Cities with the Most Miserable Winters, Ranked


Winter in Canada means knee-high boots, snow pants, and so many layers you can barely see your face. It means wearing gloves under your mittens and keeping a few extra ice scrapers in your car for when the first three snap in half. It also means being damn proud of just how miserable your city really is—and how tough its people are, too.

Think your town has the worst winters in Canada? Thanks to us, now you can know for sure. In the towns on our list, your eyelashes will freeze shut so fast you won’t know what hit you. Record snowfall? They’ve got that, too. Here’s how we came up with Canada’s darkest, coldest, snowiest, windiest, most record-breaking cities.

– The Let It Snow icon indicates the total average snowfall. The more snowflakes, the more time you’ll spend shovelling each winter.

🌡 – This is the Frostbite Factor: the more icons a town has, the more layers are required on an average winter day.

🔥 – The Great Indoors icon rates the number of ways to stay warm, from cozy cafes to toque shops. More icons means a slightly less miserable winter.

🏅 – The Worst of the Worst medal is awarded only to those towns that hold national records. These places have the worst weather in the history of Canada—and they can prove it.

Travelling to these towns is for intrepid adventurers only. But if you think you can handle it, we dare you to try.

15. Placentia, NL

Via The Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador


Let It Snow: ❄ ❄ ❄

Frostbite Factor: 🌡

The Great Indoors: 🔥 🔥 🔥


If you’re going to survive a winter in Newfoundland and Labrador, you’re going to need a good pair of boots and a warm jacket—and they better be waterproof. In Placentia, snowfall totals just 173 cm, but when you add in the 575 mm of winter rainfall and an average temp of – 4° C, you’ll see why this town made the list. Stay dry at the Placentia Bay Cultural Arts Centre, which puts on plays and exhibits throughout the year, or the historic O’Reilly House Museum. After a wet day out, a cup of house-made soup at Three Sisters Pub is the perfect ending. Don’t forget your umbrella!

14. Gander, NL


Let It Snow: ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄

Frostbite Factor: 🌡

The Great Indoors: 🔥 🔥 🔥

Worst of the Worst: 🏅


If you’ve never worn plastic bags under your snow boots, Gander will surely introduce you to this beloved Canadian tradition. It sees an astonishing 443 cm of snow per year, making it the snowiest major Canadian city, according to CBC/Radio-Canada. Just this past April, storms buried houses and cars for days. The fearless locals embrace all that fluffy stuff with cross-country skiing, snowshoeing…and keeping a shovel inside the house, to dig their way out. Once out, you’ll find them heading to Scudrunner Brewing for a pint or to the local café for hot latte. Join them at The Gander Bread Box for a cup of fresh coffee and handcrafted jam jam cookies that will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

13. Lethbridge, AB


Let It Snow: ❄ ❄

Frostbite Factor: 🌡

The Great Indoors: 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥


Alberta’s famous Chinook winds can raise the temperature by as much as 10° C almost instantly. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? Better hold onto your hat—literally. Chinooks frequently hit hurricane-force strength, and in 2011, Lethbridge clocked surface winds at 117 km/hour. Plus, the Lethbridge area sees the most days with Chinooks in the entire province, averaging 35.7. If the winds kick up, duck into Coulee Brew Co. for a reprieve and a cream ale, or browse the stacks at Echo Books. When your winters are this unpredictable, books and beer are keys to survival. Oh, and layers. Lots and lots of layers.

12. Moncton, NB


Let It Snow: ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄

Frostbite Factor: 🌡

The Great Indoors: 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥


If Canadian cities were competitive athletes, Moncton would always go for gold. This New Brunswick city is always setting new personal bests: In 2015, it broke its own snowfall record, clocking in at 500 cm, plus endured its coldest temps in nearly 70 years. Those are records that even Wayne Gretzky would be proud of, and he knows a thing or two about ice. Monctonians aren’t about stay in their houses after all that shovelling, though. Let Intuition Boutique show you how to bundle up in the latest sweaters and scarves, then head out to Pump House Brewery for a hot meal, a cold beer, and plenty of local tales of nor’easters and ice storms.

