The Newcomer’s Canada Winter Guide

Picture this. 

You spent most of your life in a country that has a tropical climate. So, in this country, a typical summer day with temperatures above 20 degrees is normal for you. You have lived with this for many years. Hence, sweating profusely and donning cool clothing (if any, at all) has become quite common for you. 

But, one day, you decided that you wanted to experience a new culture, a new set of opportunities, and a new country. In fact, you wanted these experiences so much, that you have also decided to immigrate. So, you chose Canada as a new land to settle in.

But, in the middle of your immigration process, you realized that there was a problem. You learned about the weather conditions of the country. You found out that Canada has a temperate climate, which means that it has winter. And, Canada is famous for three things: hockey, maple trees, and of course, its cold winters.

Canada is the second-largest country in the world. It is North of the United States and only 817 kilometres from the North Pole. With that much land as well as its location, Canada is home to some of the coldest winters ever recorded. Simply put, Canadian winters are cold- very cold. 

This article is not meant to scare you. But, rather, it could give you information to make your stay here in the great North comfortable, safe, and even fun. Surely, at the end of this, you will consider Canada your dream winter destination and new home. 

Staying Warm

A good winter guide for Canada should begin with how to dress for winter. The average daily temperature over the colder areas of the country could be as low as -25 degrees Celsius. For your information, this is extremely cold. To help you imagine, ice could form at 5 degrees Celsius (not negative 5, take note). So, you could imagine how cold winter could be here. 

For these conditions, the first line of defence is clothing. So how do you dress for a Canadian winter? Well, it depends on temperature and precipitation (think: snow). Either way, your goal is to stay warm.

Generally, you will need the following articles of clothing during the winter season:

Winter boots

These need to be non-slippery and warm. Most importantly, they should also be waterproof. In cold temperatures, your feet and toes could freeze as soon as they get wet. You do not want to experience this! 

A thick winter jacket

Try to pick one that is not only stylish but also comfortable. Though pricey, more than one jacket might be a good idea. For, you will be wearing this every single day during the winter season. It needs to be thick enough to keep you warm. But, it also has to be soft enough to let you move. 

A really good jacket is something you will use for many years. So, do not hesitate to invest in one. Second to boots, this is important for winter.

Gloves or mittens

You will need a few pairs of gloves or mittens. As for a pair of gloves, because of the cold, you might be wearing more than one layer of a pair. Wearing just one layer of gloves might be comfortable. But, once temperatures reach lesser than 5 degrees Celsius, they will be pretty useless in keeping out the cold. 

True. They get in the way of you using your phone or tablet. However, there are now companies that make gloves that are “touchscreen gloves”. These allow you to use your phone and prevent something called frostbite. More on frostbite in another section. 

A winter hat and scarf

It has been said that “90% of the body’s heat exits through the head”. If you want to avoid this, you will need a winter hat. A thick scarf could protect your lungs and throat from the harsh cold. 

As mentioned earlier, your clothes will depend on temperature and snowfall.   

If the temperature is above 0 degrees Celsius with little to no snow, you need to wear:

  • A regular winter coat or winter jacket over layered over a shirt or sweater
  • Pants (jeans are OK); for women, a long heavy skirt is suitable
  • Shoes or boots; for women, high boots are alright. No high heels (to avoid slipping) and no open-toed shoes (frostbite)
  • Warm socks
  • Gloves and mittens are not necessary. But, keep them anyway just in case
  • Sunglasses with UV ray protection – this might sound unusual to you. But, if there is sunlight, it becomes more glaring to the eyes because of the snow’s reflection of the light. Your eyes will need protection from this.

If the temperature drops below 0 degrees Celsius and there is snow, wear:

  • A winter coat or jacket over two layers of warm clothing
  • Warm undergarments
  • Gloves or mittens (more than one layer of gloves, preferably)
  • Winter boots (not shoes as much as possible)
  • Warm wool socks
  • A winter hat and scarf

These are the pieces of clothing you should wear. These will keep you warm during the winter. 

One more piece of advice. A lot of people will be buying winter clothes during the winter. Because of this, prices are going to be higher. So, the best time to purchase clothes for winter would be during the other times of the year. Keep this in mind. 

Physical and Mental Health and Fitness During the Winter 

Now that we talked about clothes, let us move on to an equally-important topic – your well-being during the winter. 

There are many illnesses that could occur at this time. But, here are the most common:


This is a medical emergency. This happens when the body loses too much heat. At a very low temperature (lesser than 35 degrees Celsius), the organs like the heart and lungs do not work normally. This can cause death. 

