…in this far northern area of Canada, the sun never rises for many days over the winter, often from the beginning of December to the middle of January. No problems viewing the Northern Lights here!
Us crazy Canucks have so embraced our Canadian winter weather that every New Year’s Day some of us dress up in our shorts, swimsuits or various creative costumes and join in on what is known as the Polar Bear Dip, plunging ourselves into the cold Canadian waters of the northern Pacific Ocean and various other bodies of Canada’s freezing cold waters. The very first one was held at English Bay in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1910 with a group of about 10 brave plungers belonging to the Polar Bear Swim Club. Today, thousands of people in various places across Canada take part in this brisk chilling start to the new year!
As you can see, Canada’s winter climate is extremely diverse.
So next time you plan your winter visit to Canada, besides packing your winter jacket and “toque”, remember to throw in your bathing suit and a pair of flip-flops!