11. Ottawa, ON


Let It Snow: ❄ ❄ ❄

Frostbite Factor: 🌡 🌡

The Great Indoors: 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥


Ottawa is one of the world’s coldest capital cities, ranking with the likes of Moscow and Reykjavik. If that’s not bad enough, the 2016-17 winter season was the snowiest in recent memory, and Ottawa has one of the country’s worst commutes—you do the math. It’s easy to see why locals trade their wheels for skates in the winter months, enjoying any of the city’s 250 outdoor rinks, including the 7.8-km-long Rideau Canal. After skating, head to Wellington West for all the best indoorsy things: grab a new toque at JV Studios, catch live music at The Record Centre, and cuddle with kitties at the Feline Café—what better way to warm up?

10. Burns Lake, BC


Let It Snow: ❄ ❄ ❄

Frostbite Factor: 🌡 🌡

The Great Indoors: 🔥 🔥

Worst of the Worst: 🏅


In Burns Lake, when it snows, it really snows. In fact, on February 11, 1999, the weather station at nearby Tahtsa Lake recorded the most snowfall ever in a single day: 145 cm! (That’s four-fifths the height of Wayne Gretzky, FYI.) But being snowed in is no problem for the residents of this isolated spot in BC’s North-Central Interior—they’ll simply break out their snowmobiles. If you’re new to town, make the warm and cozy Aksenz Boutique your first stop to bundle up proper. Then join the locals at Grapevine Pub for grub and gossip, or enjoy a Northern Fog (Earl grey, steamed milk, and vanilla) at Alternative Grounds.

9. Kenaston, SK


Let It Snow: ❄

Frostbite Factor: 🌡 🌡 🌡

The Great Indoors: 🔥 🔥


Kenaston used to call itself the “Blizzard Capital of Canada” and even built a snowman statue to prove it. Although the weather facts don’t quite match that claim, it is true that Kenaston has some pretty miserable winters. It’s cold, windy, and rural, but the hardy warriors of this village on the plains wouldn’t have it any other way. If you don’t get blown away while taking a selfie with the giant snowman, make your way to Kenaston Café for a slice of pie and a toasty hot chocolate. It’s a classic combination for a cold Canadian day.

8. Winnipeg, MB


Let It Snow: ❄ ❄

Frostbite Factor: 🌡 🌡 🌡

The Great Indoors: 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥

Worst of the Worst: 🏅


When it comes to miserable winters, Winnipeg’s got a bit of a reputation—and it’s all deserved. While the coldest temperature in Winnipeg has nothing on the cities later on our list, it is Canada’s coldest major city (that is, those with populations over 100,000). In fact, it takes that title in two different ways: coldest average winter temperature, and the highest number of days per year that are below freezing (113, to be exact). You won’t find complaining here, though—just light a bonfire, put some beers in the snow, and you’ve got a wintery Winnipeg party. Want some indoor options? A night of board games and drinks at Across the Board Cafe or a pint of dark ale at PEG Beer Co. will keep you toasty.

7. Kenora, ON


Let It Snow: ❄ ❄

Frostbite Factor: 🌡 🌡 🌡

The Great Indoors: 🔥 🔥 🔥


Remember the Great Ontario Ice Storm of 2013? Kenora was right in the middle of it, breaking its own records for freezing temperatures. Yes, it’s cold here, and sure, sometimes your mailbox might freeze shut, but there are upsides: for example, you’ll get really good at driving while looking through a very tiny window that you’ve scraped through the ice on your car. Also, you’ll have adorable boutiques where you can find all the winter accessories you need, like slippers and robes at The Seasons Shop and cushy blankets at Abundance. After a coconut mocha at HoJoe Coffee & Eatery, you’ll be feeling the winter spirit just like a local—until you have to finish scraping your windshield, that is.

6. Val-D’Or, QC


Let It Snow: ❄ ❄ ❄ ❄

Frostbite Factor: 🌡 🌡 🌡

The Great Indoors: 🔥 🔥 🔥

Worst of the Worst: 🏅


If your motto is “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!,” Val-D’Or is your kind of place. Of the larger Canadian cities, it takes the award for most total days with snowfall—103. Oh, and it’s pretty chilly, too. But residents don’t let the average January temp of – 17° C keep them indoors—skiing, snowshoeing, hockey, ice fishing, and more are on the outdoor menu in winter. On the indoor menu: fondue and escargot at L’Avantage restaurant, and poutine and beer at Microbrasserie Le Prospecteur. Once you’ve got a buzz going, browse the books at La Galerie du Livre. You’re gonna need a good read for all those days you won’t be able to get to work.