The signs and symptoms of hypothermia include:

  • Shivering (early sign)
  • Slow or slurred speech
  • Slow breathing
  • Weak pulse
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness

When someone you are with gets hypothermia, the best thing to do is to keep them warm right away. Because this is a medical emergency, you should also call emergency medical services immediately. 

The best and easiest way to prevent this to dress appropriately with the articles of clothing. These are in the previous section of this article. 


Too much cold could injure or break the skin on the fingers, toes, ears, nose, cheeks, and chin. This is called frostbite. If the skin continues to break because of this, it could lead to infection and nerve damage. The signs and symptoms of frostbite are:

  • A prickly feeling (in the ears, fingers, toes, cheeks, chin)
  • Numbness
  • Hard or waxy looking skin
  • Red, white, bluish, or yellow skin
  • Loneliness

For some reason, winter and loneliness happen together. Some scientists say that it is because of the low levels of light during this time. The gray or white lighting in the sky during winter seems to create a gloomy feeling for many people. 

There are some things you could do to prevent this:

  • Speak to people often
  • Change some of the light bulbs in your home to orange or warm white incandescent bulbs

-Orange or warm white light has been shown to have a positive effect on mood amongst elderly people during the winter months, compared to just white light.

  • Engage in fun activities (more on this later on)

Fun Activities for a Canadian Winter 

Yes, Canadian winters could be cold. Nonetheless, it is possible to have fun! Besides the usual snowball fights as well as building snowmen, there are a load of other ways to take a fun hold of the cold. Here are a list of “cool” things you could do.

Ice fishing

It is exactly what it sounds like! You try to catch fish from underneath the ice. While catching a fish is a great experience already, ice fishing in places like Ontario’s Lake Simcoe is enjoyed as a chance to take in the natural beauty of the Canadian scenery. Talk about “dinner and a show”, right?

Dog sledding

You do not use the dogs as a sled! Rather, dogs pull you across the Canadian snow as you sit in your sled and enjoy Canada outside the city. Places like Mont-Tremblant, Quebec and Alberta’s Lake Louise are good places to check out. 

Ice skating in the Rideau Canal

This water way which connects Ottawa to Lake Ontario freezes every winter to become the world’s largest ice skating rink. 


If you love hiking but fear sinking into the ice, then snowshoeing is definitely for you! You walk around with snowshoes. These shoes prevent your feet from sinking into the snow. Now, you could finally “hike” the Canadian trails in the winter!

Visit Quebec’s Ice Hotel

There is a hotel in Quebec that is literally made of ice. If this does not amaze you, nothing will! It is truly an amazing sight.

Skiing and Sledding

Winter would be incomplete without these two activities anywhere in the world. And, this is also true in Canada. Canada is home to many ski resorts. If skiing is your cup of tea, resorts in Lake Louise, Whistler, and Banff are all good options. 

These are just some of the activities for a Canadian winter. You could also always choose to visit Canada’s national parks this time of year or pick up ice hockey. Regardless, Canada’s winter season can be and is a fun season. 

For Homeowners

If you own a house, congratulations. During the winter though, a house comes with some inconveniences. When a country is very cold, you can expect a problem with one thing- large amounts of snow. Snow does pile up in this part of the world. And, it will be on your doorstep, literally. 

Shoveling snow is an inconvenience for many Canadian homeowners. As a new resident, it will be your inconvenience too. You need to understand a few things about this particular responsibility.

  • It is hard

Particularly, it could be hard on your back. Not everyone can and would want to remove 5 kg of snow every 5 minutes. It is physically tiring. 

If you have to shovel snow, do so safely with proper form. And, talk to a physician about how to do this. 

  • It is required by law

Snow or ice on your part of the neighborhood could be dangerous. Because of it, someone might slip and fall. For this reason, some local governments like Ontario’s require homeowners to clear the snow from their premises. Those who do not face a penalty. 

The safety of the people who visit the premises is important to the government. This is why you should consider shoveling snow a legal responsibility. Not a simple chore.

  • Do it for your neighbors

Again, safety is the primary concern here. Shoveling snow in your driveway lets other people in the neighborhood know that you care about their safety as they walk around your area. 

Vehicles in the Winter

The presence of ice and snow creates different driving problems, unlike driving on concrete on a hot summer day. The following are some of the things you could do to prepare your vehicle for the winter. 

