Canadian Geographic – Winter Travel 2016
WINTER IN EDMONTON!
In the last few years, Edmonton has transformed itself into the continent’s Winter Capital. In fact, you’d have to travel all the way to northern Europe to fi nd another city that comes close to making the frosty months as action-packed and artistic as Canada’s northernmost metropolis.
With everything from labyrinthian ice castles and close encounters with national park bison to skate races and dancing under the stars (and northern lights, if you’re lucky) at one of Edmonton’s many cold-weather festivals, don’t be surprised if winter becomes your favourite season. And what could be more Canadian?
WHOEVER NAMED Churchill, Man., the “Polar Bear Capital of the World,” got it wrong.
Yes, each fall through early November it’s the best place on the planet to reliably see the iconic Arctic predators as they gather on the shore waiting for Hudson Bay to freeze so they can hunt (above). But the town at the 58th parallel offers so much more. It should have been called the “Northern Capital of the World.”
Beyond the bears, there’s a multitude of other amazing wildlife, including red and Arctic foxes, Arctic hares, ptarmigan and gyrfalcons, not to mention beluga whales, which gather in the thousands in the Churchill River estuary each June, where local outfi tters offer opportunities to kayak and swim with them.
Then there are the northern lights, which were partly the reason for my first visit last March. The other draw was a one of a kind, cold-weather fine-dining experience you can read more about on page 11.
(If I’m going to suggest they call it the “Northern Capital of the World,” visiting in winter must be worthwhile too, no?) The aurora borealis is typically most active from January through March, and because of the town’s location, it’s considered one of the best places on Earth to observe the show.
Another highlight of my March trip: dog sledding with David Daley of Wapusk Adventures. legendary Manitoban musher, Daley’s guests get a glimpse into his Métis heritage along with a crash course on the logistics and lingo of dog sledding — I now know lead dogs” from “point dogs” from “wheel dogs”! After that, guests hit a short trail in a ustom designed three-person sled that allows one rider to stand to get a feeling of what it’s like to drive the team.
More northern traditions are on display at the excellent Eskimo Museum. Housed in a school-gymnasium-sized space, it’s jammed with a fascinating collection of Inuit artifacts, from thousands of years ago to modern times. A big part of its appeal may be how surprising it is to fi nd such a phenomenal collection in a far-fl ung community.
Of course, Churchill keeps delivering such northern gems. So, be it there, or some other Canadian community, get out and embrace Canada’s winter travel opportunities this coming season.
Whether it’s Churchill or not, Canada is defi nitely home to the Northern Capital of the World. Go fi nd it, and enjoy it.