It’s been an unseasonably warm December in Toronto, and while the treehugger in me hates the signs of global warming, I have to admit… I’m kind of enjoying it. Talk about a guilty pleasure! Unfortunately, all this near-balmy weather comes along with a lot of grey skies and drizzly days. That bit? I’m not enjoying that at all! I need a hit of Vitamin D pretty bad. When I get this way, I start making a list of places I’d rather be… Yeah, it’s pretty escapist but I’d like to think of it as gloomy weather survival mode. So I did that today, and the list was unexpectedly filled with winter wonderlands blanketed in snow. No, I haven’t lost my marbles. I’m just looking forward to embracing the winter chill in places that make the cold weather as cozy and fun as can be. Just give me some sun to go with it please!
Sleeping in an igloo village in Finland
The igloo village at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
Whenever Finland comes up – in conversation, in the news, on the web – my heart melts a little. You see, I spent two lovely layovers running around Helsinki in 2013 that left me with a huge crush on the Finnish capital. It’s made me more curious about the rest of the country, with its outdoor saunas, wild Lapland, and igloo villages. The Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort is home to the glass igloos in the photo above, as well as log cabins of various shapes and sizes and (weather-permitting) snow igloos. These geodesic domes place you right in the thick of the powdery white Arctic landscape with a direct view of the most magical natural light show there can be: the aurora borealis. Have I mentioned that’s on my bucket list? Cold weather makes me crave a warm, cozy cocoon with a perfect view to the frosty outdoors, and Kakslauttanen is pretty much the whole package!
Visiting a snowy fairy tale castle in Germany
Neuschwanstein castle in the snowy Alpine foothills
Years ago, I was a bookworm kid who knew her way around a library. Armed with my library card, I decided to explore the world of castles and came across a book cover that made my 7-year-old eyes twinkle. It was a photo of a snow-covered forest, nearly entirely made up of trees save for a single white castle sitting amongst this magical world. That castle is none other than Neuschwanstein castle, located in Schwangau, Bavaria. I pretty much decided then and there that this was *my* castle (in total kid logic). The castle served as the inspiration for Cinderella’s castle in the famous Disney logo, and comes with its own dramatic origin story. The castle is beautiful year-round but that image of it surrounded by fluffy white snow is something I’m convinced got the castle its nickname: the fairytale castle. It’s all so very sleigh rides, capes, and (faux) fur mufflers and I need me a piece of that snowy scenery.
Skating on the Rideau Canal
Rideau Canal: The longest skating rink in the world
The best way to deal with winter is to go through it, and there’s no better way to while away the short days and long nights than by practising winter sports. Learning to skate is like a right of passage for all Canadians and, in my opinion, a perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I remember stepping into my skates one frigid weekend in Ottawa (a city that’s colder than my hometown of Montreal but still warmer than 75% of the Canadian territory), and hesitantly stepping onto the iced-over Rideau Canal. In no time I was skating along the waterway that splits the capital city, buildings in the backdrop and people all around. Not only did I have a great time, I ended up skating a lot further than the crowds and stopped only to refuel on Beavertails (that’s Canadian for fried dough sprinkled with sugar and other sweet toppings). It’s been years since I stepped foot onto the Rideau Canal… I think I may need to sharpen my skates and triple-lutz skills and spend some time twirling through a wintery weekend. (just kidding, I have no triple lutz skills!)
Cross country skiing in the Dolomites
While most people will rave about the adrenaline-pumping black diamond slopes, I prefer to keep my feet on solid ground where skiing is concerned. I had always been intrigued by cross-country skiing and can now safely say that I absolutely love it! Yes, it’s the slower-paced sister of the winter sport world (though faster than snow shoeing!) but it allows you to stop and smell the cool fresh air while weaving through beautiful forests and open fields. Don’t be fooled as I was, thinking this can’t be as challenging as other winter sports. It’s a full-body workout! I have a bit of a crush on mountains, and the 1300 kms of trails in the Dolomites seem to offer incredible, awe-inspiring scenery. The bonus to all that energy exertion is the increase in body heat that’ll have you ripping off layers and skiing in your thin sweatshirt only. Is it just me or is there some delicious satisfaction that comes from removing the thick and heavy layer otherwise known as a parka that seems to weigh us down in the winter months, like a tiny act of rebellion against mother nature? Now you know, when the winter blahs hit you hard, grab some long skis, leave your parka in the car, and head to your nearest park for a mood-enhancing ski through the snowy trails. I don’t know about you, but I think I’m ready for some fun in the snow! (Vitamin D not optional.)