Last Christmas was more hectic than holiday. As we rushed from visiting the in-laws to dinner at my parents house, I asked, \”Wouldnt it be nice if we could get away next Christmas?\” Without missing a beat, my husband responded, \”Yes, but could we get enough time off?\”
Last Christmas was more hectic than holiday. As we rushed from visiting the in-laws to dinner at my parents’ house, I asked, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get away next Christmas?” Without missing a beat, my husband responded, “Yes, but could we get enough time off?”
What we failed to consider was that a winter vacation doesn’t require a lot of time, or boarding a flight out of the country. When you take into account the hassle of flying, not to mention its environmental damage, travelling within Canada can be more relaxing than a week on some exotic beach. From the rugged West Coast to the winter wonderland of Eastern Canada, destinations and activities abound for every budget.
Take the Train
Passenger coaches and trains are the most eco-friendly way to get around. According to Hydro Quebec, the average train passenger produces 56 grams of emissions per kilometre compared to 143 to 286 g/km for car drivers or 204 to 340 g/km for passengers on domestic flights. Coaches and trains get drivers off icy winter roads. Relaxing on board may give you a whole new appreciation for Canada’s fabulous winter scenery.
VIA Rail (viarail.ca) offers an easy-to-use website (trainpackages.ca) where you can search for railway journeys in your area. Many packages include low-impact activities such as snowshoeing, wildlife watching, and skiing, and some include cultural experiences. Ask tour operators for information about local guides and suppliers.
In the West, Rocky Mountaineer Vacations offers several winter rail packages from Vancouver and Calgary to the Rockies (winterrailvacations.com). Packages range from simple rail and hotel deals to elaborate multiday itineraries.
Canadians are spoiled for choice when it comes to places to play in the snow. Choose your destination based on its sustainability practices. Do they recycle waste? Preserve the natural landscape? One way to evaluate the resort is to check out its environmental scorecard: Under the Sleeping Buffalo Research (utsb.ca) publishes independent annual assessments of several Canadian ski areas. Whistler, BC, and Lake Louise, Alberta, are two resorts that score well.
Whistler and several other Canadian resorts, including Blue Mountain, Ontario, and Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, have signed on to the National Ski Areas Association’s Environmental Charter (nsaa.org; click on “The Environment”). Keep Winter Cool (keepwintercool.org) describes what you can do to preserve your favourite snow playgrounds.
Choose Your Own Adventure
Do you dream of dog sledding through boreal forest, snowshoeing in the wilderness, or ice skating under the stars? Find eco-friendly winter vacations at responsibletravel.com. This UK-based website works with local tour companies all over the world that are committed to sustainable tourism. For example, searching on “Canada” and “winter holidays” returns a variety of options such as a four-day yoga and snowshoeing retreat in Algonquin Park and an eight-day dog sled safari in Quebec. Each listing includes a statement of the trip’s sustainability.
If you have only an afternoon, try a Nordic-style escape from holiday stress. At Spa Scandinave (scandinave.com) or Le Nordik Scandinavian Spa (lenordik.com), you can rejuvenate mind and body with a self-paced series of hot saunas, cold plunges, and rest periods. With their outdoor locales and rustic wooden buildings, these spas are perfect places to embrace the best aspects of winter in Canada.
More Eco-Travel Tips
- Carpool to your winter destination with friends, and once you’re there, walk and use shuttle services to get around.
- If possible, choose locally owned accommodations so that your money stays in the community.
- Hostelling International Canada, which is comprised of independently operated hostels, offers affordable ski-and-ride packages that include lift tickets and stay, plus other benefits, at hostels in Fernie, BC, Banff, Alberta, and Mont-Tremblant, Quebec (hihostels.ca; click on “Packages”).