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What were they thinking? Daredevil winter activities


Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press

When winter starts to hit across Canada, it can drive some a little stir crazy.

Day after day of snow white fluff falling down from the sky and blanketing everything in sight — there’s only so much tobogganing, tubing and snowshoeing you can do!

Some freezing Canadians have found truly unique ways to keep themselves entertained over the wintery months.

These activities might have you scratching your head and saying, "what were these freezing Canucks thinking?"

Sleeping in an ice hotel

cozy suite in Quebec's ice hotel

Photo by Matias Garabedian licensed CC BY-SA 2.0 

If you’ve ever wanted to sleep on ice, in ice and surrounded by ice, then you should head over to Québec City in January when they erect their annual Hôtel de Glace (Ice Hotel).

It’s the only ice hotel in North America and it has 42 rooms (even ones you can stay in overnight), including a café, ice chapel, ice bar and you can go inner tubing and snow rafting nearby. 

If you’re worried about freezing while you stay overnight, you don’t have to as each room is very cozy and you get to sleep in a very warm and snuggly Nordic sleeping bag.

Taking a polar bear dip

crazy people in Lake Ontario in the middle of winter

Photo by Renee Navarro licensed CC BY NC-ND 2.0 

Just because it’s absolutely freezing outside, that doesn’t stop some very brave people from taking a quick dip in Lake Ontario.

It’s all for a good cause — the annual Polar Bear Dip on New Year’s Day in Toronto raises money for a charity that helps children that are victims of abuse or neglect.

People come from all over Ontario, some wearing funny costumes, some in bathing suits, and some come to sit on the sidelines and cheer on their friends and family as they raise money for a great cause (while freezing!).

Ice canoeing on a frozen river

teams dragging canoes across the frozen St. Lawrence River

Photo by Jamie McCaffrey licensed CC BY-NC 2.0 

Canoeing on ice was once just a way of getting around the St. Lawrence River in the winter, but now it’s become quite a popular sport at the Québec Winter Carnival and there’s been races held at the event since 1894.

Each year, teams of five grab a fiberglass canoe (originally wood) which they wind up pushing across the frozen parts of the river and rowing across open areas all in the hopes of coming in first in the race.

There’s usually about 50 teams competing and they wear special shoes with bolts on the bottom to give them traction on the slippery ice.

Snowkiting across a frozen lake

a guy on a snowboard with a kite snowkiting across a lake

Photo by Konstantin Zamkov licensed CC BY 2.0 

Also known as kite skiing, it’s a winter sport that will soon have you gliding across the ice on your skis or snowboard.

Although it’s found all over places where skiing is popular like Russia, Iceland, Switzerland and Canada, it’s not an easy sport and requires a lot of training.

It’s kind of like windsurfing, except with a snowboard under your feet. And like windsurfing, it’s all about the wind — the more wind there is, the more your kite will stay up and pull you along.

You can find snowkiting locations all across Canada from B.C. to Québec.

Biking on skis

a kid on a snowbike at the top of a ski hill

Photo by Marciano Photography licensed CC BY-NC 2.0 

It was only a matter of time before someone figured out how to make it possible to bike down a ski hill.

It’s pretty genius — just take a low-rider bike, take off the tires and put two short skis there instead, and get rid of any pedals and brakes.

Ta-da! It’s a skibike, or snowbike, or ski-bob… there’s a bunch of different names for it depending where you go.

There’s differing stories about how old this invention is, but there are tales of the skibike appearing in oil painting as far back as the 1850s. It’s not a surprise that they’re so popular at ski resorts, especially in B.C. as even non-skiers can learn how to use them super quick.