Here in Québec, we don’t hide from winter … we get outside and live it! The weather may be cold but there’s nothing like the first snowfall of the season and it’s an experience you’ll never forget. Keep reading to learn all about winter life in Greater Montréal and how to make the most of the season.
Our climate isn’t as cold as you think
You’ve no doubt heard the rumours: Quebecers hibernate eight months a year, it’s always 40 below in winter, and we get around on snowmobiles (when our dog sleds are being serviced!). In truth, these myths are a far cry from the reality. Let’s take a closer look …
The numbers speak for themselves
Every day in the winter months between 1981 and 2010 at the Montréal-Trudeau Airport weather station, data was recorded to determine the city’s average maximum temperature. Here are the results published by Environment Canada:
- November: 5.9 degrees Celsius
- December: 1.4 degrees Celsius
- January: 5.3 degrees Celsius
- February: -3.2 degrees Celsius
- March: 2.5 degrees Celsius
Storms and cold snaps (the exceptions to the rule)
Clearly, even though they’re rare, there are days when the cold wind whips your face and your eyebrows and eyelashes get a little frosty. But these winter storms are all part of the Montréal adventure, bringing the community together and giving you a great excuse to cozy up at home with a good book and a steaming cup of cocoa.
The secret to surviving winter: wrap up warm from head to toe
There’s no need to dress up like Bonhomme Carnaval (the official mascot of Québec City’s world-famous winter carnival) to survive the winter storms. As long as you invest in warm clothes that are made for winter, you’ll be more than comfortable heading outside to have fun in the snow!
Choose your winter coat wisely
As every Quebecer will tell you, the key to braving the cold is to invest in a good winter coat! But before you rush out to buy one, think about your lifestyle. Do you spend a lot of time outside playing sports? Do you prefer to get to school by foot, bike or Metro? You should also think about dressing in layers as it can get pretty warm in the Metro and underground shopping malls, where you won’t need a jacket at all. Also, if you’re an athlete or a jogging fan, look for a winter coat made from breathable materials.
When it comes to dressing for winter (just like in life), it helps to have experience. Ask your friends who grew up here or talk to the salesperson in the store to get advice on the best winter coat for you.
The all-important accessories
While you’re on the hunt for your new winter jacket, you’ll also need to think about protecting your hands, ears and feet. Your extremities are the most susceptible to cold so make sure you cover them up! Again, think about your lifestyle before choosing your accessories. And keep in mind that leather boots and slush don’t exactly go well together!
Your Québec winter survival kit:
- Anti-slip boots that are lined and waterproof
- Insulated, water-repellent gloves or mitts
- A hat (or tuque as we call it in Québec) that covers your ears
- A scarf or neck warmer
- A waterproof jacket (for winter sports like skiing)
- Long johns (for long stretches outside)
- Snow pants
- Warm socks
In general, you should avoid cotton clothing as it absorbs moisture and takes time to dry. Wool (merino, alpaca, etc.) and synthetic fibres (like polar wool and acrylic) are much better suited to Québec winter.
Fun winter activities for everyone
As the famous Québec singer Gilles Vigneault once sang, “My country is not a country. It’s winter.” These lyrics perfectly sum up Quebecers’ relationship with the cold season! But winter is a big part of the local lifestyle and culture, with a host of benefits to enjoy. La Belle province comes alive in the snowy season … and it has the winter activities to prove it.
Winter sports for below-zero weather
When the thermometer drops, the adrenaline rises! Winter is the perfect time to try out new outdoor activities like cross-country skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, hockey, snowshoeing, ice climbing, ice fishing or dog sledding. Here in Québec, you don’t have to wait until the snow melts to play outside!
Greater Montréal is home to dozens of municipal arenas, hundreds of outdoor skating and ice rinks, and 19 spacious parks for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. It’s also close to several mountains where you can escape for a day or weekend to go alpine skiing.
If you prefer to get your adventure fix closer to home, hop on the Metro to La Pente à Neige, a winter village where you can experience a world of winter sport fun with your friends. Go skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing by day, then dance the night away to the beats of guest DJs at the venue’s après-ski parties.
Looking to try out all the fun winter activities without breaking the bank? Greater Montréal has a bunch of second-hand stores (like the popular Poubelle du ski) with affordable finds to equip yourself from head to toe.
If spectator sports are more your thing, snag yourself tickets to the hockey game to watch the legendary Montréal Canadiens in action. They’ll have you chanting “Go Habs Go!” like a local in no time.
Treat yourself to a snowy spa day
There’s nowhere better to relax than a Nordic spa, and Greater Montréal has them to spare. One of the most popular in the city is Bota Bota, a chic boat-turned spa in Old Montréal where you can warm up in a Jacuzzi on deck.
If you prefer mountain views and the smell of pine trees, you can find a host of spas outside of the city to relax and recharge your batteries.
Winter festivals to spare
Montréal is known as “The City of Festivals” and the action doesn’t slow down in winter! From the world famous Igloofest (billed as the coldest electronic music festival in the world) to the all-night Nuit Blanche and Montréal en Lumière, there’s always a good reason to get outside!
Go Christmas shopping in the Underground City
Only in Montréal can you go shopping in a t-shirt while a winter storm rages outside! The city’s world-famous Underground City spans over 30 kilometres, where you can stroll around shops and malls, hop on the Metro, or cross from one end of downtown to the other—all without having to step foot outside.
Count on public transport to get around
Even the heaviest snowfalls can’t slow Montréal’s public transit system down! The city’s Metro and bus lines run all winter long, so you can get from A to B without having to brave the cold.
Winter is one of the most magical times of year, but it’s only part of the the Montréal adventure. This is one of the few places in the world to have four distinct seasons, with a range of temperatures and activities to enjoy year round. The only downside to so much variety is that the seasons can fly by fast! So be sure to take a break from the books and soak up the fresh air as often as you can.
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