This winter, everyone and their cousin is skiing at Banff. Which is great—the Canadian Rockies have some of the best slopes in the world—but the great north has many more destinations on offer, most of which don’t suffer from the same crowds. A number of Canada’s best winter activities are in more faraway places, making them less convenient than a ski resort accessible by a dozen different highways. Fortunately, for Volkswagen models with 4MOTION® all-wheel drive, these remote destinations can be as easily reached as local resorts. The always-on system responds dynamically to road conditions so that it’s on when you need the traction and off when you need the increased fuel efficiency. Even more, 4MOTION® can read the road and redistribute power to the wheels that have the most control. Outfitted with a Volkswagen Tiguan, Atlas, or Golf, you can make these off-the-beaten-trail activities your next trip this winter.
- Mushing in Saskatchewan
There are a number of organizations in this western province that can set you up with a dogsled, but Sundogs Sled Excursions is one of the most highly rated. With a variety of packages, from 60-minute introductory sessions on child-friendly sleds, to overnight dogsled excursions, Sundogs offers experiences for a range of visitors. The camp is located about 65 kilometers north of Prince Albert, a drive which takes place mostly on a highway, though the final stretch is a gravel road—a perfect scenario for a versatile always-on all-wheel drive.
- Camping on Prince Edward Island
Canada’s smallest province in both land mass and population is the perfect destination for a winter camping trip. Of course, camping in the winter is a different beast than camping in the summer—major parks like Prince Edward Island National Park close down their summer facilities and ask that visitors refrain from pitching tents in treacherous conditions. (That’s not to say camping in winter isn’t allowed; you’ll just find yourself without services and facilities.) However, organizations like Treetop Haven have sprung up to help outdoorsy folk find accommodations year-round. With five geodesic domes—each equipped with a bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, and grill—Treetop Haven in Mount Tryon is the perfect introduction to winter camping for the whole family.
- Polar Bear Safari
The remote town of Churchill, Manitoba, is accessible only by a plane that leaves from the equally remote city of Thompson. To get to Thompson, you’ll first have to drive eight hours north of Winnipeg over some country highways with sporadic weather conditions. Those who brave the trip north to the Hudson Bay will be rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime experience: a polar bear safari. Besides being a great place to view the Northern Lights, Churchill is known for its large population of polar bears. Organizations like Churchill Wild and Natural World Safaris will take guests in large, raised, reinforced vehicles across the tundra to seek out these majestic animals. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget.
- Ice Hotel in Québec City
If you’re more of a city dweller, you can still experience a taste of the great Canadian outdoors in the cosmopolitan city of Québec. The Hotel de Glace, open from the first week of January through the end of March, contains 85 rooms sculpted from ice—everything, from the walls to the beds themselves are carved from sculpted blocks of ice and packed snow. Despite how uninviting that may sound, the Hotel de Glace is closer to glamping than an actual igloo. Thick deer hides, arctic sleeping bags, private spas, and even fireplaces make this igloo a cozy retreat.
- Ice Fishing at Lake Simcoe, Ontario
Located an hour north of Toronto, Lake Simcoe is said to have some of the best ice fishing in Canada. In fact, as a fishing destination, Lake Simcoe is actually more popular in the winter months than in warmer weather, and it also hosts the Canadian Ice Fishing Championship annually. Trout, whitefish, and yellow perch are common catches, but the lucky angler might walk away with a northern pike. Ice huts are available to rent from a number of providers. Getting there involves some light highway driving, but watch out for snow and ice. While these conditions might keep the crowds away, a Volkswagen can handle these rougher roads, meaning you’ll have that hut all to yourself.
- Snowshoeing in a national park
Most any national park throughout the country will make a great snowshoeing destination: Algonquin, Gatineau, Moose Mountain, Whistler, and so on. Look for flat land or head to trails that are rated as moderate hikes in the summertime. The best days for snowshoeing, it should go without saying, are days when plenty of snow is on the ground (though preferably when it isn’t falling heavily). Unfortunately, good conditions for snowshoes are generally poor conditions for cars, which is where 4MOTION® all-wheel drive comes in handy. By responding to road conditions and intelligently adjusting where to grip the road, 4MOTION® will bring you safely to the most pristine locations.
- Heli-Skiing in British Columbia
For an adrenaline-fueled alternative to Banff or Whistler, consider jumping out of a helicopter into pure, untouched snow. Canadian Mountain Holidays, rated by Outside as the best heli-skiing location for beginners in North America, has eleven outposts spread across an area of British Columbia one-third the size of Switzerland. Reservations include accommodations, meals, equipment, and certified guides, who will escort groups into the deep west. Luxury lodges provide a comforting base, while kid-friendly activities like treasure hunts and snowball fights curb the danger of the sport. CMH recommends heli-skiers get into good shape before visiting, as the sport is strenuous. Likewise, you won’t want to approach the mountain without being prepared. The roads running through British Columbia are prone to dangerous conditions, and you won’t want to tackle them without all-wheel drive and winter tires on a car prepared for the journey.
Canada is at its best during the winter, so why limit yourself to the same old experiences? With a 4MOTION® equipped Volkswagen, the entire country is at your leisure.