Extreme cold weather grips much of Canada

Environment Canada issued a slew of extreme cold warnings across the country today. Atlantic Canada is being spared from the plummeting temperatures, but much of Newfoundland and Labrador is subject to blizzard warnings.

Most frigid temperatures forecast in Saskatchewan, B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, northern Ontario and Quebec

Environment Canada has issued cold weather warnings across the country for Boxing Day, and the frigid temperatures are expected to last throughout the week. (Sandra Gagnon/Radio-Canada)

Environment Canada issued a slew of extreme cold warnings across the country on Tuesday, but some Canadians were intent on getting some fresh, if frigid, air. 

Environment Canada says it issues extreme cold warnings when extremely cold temperatures or wind chill creates an elevated risk to health such as frost bite and hypothermia.

The agency is asking people to watch for symptoms related to the cold, including shortness of breath, chest pain, muscle pain and weakness, numbness and a change in the colour of the fingers and toes.

Much of Alberta, Manitoba and all of Saskatchewan were also subject to the warnings, and Environment Canada says the frigid temperatures are expected to continue through the end of the week.

In Edmonton, where the temperature dropped to -27 C, a few people ventured out for some sunshine despite the cold.

"To get some exercise," Ivaylo Beshinsky told CBC News about why he was out cross-country skiing. "It's a great day. It's nice and sunny and [to] sweat all that turkey." 

Tom Sliepen was also encouraged by the sunny skies, and hoped moving around would keep him warm. 

"I'm In denial about the temperature, Sliepen said. "I hope the exercise is going to keep me warm, the exercise and the gear."

Both skiers recommended thin layers to stay warm. Sliepen mentioned the right clothes are key. 

"There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear," he said. 

Amy Colquhoun said she wasn't keen on the cold, but the sunshine and a chance for some activity got her outside. 

As she watched her three-year-old son learn to skate, she joked that she hopes he turns out "heartier" than she is. 

Matt Ozga and his kids braved the freezing cold to go sledding at Diefenbaker Park on Boxing Day. (Charles Hamilton/CBC)

It may have felt like -40 C in Saskatoon, but Matt Ozga was outside with his kids after being inside over Christmas. 

He says being warm is not only about being dressed properly and staying active — it's a state of mind. 

"I think when you get over that barrier in your brain, it's only -30 and you say I'm going to keep going you're going to be warm," he said. 

In British Columbia, the agency warned the Yoho Park and Kootenay Park region that it could feel as low as –40 C with the wind chill due to an arctic ridge of high pressure that it predicts will remain over the region for several days.

Environment Canada issued the warning for parts of northern Ontario too, along with a snow squall warning for Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Ontario was largely spared from the extreme cold, save for parts of southwestern Ontario surrounding the Georgian Bay.

In Quebec, the agency warned that the cold arctic air was moving southward on Christmas Day night and Boxing Day, and would continue to do so on Wednesday.

It said the wind chill factor could make it feel like –42 C in the province.

While the Atlantic provinces were largely spared from the extreme cold warnings, much of Newfoundland and Labrador was subject to wind and blizzard warnings, as well as blowing snow advisories.

With files from Terry Reith