Canadians who consider themselves anti-snowbirds – they want to relocate in winter but not to hot weather – have lots of interesting choices. Communities such as Canmore, Alta., just outside the boundary of Banff National Park, or ultra-resorts like Whistler, B.C., are obvious, but many other cold-weather destinations beckon – in Canada and beyond. Here are just a few:
With this year's falling loonie, Victoria and Vancouver Island might turn out to be an affordable anti-snowbird's paradise. True, winter in Victoria is not exactly what the heartiest of us think of as cold. The flowers come out early. But skiing, snowboarding, cross-country and backcountry skiing, dogsledding and all other imaginable winter activities are usually available right on Vancouver Island. After a taste of cold, Victoria anti-snowbirds always have the option of walking around town wearing light sweaters and jackets.
Famous for its skiing, this area that's partly in California and partly in Nevada also has winter boat tours, aerial trams, hot springs, snowshoeing, fine dining and, on the Nevada side, slot machines and all the other gambling opportunities the state provides.
Palm Springs, Calif.
You can be both a snowbird and an anti-snowbird here. A gondola whisks you up to the mountains above Palm Springs, where, depending on the snow conditions, there's either cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or cold-weather hiking. Rest assured, you can be cold if you'd like. Stop in the town of Idyllwild in the San Jacinto Mountains above Palm Springs and you'll swear you're in wintry New England or maybe Ontario – except you can go down to Palm Springs and lie by the pool. Aging baby boomers who think young or hang around with millennials can also attend the annual alternative-oriented Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in spring.
Canadians would think a place this far south with the word "Mexico" in its name would be warm, but they'd be wrong. This area southwest of Santa Fe includes the rugged Taos Ski Valley, as well as Taos Pueblo Village, the oldest continuously inhabited community in North America. Claire Mylott, a spokesperson for the ski area, describes the environs as "mystic," noting that New Mexican cuisine, the art scene and crisp days with blue skies keep anti-snowbirds coming back year after year.
You're already missing the anti-snowbird weather in Yellowknife, even though winter doesn't officially start until Dec. 21. The air is clean and, well, brisk and there's fantastic cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Yellowknife is relatively easy to get to by air.
Northern and Central Ontario
For an anti-snowbird, is there anything finer than being cozy in a winterized cottage ("camp" in Northwestern Ontario and in Manitoba) and enjoying skating on frozen lakes, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, going curling every week and walking in the woods with no bugs? Those who frequent Ontario's Cottage Country only in summer won't realize how much activity is going on there among anti-snowbirds, who enjoy the added bonus of not being surrounded by wall-to-wall vacationers.
Things quiet down a lot here in what was Canada's first capital after the Shaw Theatre Festival wraps up and before the annual Ice Wine Festival. But the quiet is one of the things that can make this area attractive for anti-snowbirds. There's still a lot to do in your spare time – the award-winning wineries are open year-round, there are excellent restaurants, many featuring local food, first-run documentaries and feature films at the Shaw's main theatre on weekends, and there's always Niagara Falls down the road.
Ottawa and the Gatineau area
No kidding: The National Capital Region is surprisingly compelling for those who embrace and enjoy the winter. While there may be no colder experience than walking along an Ottawa street in January, the city's magnificent Rideau Canal does (weather-permitting) turn into the world's largest skating rink every year. Right across the bridge in Quebec is Gatineau National Park, with some of the best cross-country ski and snowshoe trails anywhere. Ottawa's national museums also seem to get better every year, and because it's the capital with embassies and high commissions, there are lots of excellent places to eat and drink.
For any Canadian anti-snowbird not from Montreal, the city is instantly attractive as a place for a longer stay in winter. It has history, great eating and endless places to get lost, from Old Montreal to fancy Westmount to the Atwater Market to the trendy Mile End district. And there's magnificent Mount Royal in the middle of it all.
Laurentians and Quebec's Eastern Townships
Both of these beautiful resort areas are cozy, close and comfortable year round, including winter for anti-snowbirds. If it's not cold enough there, spend a few days at the winter-only Hôtel de Glace outside Quebec City, open in 2016 from Jan. 4 through March 28.