Cool Winter Guide

Assessing your options embracing or escaping winter

Pretend it's summer! Or, embrace the cold! // Venture Vancouver, Compfight
Pretend it's summer! Or, embrace the cold! // Venture Vancouver, Compfight

So: it’s winter. We all knew it was coming, and now it’s arrived. (Or it’s close, at least: I’m writing this in late October and, while chilly, there’s still green grass out there. So if it isn’t winter-winter by the time you read these words, well, sorry. Winter will be along soon. You can be sure of that.)

For some of you, that sucks: snowfall marks a season of vitamin D lamps and huddling in warm places, making fortresses to keep out the cold (which, due to El Niño, won’t really be so bad, but still). For others among you, it’s like, finally: the white stuff has landed and there’s once-more a veritable wonderland out there to frolic and trudge through (which, due to El Niño, won’t even be as encompassing as you’d hope, but still). Love it or hate it, it’s here, and thus we humbly offer some ways to both fully embrace our inevitable winter—or escape it, if that’s your preferred option—from (mostly) within the city limits.

Escape: go to WEM, swim.
Yes, I know, but there is a waterpark at our biggest mall and, within said waterpark, there is both a bar and a temperature that hovers around 30C. Even if you aren’t one for waterslides, you can drink on the artificial shore and dream of June weather. There’s also surfing lessons—you could learn to surf in the bleakest months.

Embrace: go to WEM, skate. (Or skate elsewhere, too)
Strapping blades to your feet and carving up some ice is one of the great Canadian legacies—our usual Winter Olympics safe bet. But how many years has it been since you did so? There’s a multitude of indoor rinks around town—including at the mall! You could surf and skate on the same day, in basically the same place!—but there’s also a number of lovely city-run outdoor spaces (see page 26), including the rink at the legislature grounds, worth exploring.

Escape: check out the Botanical Gardens in Muttart Conservatory
When everything’s blanketed in white, sometimes you just need to take in some green. For that, trudge into the Muttart’s quartet of glass pyramids, just south of the river. They’re more than just a vaguely illuminati-like odes to the cosmos: each contains a different year-round biome, showcasing different ecologically based flora and fauna. Three pyramids remain unchanging, but the fourth rotates through different feature displays every so often. Plus, the building’s Culina Restaurant offers delicious eats, and there’s a scatter of events that happen in the building throughout the year. Plants! Remember those?

Embrace: go tobogganing
Yes, relive your childhood and innumerable Calvin & Hobbes comics with a sled and a hill. If you don’t already have your spot staked out, you can check out page 28 of this very guide or Google “Great Canadian Tobogganing Map.” Created by Edmontonian Charles Heard, it collects user-submitted hill options all around the country. Type  Edmonton into the search to narrow its view down to the local limits, and, voila: a massive number of potential rides will appear before your adventure-eager eyes. Bear in mind it’s user-submitted, so quality may vary—one person’s sheer cliff might be another’s snore-sized ride. But there’s helpful notes with each location, adding lots of discussion of “jump opportunities” and “things to watch out for.”

Escape: literally just escape
Do what the snowbirds do: get outta town during the bleakest of months. Follow a couple of airliners on Twitter; they’ll keep you in the loop about seat sales, of which there’s usually a couple over the travel-lite periods of winter (right after Christmas, for example). Go to the warm places. Do it for the rest of us.

Embrace: take in an outdoor festival
Ice on Whyte, running over the end of January (21 – 24, 28 – 31), is one of our more visible celebrations of winter: an ice-carving festival that creates a veritable garden of frozen sculptures in a heavily populated/frequented zone. But it isn’t the only one: January also contains is Deep Freeze: A Byzantine Winter Festival, organized by Arts on the Ave, which turns a few blocks of Alberta Avenue into a walkable mix of art and event. Worth a winter wander.


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