Stone Cold Zen – Embracing Canadian Winters

I wrote recently about how difficult it was to keep my spirits up when I was dealing with a serious knee injury last year. Part of why it was so difficult was because I was unable to do so many of the activities I loved like skiing and hiking. That got me thinking about Canadian winters and how they can be both brutal and beautiful at the same time. West coast winters are very rainy and dreary, but less snowy than other parts. The rest of the country typically experiences sub zero temperatures and big snowfalls. That is, unless it’s an el nino year like this one where winter comes all at once and then melts leaving everything brown and hardly conjuring images of the winter wonderland that people expect Canada to be.

Views of Lake Tahoe
Winterlust is a thing during el nino years.

Surviving Stone Cold Canadian Winters

Long nights and cold days lead some people to develop seasonal affective disorder or SAD, a seasonal depression brought on by a lack of vitamin D from the sun’s rays. Grumbling about the weather becomes a national past time for some. Meanwhile others rejoice because the season means skiing, skating, snowshoeing among other outdoor pursuits.

Indeed, surviving Canadian winters seems to come down to frame of mind. For those who grumble, escaping to sunnier climes is the only way to survive.  But for those who embrace winter, there is much Zen to be found.

So how exactly does one embrace winter? The following are ways to keep your Zen during colder months:

1) Believe in layers

Few things can damper a mood faster than being cold and wet. Dressing in layers can keep you warm and dry and ready to enjoy all the fun activities winter has to offer. If it’s especially cold, remember to wear a hat that covers your ears, a scarf for your face and gloves or mittens for your hands since skin can freeze quickly in sub-zero temperatures. You don’t want to learn that the hard way like the Australian traveller who almost lost her hands while travelling through Saskatchewan.

2) Take up a new sport

Winter is a great time to learn a new activity, which will give you something to look forward to during those short winter days. Skating is a great activity since pretty much every town has either a rink, an outdoor pond to skate on or both. For a truly iconic experience, consider skating on the picturesque Lake Louise or Ottawa’s Rideau Canal. Downhill skiing is my winter sport of choice, but of that’s too thrilling and/or expensive for you, consider cross-country skiing. The gear is extremely cheap to rent, the technique for classic skiing is basically walking, and you will still get the benefits of visiting the church of the forest.

Winter - Cross Country Skiing at Lake Louise
View from the nordic track on Lake Louise

3) Celebrate koselig

Norwegians have substantially less seasonal depression than Canadians despite living in similar harsh northern climes because they actually look forward to winter. To them, winter is the season of koselig, or coziness, where you sip hot drinks, light candles or fires, and snuggle under soft blankets. It’s a time for slowing down and enjoying the company of your loved ones while staying warm. If you look at it that way, winter doesn’t seem so bad after all.

4) Embrace, escape, then embrace again

There is too much wintry wonder to skip out all together, so while I don’t recommend snowbirding down to Florida like many Canadians do, a quick jaunt to warmer climes can keep the blues at bay. There you can soak up some much needed sun, go SCUBA diving or other water sports and enjoy not feeling your face hurt when you go outside.

Spanish Beaches
Have a little of column A and a little of column B

So there you have it, there is Zen to be had in winter and it can be a great time visit Canada. For more information on winter activities to enjoy in Canada, check out blogs like this one that provide detailed information on a lot of ski and snowshoe trails around Canada.

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