Purchase a set of tires for the snow

Tires like these could be bought from any auto supply dealership. These tires have good traction and could run on snow safely. Often, these tires have a photograph of a mountain and a snowflake. This shows that the tires have met really high winter standards. 

Check the battery

It must be fully charged as it will take a lot of power to start the car in cold weather. 

Make sure the brakes are intact

Roads will be slippery. So, a brake that fails could be disastrous to you, other drivers, and people. Make sure that your car’s brakes are intact to prevent accidents once on the road.

Windshield wipers, radiator, and cooling system

Everything could freeze in the winter. There are windshields that are used for the winter. Check your radiator hoses and drive belts for cracks and leaks. Also, ensure that the radiator cap, water pump, and thermostat work. 

The heater and defroster need to work well.

These are some ways to make your car ready for the winter. 

Further details on winter-proofing your vehicle will be in another article.

Winter Tourism in Canada

Canada is a gorgeous country in the spring, autumn, and summer. But, many say that it is even more beautiful in the winter. For this reason, tourist activity in Canada during the winter months from December to March. Canada’s beauty does not stop at winter. 

Canada is home to 48 national parks. With 10% of the world’s forests, each one shows the country’s natural beauty and wildlife. These attract nature and wildlife enthusiasts from all parts of the world. Winter puts snow on the hills and mountains. And this makes it a haven for snowboarders and skiers.  

Besides the national parks, the unique designs of some of Canada’s cities are all sights to behold. If you want an example, check out the ramparts of Quebec, the only walled city in North America North of Mexico. 

Also, Canada is a land of lakes with about 563 lakes. These lakes are at least 100 square kilometers wide and add to the already magnificent scenery given by the mountains. In the winter, some of these freeze to form places for dog sledding, ice fishing, and snow-shoeing. 

All in all, winter makes Canada the tourist attraction that it is. 

For more information on places to visit, click this link

The Coldest Parts of Canada

If you are traveling or immigrating to Canada from a tropical country, here is a good rule of thumb: Canada is cold. By Canada, we mean most parts of Canada especially during the winter. But, for other parts of the country, it does get colder. 

So which part of Canada is the coldest? Many seem to say that it is a tie between some the cities in Quebec (Saguenay, Sherbrooke, Montreal, Quebec City, and Trois Riviere) and Winnipeg, Manitoba. For cities in Quebec like Montreal, the temperature could drop to as low as -35.4 degrees Celsius. This is the average temperature of the city in the winter! 

In Winnipeg, the temperature could be as cold as -40 degrees Celsius. This happens for almost two weeks during a certain time in winter. 

Toronto could be very cold too. But, fortunately, residents have a way to get around downtown without experiencing the chill. This is the PATH. It is a network of underground tunnels in the downtown area of Toronto. People use this network of tunnels and walkways to get around. These tunnels protect them from the cold during the winter and the heat during the summer.

These tunnels also have establishments like restaurants and cafes. So, it is a pretty interesting place to be in as well. 

The Warmest Parts of Canada

So, does it ever get warm in Canada? Yes! Well, at least in some parts of the country. 

Victoria and Vancouver are two cities in the province of British Columbia. These two cities have one thing in common: the temperatures in both are mild year-round. In these two cities, the average temperature is between 14 degrees to 16 degrees Celsius. Not exactly “hot” or “warm”. But, at least you do not have to worry about hypothermia or frostbite.

You do not have to shovel snow here either. 

Toronto was mentioned in the earlier section as a cold city. True, Toronto could get really cold in the winter. But, it can be one of the warmest places in the country as well during the summer. In the summer in Toronto, the heat could be as high as 40 degrees Celsius. This is even hotter than the temperature in many tropical Asian cities like Manila, New Delhi, and Singapore!

Hence, if you want your entry to Canada to start “warm”, then these places might be for you.

Ready for Canadian Winter?

Definitely, you are more prepared with the knowledge to tough out your first winter season in the Great White North. Sure, the freezing cold may not be something you like. It may not even be something you are used to. Nevertheless, many people look forward to this season. 

Winter has a way of making the already beautiful natural landscape of Canada even more beautiful. 

And, winter also gives people the time to enjoy activities that you cannot do at any other time of year. 

So, what are you waiting for? Dress warmly, and have fun in the Canadian snow! 

Choose Canada Magazine

Each member of our team at Choose Canada Magazine has been in Canada for over five years, and has helped dozens of people worldwide find their life in Canada.

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