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Travel Center
Western Canada
Discover Western Canada

If you live outside the country or in warmer climates, traveling to Western Canada for a winter getaway requires a little extra planning in terms of weather, driving and border crossings. We’ve assembled some handy tips to consider when vacationing in Victoria, Vancouver and Banff.

Victoria – Dine Around & Stay In Town

Attention, food lovers: Every winter between February and March, Victoria holds its annual Dine Around & Stay In Town promotion. Three-course menus paired with British Columbian wines at local restaurants go for $20–$40 CDN (approx. $19.50–$39 U.S). Special lodging rates during this time range from $69–$129 CDN (approx. $67–$125.50 U.S.).

Victoria & Vancouver Weather

Victoria and Vancouver generally experience milder winters than the rest of Canada. Snow is rare except on mountaintops, but rain is common. Temperatures average around 45º Fahrenheit (7º Celsius). Bring a raincoat, umbrella and warm clothing. If you plan to do some walking, make sure you have waterproof footwear (like our Women’s UGG® Bellevue Waterproof Boots).

Banff Weather

The winter weather in Banff is much harsher than in coastal Vancouver and Victoria. Winter lasts from October through March. Temperatures from December to February average around 6º Fahrenheit (-14º Celsius), but can easily drop to -22º Fahrenheit (-30º Celsius) during cold snaps. Bring a winter coat (like our Canadian-designed Hilary Radley Alpaca Coat), wool hat and socks, gloves, sweaters and proper winter walking shoes or boots (like our Women’s UGG® Caspian Boots).

Life of a GyPSy

Make a trip to Western Canada more informative by renting the GyPSy, a car-stereo GPS plug-in device that provides commentary, facts, stories and tips about locations as you approach them. These audio tour guides point out places you may otherwise miss. Rent them at the airports in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary, and at specific locations throughout Banff and Victoria.

Winter Driving

Highways within Banff National Park are well-maintained during winter and rental cars are equipped with all-season tires, which are sufficient for highway travel. However, road closures may still occur. Always drive with caution, especially at dusk when visibility is low and nocturnal animals become a factor. To check road conditions, visit: Parks Canada Road Condition Report (Parks Canada), AMA Road Report (Alberta) or Drive BC (British Columbia).

Winter Wildlife Viewing in Banff

In late winter, large herds of elk converge at Vermillion Lakes and along the highway near the Buffalo Paddock in Banff National Park. Bighorn sheep and large rams can be seen at the top of the Mt. Sulphur gondola ride and on Mt. Norquay and Minnewanka Lake roads. Two of the park’s five wolf packs often appear around Lake Minnewanka, and between Banff and Lake Louise. Never approach wildlife—bring binoculars or a camera for better viewing.

Currency

Victoria, Vancouver and Banff use the Canadian dollar system, as well as pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters, all of which have the same values as the coins of the United States. In addition, Canadians also exchange 1-dollar (loonie) and two-dollar (twoonie) coins. ATMs are readily available, but withdrawals made with cards from the U.S. and foreign banks usually incur extra charges. Currently, the Canadian dollar is almost equal in value to the U.S. dollar, which is worth just a few cents more.

Winter Driving

Driving in the snowy north requires extra caution. Using winter/snow tires, slowing down and leaving more distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you are just a few of the basics. If you are unfamiliar with black ice or harsh winter conditions, consider public transportation or taxis. Alternatively, Québec City’s Old Town is best explored on foot.

Canadian Terms You May Hear

  • Aye = an affirmative statement
  • Canucks = Canadians
  • Chinook = warm wind blowing off the Rockies, causing weather to warm quickly
  • First Nations People = Native Canadian Indian
  • Loonie = Canadian one-dollar coin
  • RCMP = Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Mounties)
  • Twoonie = Canadian two-dollar coin
  • Tuque = knitted winter cap or beanie

Driving Across the Border

Items to have on hand:

  • Passport/green card or resident card (if applicable)
  • Car registration/car rental agreement
  • Receipts for duty-free goods purchased at border

Questions to expect:

  • Place of home residence
  • Destination in Canada
  • Reason for visit
  • Length of sta
  • Occupation
  • Check border wait times here.

Passports

Canada now requires a passport at all crossings (land, air and sea) for all travelers, including U.S. citizens. Residents of Washington state can apply here for an enhanced driver’s license or ID card as an acceptable passport alternative when crossing into Canada by land or sea (but not by air).

Hockey

As the country’s national sport, ice hockey has an avid following in Canada. To understand the furor, catch a game while you’re in town. Consult the National Hockey League website for schedules for the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers.

Metric, Imperial or American

Officially, Canada uses the metric system—but British and American measuring systems are also employed. Expect to see road signs and maps in kilometers, gasoline in liters and weather reports in Celsius. However, Canadians use Fahrenheit for cooking, and U.S. feet, inches and pounds when discussing personal height and weight or when measuring floor space and interior decor. Food and drink volumes vary.



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