Marc-Olivier Frappier is an unconditional winter lover. “People always ask Montrealers: but what do you do in winter? explains the chef and owner of the award-winning Mon Lapin restaurant in Little Italy. “It’s like we’re all in hibernation, just waiting for spring.”
On the contrary, he proudly says:[Here,] people go out even more in winter.
To enjoy a Canadian city like Montreal during the winter – where temperatures dip past 20 degrees and, according to the city, an average of 190 centimeters of snow falls each year – you need to learn not only how to survive the cold , but to accept it. .
The city’s diversity of vibrant outdoor offerings and cozy après-ski vibe attract locals and visitors alike. It’s partly an attitude and partly the result of strong seasonal programming.
Montreal is known for its festivals, and it doesn’t stop during the bitter months: Igloofest, an electronic music festival that describes itself as “the coldest music festival in the world” will continue for its 16th year on the 19 next January. to February 11, while Montréal en Lumière, a series of playful illuminated art installations accompanied by dance, theater and gastronomy events, runs from February 16 to March 5, 2023.
In a city that has 21 major parks, dozens of neighborhood playgrounds, community gardens, and green lanes (green lanes) turn into ice rinks and snow castles once the temperature drops below freezing. To skate alone, you can put on your skates in the Old Port, at the top of Mount Royal, in the gracious Parc Lafontaine or on the new outdoor path of the Esplanade Tranquille in the heart of downtown.
Identify the outdoor activities you enjoy
Landscape architect Chieu-Anh Le Van has always loved winter, but it’s cross-country skiing and skating that draws him outdoors every year. Montreal has more than 200 kilometers of marked trails and more than 150 outdoor skating rinks, and Le Van has its favorites: Parc Jarry, an urban oasis a few blocks from her home that has a huge skating pond and a ski slope. looping background. For more distant outings, she heads for Cap St-Jacques, a nature park along the Rivière des Prairies. “Stormy days are magical,” she says. “You can’t even see the horizon.”
Jarry Park is also a favorite spot for filmmaker and musician Patrick Boivin, but not for skating or skiing. A committed runner, Boivin doesn’t let winter get in the way of his goal of going out running four times a week. His cold-weather ritual sees him putting dinner in the oven before setting out to drive around the park in the late afternoon, returning home for a meal on a hob that has cooked itself during his absence.
Others might choose to hit the mountain, the namesake Mount Royal designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, perhaps best known for designing New York’s Central Park. Mount Royal Park has it all: jogging trails, cross-country ski trails, hills for sledding and tubing, a lake for skating and a 256-step staircase from downtown town leading to a spectacular view of the city and the St. Lawrence River.
“Riding the mountain” is a Montreal ritual — often followed by hot chocolate at the Beaux-Arts chalet at the top (or hot bagels in neighboring Mile End). And it’s especially serene in winter, when snow blankets the ground, dampening the slope of city noises, so that only the occasional crunchy footsteps remain.
Danny Pavlopoulos, co-founder of Spade and Palacio Non-Touristy Tours, says her “winter freak hubby” and a super warm Montreal-made Kanuk coat keep her on the mountain all season long. Owning a car can be a headache in the winter, so Pavlopoulos takes advantage of the popular Communauto car-sharing service to get around.
There are many who choose to ride on two wheels instead – even after big storms, cycling is practiced all year round in Montreal. More than 700 kilometers of cycle paths, many of which are protected and some two-lane, are used each year by hardy and well-equipped cyclists, who venture into the slush with a brave face.
And even car owners, often stuck digging their vehicles in the snow, are finding a way to embrace it. Cook Chelsea Dwarika admits the occasional frustration when her car is stuck in two feet of snow on the driver’s side from snow clearing, but she makes sure she keeps her perspective – it’s a great way to bond with your neighbors. “You just have to laugh sometimes,” she says. “And ask for help.”
Dwarika has found another way to relax and connect in winter: day trips to a Nordic spa with friends, in town or to the Bota Bota floating spa in the Old Port. “Swimsuits and tuques, raclette and wine and reading by the fire: we are all looking for comfort, warmth and commiseration at this time of year,” she says.
Frappier, the restaurateur agrees: get outside, hang out with your friends and loved ones, become one with the cold and it’s time to relax. “We own our winter here,” he says. “I love frosted windows in crowded restaurants when it’s -25 outside.”
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