Okay, so winter sometimes gets a bad rap. And you think you’re not really a fan. After all, there’s snow and ice and it’s sometimes kind of cold. I get it. But I’m here to tell you that winter’s negative stereotypes are simply the result of a PR campaign gone wrong (sometime in the past with some people we don’t even want to know), because winter is actually pretty amazing.
In Manitoba, winter isn’t just a mere season–for part of the year, it’s a way of life. As a result, we embrace it with a host of events and activities you simply can’t experience any other time of year. Try having dinner on the surface of the river in the summer–you can’t.
If you really think you don’t like winter, I urge you to stop, look around and discover what you’ve been missing with these 10 reasons to love winter.
1. The Forks
The Forks turns into a veritable wonderland come winter, and if you’ve never experienced its magic, it’s time. Where else in the world can you skate or walk down one of the longest natural skating rinks on the planet, while stopping for a rest inside an artfully designed warming hut conceptualized by masterminds like Frank Ghery (you’ve maybe heard of him) and Anish Kapoor (of Chicago Bean fame)? Nowhere. That’s where. You can also skate across the frozen pathways throughout The Forks and over top the rail bridge with its canopy of lights. Once you’ve had your fill, head to The Forks Market where you can sip on a craft beer flight from The Common or chow down on a pork belly Heroshima from Kyu Bistro. And trust me when I say those are the best in the world too.
2. RAW:almond + RAW:churchill
Winnipeg’s most unique dining experiences take you on an adventure beyond your wildest imagination. In Winnipeg, RAW:almond opens this week and is the world’s only pop up restaurant situated on a frozen river. Dine on delicacies created by chefs flown in from across Canada as you sit snuggled on benches covered in white furs and marvel at the ice beneath your feet. Then look north to RAW:churchill the first week of March, where a tent-like structure situated inside a 300-year old fort becomes your ‘restaurant’ for the night. Revel in a menu inspired by the fur traders who once called Prince of Wales Fort home, and then turn your eyes to the heavens as you take in the dazzling Northern Lights show through the structure’s clear roof. This is how winter is done.
3. Hygge (Hoo-gah)
It’s loosely translated into ‘coziness’, and while the Danish might have named the concept, Manitobans have it down when it comes to getting cozy in winter. Whether its lighting a Cable Knit Sweater candle from Coal + Canary or retreating to a snow covered cabin in Riding Mountain National Park or the Whiteshell, nothing beats hibernating under a warm blanket in front of a crackling fire. The unparalleled coziness continues as you get steamy inside the hamam at Ten Spa and then head outside and to a roaring bonfire complete with blankets and warm libations beneath the night stars. Let’s face it, there is something so soothing about snuggling, and there is no season that does it better.
4. Comfort Food
What would comfort food be without winter? Basically nothing. It’s not like you can tuck into a steaming bowl of smoked cheddar macaroni from King + Bannatyne; a heaping pile of fried chicken poutine from Banh Mi King; or Pineridge Hollow’s fried chicken and waffles in your bathing suit. No, ooey gooey umami filled comfort food requires a cozy setting like Smith with its Hudson Bay blanket lined booths, candlelight and a touch of frost on the windows. Don’t forget to counteract the salty with the sweet with homemade strawberry pop tarts from La Belle Baguette or pillowy peanut brittle donuts from Bronuts. Bonus: Winter attire hides your comfort food dalliances much better than your bathing suit does.
5. Snow & Ice
It’s a little hard to slide on sand. Even if you’ve never actually tried it, I think we can agree on that. Enter winter with its vast oceans of snow and ice on which you can ski, skate, snowmobile, fish and otherwise get your thrill on. Skate across the crystal surface of Clear Lake; get your motor running and take off at top speed across Lake Winnipeg; or drop a line and catch the big one during the Lake of the Prairies Ice Fishing Derby. Strap on your snowshoes and explore the forests of Spruce Woods or head across Dauphin Lake. Feel the woosh of the wind on the slopes at Aessippi Ski Area & Resort (yah, that’s right–Manitoba has downhill skiing) or stay on the horizontal and slip and slide your way through Hecla Island. Whatever your sport of choice, winter offers myriads of reasons to get active outside.
So basically, you haven’t lived until you’ve experienced Thermea, an outdoor nordic spa, in the winter. This is not an exaggeration. Imagine sitting in a pool of swirling foamy water as the steam rises off the top and snowflakes fall gently around you. Picture the sparkle of snow-covered evergreen trees shielding you in their embrace as you make your way into a smouldering aromatherapy infused sauna and the invigorating rush you feel as you step back outside and slip into the bubbling waters. Feel the warmth of a bonfire gently tickling your skin as you sip on a piping mug of herbal tea. And finally, fantasize about the gourmet meal and glass of champagne you’ll enjoy as moonlight reflects off the snow. Tell me that you can resist that. Just try.
7. Festival du Voyageur
Are you ready for a rollicking good time? Because Festival du Voyageur is ready to knock your ceinture fléchée off. Western Canada’s largest winter festival, FDV is 10 days of music, food and culture. Celebrating Manitoba’s Metis heritage, you can dance a jig at a traditional Franco Manitobain kitchen party and satisfy your sugar tooth at the cabane à sucre where maple syrup poured over snow becomes a gooey treat. Feast on dishes like bannock and pea soup and then take a swig of potent Caribou from the ice bar before parking yourself in front of a bonfire to savour the night sky. With historic reenactments, top-notch music acts, and snow sculptures that defy physics, this festival celebrates winter as it was meant to be.
While flowy dresses and sandals might get all the glory, I’m here to argue that winter fashion is way more fun. You’ve got beautiful fur trimmed beaded mukluks from Manitobah Mukluks and the ultra-modern version called Muckies from local designer Julie Pedersen. Of course there’s the iconic and oh-so-of-the-moment Canada Goose jacket and the cute and cozy Crown Cap. Cozy knits shine in winter with HBC stripes. Take it even one step further and head to Wolseley Wool so you can knit your own snuggly winter wear. Winter–you are so good lookin’.
9. Hot Drinks
A steaming mug of hot chocolate on a hot summer day isn’t exactly ideal. Once again, enter winter where warm hot drinks are a staple of the season. If tea is your drink of choice, be sure to head to Three 6 Tea in Selkirk, or Amsterdam Tea Room and Joy’s Tea in Winnipeg, and sip on concoctions like lavender mint and Canadian berry. If coffee is the name of your game, then Gimli’s Flatland Coffee Co or Winnipeg’s Thom Bargen will supply your warm and aromatic java fix. And of course, there’s hot chocolate–what some might consider the king (or queen) of the winter drink–enjoy yours at Baked Expectations in s’more form topped with marshmallows and graham crackers or in Nutella flavour at Jenna Rae Cakes. How ever you sip, drip or pour it–few things are better than a warm mug between your hands on a cold day.
10. The Beauty of It
Sure, white sand beaches are pretty and all, but do you really want the same screensaver as everyone else? It’s winter when Mother Nature does her best work. Whether it’s sparkling hoarfrost coating delicate branches, snow capped trees, or a rushing river rolling between majestic white evergreens, winter is truly beautiful to behold.
Header image: @kollylynda