In Montréal, winter isn’t so much obstacle as opportunity. With the change in weather comes a change in the range of sports and recreational options – from 3-skiing to snowshoeing to dogsledding and even yoga – capable of satisfying the desires of everyone from the casual outdoor enthusiast to the truly adventurous winter lover.
Montréal’s parks offer a winter wonderland of cross-country skiing and snowshoe trails. Primary among these would be the 22 km of trails of varying degrees of difficulty that wind their way around Mount Royal Park (use of the trails is free, and ski and snowshoe rentals are available). To the east of downtown, Parc Maisonneuve has over 11 km of cross-country ski trails, while close by there are several kilometres of groomed cross-country trails that are also free and open to the public from sun-up to sundown at the Botanical Gardens (you must bring your own skis). The Gardens have three ski trails (1.2 km, 1.6 km and 4.1 km) of cross-country skiing. Check here to find out the current conditions of the city’s ski and snowshoe trails.
If, on the other hand, you’d simply like to try out some snowshoes before committing to them, the annual madness that is the Montréal Ice Canoe Challenge (February 21) is giving attendees a chance to tryout out snowshoes for free starting at 11 a.m. before the first canoe race begins at 12:45 p.m. As for the competition itself, each year some 40 men’s and women’s canoeing teams head out onto the treacherous ice of the St. Lawrence River and race the several kilometres-long course that loops through the waters of the Old Port, from the Clock Tower to the Alexandra basin to Île Sainte-Hélène.
The annual Fête des neiges winter festival at Parc Jean-Drapeau (which runs on weekends until February 8) offers a range of varying-difficulty cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails (guided snowshoe tours are available, including a night tour that comes with headlamps), tube sliding, skating and some true north outdoor sporting: dogsledding! Participants have the choice of a short or long dogsled route, and reservations are necessary as a training course is included in the cost (and so is hot chocolate). And on February 15, the annual early-morning, aptly-titled Hypothermic Half Marathon will take place followed by a brunch. For tips on how to run safely in the cold, click here.
It isn’t all the rage yet, but if the folks at Pop Yoga Neige have their way, “snowga” – outdoor yoga in the snow – may be the next big thing. Maybe. On Saturdays (January 31, and February 7 and 14) starting at 10:30 a.m., Pop Yoga Neige is offering 60-minute courses at the Parc La Fontaine’s Espace La Fontaine. No reservation is required and the courses are free – just bring your mat and warm clothing.
And this cycling crazy city doesn’t take its feet off the pedals for a little bit of snow. In fact, more than 260 km (or 47%) of Montréal’s extensive cycling network are open all year round, and some routes – such as the downtown, east/west Claire-Morissette bike path on De Maisonneuve Boulevard – are even cleared of snow. Click here to see which paths are open all year.