Montreal winter sporting activities—from ice skating to skiing and everything in between—are fun, affordable, and easy to learn. Residents and visitors alike can enjoy the region's plethora of winter activities thanks to affordable equipment rental fees, numerous skating rinks, and plenty of nature nearby worth exploring. Depending on which activity interests you, get ready to find plenty of popular spots for a variety of winter sports in the city. From snowshoeing through city parks to relaxing in one of the many spas nearby, you're sure to enjoy your wintertime activities in Montreal.
The ancient practice of snowshoeing dates back anywhere from 6,000 to possibly 10,000 years ago and was a chief mode of transportation facilitating tribal movement through snowed-in woods of the region. Fortunately, you won't need snowshoes to navigate most of the city these days, but yesteryear's seasonal necessity has become today's sport and a recreational rite of passage for many Canadian children.
Snowshoeing is an affordable and accessible activity in several of Montreal's parks come wintertime. The centrally-located Mount Royal Park offers numerous trails suitable for all ages, and the largest park in the city, Cap Saint Jacques Nature Park, features five kilometers of trails worth exploring. Meanwhile, Nature Park of L'Île-de-la-Visitation offers one of the most extensive snowshoeing trail networks in Montreal.
An affordable, easy-to-learn activity, cross-country skiing is a great sport suitable for all ages. Those interested in this sport will find more than a dozen cross-country skiing parks accommodating beginners to advanced level skiers in and around the city. With more than 200 kilometers worth of trails to explore, try your hand at some of Montreal's famed cross country skiing parks including Parc du Mont-Royal, the Montreal Botanical Gardens, and Parc-nature Cap St. Jacques.
Out of all the Montreal winter activities available, ice-skating takes a little more time to master in terms of technique, but once you've got the hang of it, the skill will stay with you for life. Fortunately, there are plenty of great ice-skating rinks in the city offering the perfect backdrops to master the art of gliding over the ice.
Parc La Fontaine offers free ice-skating paths through nature as well as two standard boarded rinks and equipment rental facilities while Bonsecours Basin on the Old Port features a large rink that requires a small admission fee for use. Meanwhile, Olympic Park's Village Mammouth is popular for families thanks to the variety of other winter sporting activities offered there including a 24-foot-long snow tubing site.
Though some believe it is a forgotten winter activity, dog sledding in Montreal is very much alive and well. Thanks to Parc Jean-Drapeau, located in downtown Montreal, the opportunity to dog sled occurs for a few weeks every winter season during the Montreal snow festival Fête des Neiges, which typically takes place between January and February. Though the activity is contingent on snow conditions, and you need to book a reservation, the park's dog sledding options are an affordable and fun winter activity for children and adults.
If you grew up in Montreal, or anywhere across Quebec for that matter, chances are you've slipped on a pair of skis and snowplowed down a hill at least once in your life. With over 80 alpine ski hills scattered throughout the province of Quebec, you'll have plenty of opportunities to experience this local rite of passage, and even though Montreal itself has no downhill ski hills, all it takes is an hour's drive outside the city for some alpine action.
Mont Tremblant—which has been voted as the top ski resort in Eastern North America by Ski Magazine multiple years in a row—offers slopes up to 42 degrees that are perfect for beginners and intermediate skiers alike. Meanwhile, Mont Blanc is the second-highest mountain in the Laurentian range and offers considerably cheaper accommodations and downhill skiing than its neighbor, Tremblant, which is just 10 kilometers away. Other great slopes in Quebec include Le Massif, Mont Saint-Sauveur, and Mont Orford, which is located about two hours north of the city.
When it comes to easily-accessible winter sports, sledding, sliding, and tobogganing are among the easiest to enjoy—perfect for even the most novice of winter sports enthusiasts of any age. Additionally, makeshift sledding hills are all over Montreal as soon as a few decent snowfalls make it possible. There are also seven notable sliding locations that are arguably the best spots in the city, many of which rent out toboggans and sleds for you to use.
Parc du Mont-Royal offers snow tube rentals while Parc Jean-Drapeau only offers winter recreation during the annual Fête des Neiges event in January and February. Parc-nature Bois-de-Liesse, on the other hand, has two hills that are set up specifically for sliding while Parc-nature Pointe-aux-Prairies offers crazy carpet and toboggan rentals throughout the season at the Heritage chalet.
Winter Forest Treks
An affordable activity for families, solo nature enthusiasts, or even couples looking for a dose of outdoor romance, Montreal forest treks have become somewhat of an annual tradition in the city's network of large parks. Guided by nature enthusiasts and usually departing in the evenings, these treks take visitors through secret trails of virgin snowfall and often end with live music, marshmallow roasts, and drinking hot beverages by a bonfire. Mount Royal Park, Parc Jean-Drapeau, Bois de l'Île Bizard, Bois-de-Liesse, and Cap St. Jacques all offer evening tours throughout January and February each year.
Despite the fact that everyone seems to love rushing down a sharp incline in a snow tube, the island of Montreal has very limited inner tubing rental possibilities. If you long to go tubing, though, there are a few local hills and major sliding attractions outside the city to explore. Parc Jean-Drapeau's huge snow tubing slide is a popular destination in the city, but Mount Royal Park is the only one in the city that rents snow tubes throughout the winter season. For an even bigger adventure, you can drive an hour outside of the city to Les Super Glissades St-Jean-de-Matha, which has 17 tracks dedicated to snow tubing and 13 tracks dedicated to snow rafting.
There is nothing like relaxing in an indoor or outdoor spa after an exhausting day of winter sports activity. Whether you stick to one of the luxury resorts in the city or head out to a more secluded spot to unwind, you're sure to be able to relax your sore muscles at one of these great spas in and around Montreal.
Rejuvenate at Strøm, a Nordic spa located outdoors in Lac des Battures, Nuns' Island's lone lake where you can find thermal baths, wine tastings, yoga, and a variety of spa treatments. Alternatively, head to the third floor of Place d'Armes Hôtels, one of Old Montreal's highest-rated hotels, to enjoy 2,500 square feet of relaxation at Rainspa, which offers traditional services like facials, body treatments, microdermabrasion treatments, and massage therapy. Other great destinations include Spa Centrale Parc, Ovarium, Spa Scandinave, and Bota Bota, which is located on a boat on the eastern side of the Old Port near Rue McGill.
Where to Stay and How to Avoid the Cold
If you're traveling from out of town to visit Montreal this winter, Montreal hotels like the Renaissance Montreal Downtown, Fairmount Queen Elizabeth, Le Square Phillips, and Le Saint-James are tailor-made for the season, allowing easy access to downtown shopping. Additionally, these hotels are strategically connected to the underground city, which lets you bypass outdoor streets if the weather is too cold or stormy.