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The Ice On Whyte Festival in Edmonton is a family-friendly event, featuring a giant ice slide.

My approach to winter used to involve staying indoors, hugging steaming mugs of tea and waiting for spring to unfurl its warming arms. Then, I attended Griz Days in snow-draped Fernie, B.C.

The friendly little Rocky Mountains ski town lures tuque-topped visitors in late February with its long weekend of parades, drinking, outdoor music, more drinking and – the highlight – the annual Griz contest, a kind of beauty pageant for beardies.

During the event, intrepid participants don furs and straggly facial hair in hopes of being crowned that year's Griz – a mythical mountain character who, legend says, brings abundant snow to the town. What does the contest involve? Axe throwing, leg-wrestling and quite a lot of bleary-eyed drinking.

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Just watching the contest – beer in hand – was the most fun I've had while wearing three pairs of socks at the same time. On my next visit, I might even participate.

But Fernie's cold-season blowout isn't the only party around. Canada is North America's winter festival capital – and it's frosted with hot-chocolate-quaffing merrymaking of all shapes and sizes.

If this is your first time, you might want to start with a biggie. From the end of January, the 17-day Quebec Winter Carnival ( in Quebec City is the grand-père of snow gatherings, offering everything from ice hotels to night parades.

It's rivalled by Montreal, which hosts a series of well-chilled events. Consider mid-February's gigantic Montréal en Lumière ( – culminating in the Nuit Blanche culture crawl around the city – or arrive earlier for January's Fête des Neiges, a family-friendly frost fest in Parc Jean-Drapeau.

Family-friendly is the approach at many winter fests in Canada. Edmonton's Ice on Whyte ( and Saskatoon's WinterShines ( each add cool kid activities to their ice-carving showcases, while mountain-ringed Banff's Ice Magic sculpting competition is now part of a month-long series of scenically chilled events called Snow Days.

Winnipeg's hugely popular Festival du Voyageur ( in the Saint-Boniface district adds a toe-tapping Acadian edge, but it's not the only event with a blood-warming live music roster.

Montreal's Igloofest ( is a three-day electronica party, while Prince George, B.C. delivers Coldsnap (, a showcase for local and visiting bands. They join Vancouver's Winterruption ( in hugging the cold season's cultural side.

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But for some, a medicinal beverage is only way to handle the chill hand of winter.

When I attended Ottawa's ever-popular Winterlude ( last year, I discovered an outdoor Winterbrewed beer fest had been added to proceedings – think hot oatmeal stout. It joins B.C.'s Sun Peaks Winter Okanagan Wine Festival ( and the Niagara Icewine Festival ( in Ontario in adding a warming glow to winter.

Those Maritime partiers also know how to keep the cold at bay. Fredericton's huge Frostival ( lures many with its month-long roster of weekend events – from skating parties to culinary diversions – while New Brunswick's more intimate Miramichi White Gold Festival runs from ice-dancing to cross-country skiing; it's also your big chance to try ice-fishing.

If you were a fan of Charlottetown's Jack Frost Children's Winterfest – cancelled in 2013 – it's rumoured to be back in 2014. Keep your browser trained on for details.

My favourite winter parties are those community-focused events where rubbing fleece-clad shoulders with the locals is de rigueur. This February, I'm thinking of checking out the quirky Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous ( in Whitehorse as it celebrates its 50th birthday. Hair-freezing and beard-growing contests are anticipated.


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  • January’s Inuvik Sunrise Festival in NWT – for the joy of the sun rising and celebrating with great music, feast and community. @tatebro
  • Burning Away The Winter Blues in Whitehorse, Yukon. Great concept! And I imagine it’s rather cathartic after being snowed in for five months... @_rtc
  • Rossland, B.C. has one that’s been going over a hundred years! See @Blackcloudwine
  • Ottawa’s Winterlude for sure. Who doesn’t want to skate on the Rideau? Also – no snow involved – but snagging a good table for lunch at Canoe in Toronto during Winterlicious is sweet! @travel_smith
  • I really enjoyed last year’s Saskatoon Winter Meltdown Blues Festival. Amazing performers (Juno winners!) and great venues. @jennsmithnelson
  • Frostbite Music Festival [in Whitehorse]. Three nights and two days of music under the Northern Lights @ehCanadaTravel
  • Ice Magic in Lake Louise was always a favourite of mine. @LynnGervais
  • Snow Days in Banff National Park. There’s a huge ice-climbing wall right in downtown Banff. @yaheweha
  • Nova Scotia’s Icewine Festival. There’s a special magic in Nova Scotia in the winter. @AuthenticCoast
  • Winterlude! Skate along Ottawa’s Rideau Canal, then have a freshly-baked, cinnamon-and-sugar-sprinkled beaver tail. @juliehijinks
  • Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg would have to qualify – for the sled run on ice, the recreation of historic buildings and the cultural/historic connection to the city’s past. @Nat_Carnegie
  • Gotta be Frostival in Fredericton. Largest winter celebration east of Quebec! @FredTourism
  • Niagara Icewine Festival. @StanleyParkFan
  • Winterlude in Ottawa. I love that it’s free. Especially like the ice sculptures, huge ice slides at Jacques Cartier Park, and the Beaver Tails! @OttawaMarriott

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