For a couple who had only seen snow once before (literally three months earlier), we were a bit apprehensive to try snow sports – firstly because its super expensive to rent equipment and buy a ski pass, and secondly because our travel insurance doesn’t cover snow accidents.

But when we were invited to spend a weekend at one of Canada’s best known ski resorts with Alex’s family, we couldn’t resist giving snow boarding a go! Here is how we managed to experience true Canada by trying a bunch of snow sports and still sticking to our meagre budget.

Skiing and snowboarding

Here are our tips for skiing and snowboarding in Canada on a budget:

  • In general, ski resorts on the East coast will be cheaper than any on the West coast;
  • Instead of hiring pricey equipment, head to the local thrift store (op shop) and buy boots, skis and boards second hand – it’ll actually turn out cheaper, and you’ll be able to use them over and over again;
  • Plan your visit for opening week – Canadian ski resorts usually offer extremely discounted lift pass tickets to anyone who arrives in the opening few days to a week of the season;
  • Week day and evening ski lift passes can also be cheaper!

We were lucky enough to go snowboarding at two different resorts on opening week. At Mont Tremblant we paid $59 for a ski pass per day instead of $87, and at Le Relais in Quebec city we paid just $14 for a day pass instead of the usual $41.

Ice skating

Most towns in Canada have an open air ice rink that is open to the public during winter months. Usually entry is either free or between $3.00-$9.00. The most expensive part of going ice skating in Canada however, is hiring the skates – it’ll usually set you back a good $8.00-$15.00, depending on the location, just to hire a pair to use for a couple of hours.

Our tip to bring the cost is to head to a local thrift store (op-shop) and buy a second hand pair of skates for the same price as you would to hire them at the rink. Then you’ll be able to use them whenever and for however long you like.

Then head to one of the free ice rinks or frozen over lakes and skate your heart out for almost nothing!

Ice Hockey

Ice hockey is massive in Canada! Buying tickets to a professional game can set you back over $150!! If you’re looking for a cheaper option, try watching a semi professional game, sitting in on a training session or social match or even helping out during a junior training session.

We got the opportunity to be involved in a junior training session in Niagara Falls where disadvantaged kids and newly arrived migrants got the chance to play ice hockey. It was an awesome way to be a part of a slice of Canadian culture and see why ice hockey is so popular.

Dog sledding

How cool is dog sledding?! We looked into doing this while we were staying in Quebec city and found a few different companies offering 2 hour to half day experiences from $69-$120 per person.

Although we’re sure it’d be worth it to ride and drive a sled with a pack of energetic huskies, we needed to stick to our $50 p.p per day budget in order to complete our long term travel plans.

We really wanted to check out this cool sport and see what its all about, so instead of paying for a package, we rang up a company and asked if we could just come and meet the dogs instead!

We spent a morning learning about huskies and malamutes – the two types of dogs used in sledding. We even got to meet the dogs and watch some of the action. Although it doesn’t compare to going for a ride itself, we were happy to able to experience what sledding is about without paying a cent.

Snow trekking/shoeing

Trekking and hiking in the snow can be done at many national parks and forests all over Canada. We were lucky to be showed around some beautiful scenery by a friend of ours just outside of Quebec city, and the trails through the Rocky Mountains in Alberta are exquisite – our favourite was the hike near Lake Peyto in Banff National Park (below).

If you want to make the trek through all that snow a little easier, give snow shoeing a go. By strapping the pivoting shoe brace around your existing shoes, your soles will be given more surface area, making it easier to walk over the snow instead of through it.

You can buy snow shoes at any sportswear stores for around $20. Or, if you’ve got local friends like we did, borrow a pair and get trekking.

Cross country ski, ice fishing, waterfall climbing, curling…

There are countless other snow sports played and practiced in Canada. During the long winter months these can be the most exciting and enjoyable past-times for locals and, if you’re looking to experience what real life is like in one of the world’s coldest countries, its well worth giving them a go.

For now, Alex and I will stick to improving our snowboarding skills so that once we get to the Andes Mountain range in South America we can get back on the slopes and boarding like pros. Well… almost like pros:

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