5. Thompson, MB


Let It Snow: ❄ ❄

Frostbite Factor: 🌡 🌡 🌡 🌡

The Great Indoors: 🔥 🔥


Winnipeg might be the coldest major city in Canada, but to the north, Thompson takes the cake for Manitoba’s most miserable winter. Get used to being snowed in, because Thompson sees some of the province’s worst early storms, with an average 24 cm of snow in October! Winter temps reach a frigid – 24° C, but that just makes it the perfect place for the Manitoba Winter Games, right? They’ll be held March 4–10, 2018, and they’re sure to be the highlight of this freezing, snowy season. If you think you’re tough enough for Thompson, get outfitted at Thompson Trading Post, then test your mettle at Mystery Mountain Winter Park. Pro tip: The more layers, the better.

4. Yellowknife, NT


Let It Snow: ❄ ❄

Frostbite Factor: 🌡 🌡 🌡 🌡 🌡

The Great Indoors: 🔥 🔥 🔥

Worst of the Worst: 🏅


It’s no surprise the real most miserable winters in Canada are in the northern provinces. Of Canada’s larger cities, Yellowknife has the longest snow cover season and the most severe wind chill—in this town, you better make sure every square inch of your skin is covered. Local boutique iceblink can help you out with that, plus provide you with stylish threads for indoor activities, too, like tapping your toes to live music at The Cellar Bar and Grill. Can’t stand to brave the wind? We hope you picked up some good reads from Yellowknife Book Cellar. Then all you need is a blanket and a fireplace, and you can hibernate for days. When your winters are this bad, sometimes pretending you’re a grizzly bear is the only way.

3. Inuvik, NT


Let It Snow: ❄ ❄ ❄

Frostbite Factor: 🌡 🌡 🌡 🌡 🌡

The Great Indoors: 🔥


Inuvik is about as far north as it gets—so far north, there’s an entire month of darkness in December. When the sun first returns, it’s for a scant 40 minutes at a time. During these cold, endless nights, locals stay warm by…swimming? Yes, the Midnight Sun Complex has a year-round indoor pool, along with squash, curling, and a full gym. Refuel at Alestine’s, and be sure to take a picture with the Igloo Church. Once the sun comes out, you better believe the locals celebrate: the annual Sunrise Festival has a huge bonfire, fireworks, and plenty of partying. Hey, when you live in a place like Inuvik, you either embrace winter or GTHO.

2. Beaver Creek, YT


Let It Snow: ❄

Frostbite Factor: 🌡 🌡 🌡 🌡 🌡

The Great Indoors: 🔥

Worst of the Worst: 🏅


It’s official: This is the coldest place in Canada. On February 3, 1947 at the Snag, YT weather station, the mercury dipped to – 63° C—and that remains the lowest temperature ever recorded not only in Canada, but in all of North America. Snag is unpopulated and nearly impossible to reach by road, but we’re confident that nearby Beaver Creek is just as miserable. Local establishment Buckshot Betty’s can take care of your nourishment needs, but we hope you’ve got a snowmobile, or at least some cross-country skis. Aside from mulling cider and quilting, those are the main pastimes for this town’s 103 residents.

1. Baker Lake, NU


Let It Snow: ❄ ❄

Frostbite Factor: 🌡 🌡 🌡 🌡 🌡

The Great Indoors: 🔥

Worst of the Worst: 🏅


Drumroll please…Baker Lake has the most miserable winter in all of Canada. Its flat geography and rapidly changing pressure systems mean that this is one windy city. In fact, it’s the real blizzard capital of Canada. The average temperature of – 32° C is no joke, and there are upwards of 20 blizzards per winter—so many, the locals built a “snow fence” to control the massive drifts, which can grow higher than 3 m. Sounds pretty terrible, right? But think of it this way: those snowdrifts are super fun for snowmobiles! Getting here in winter is quite an adventure, but if you make it, reward yourself with local art at Jessie Oonark Centre (Baker Lake is renowned for its soapstone carvings).

If your town made the list, congratulations! You’ve earned your bragging rights as a resident of Canada’s most miserable places to be in the winter. If your spot didn’t make the cut, the only question is: Are you brave enough to travel to these frigid Canadian cities? We’re pretty sure the locals would give you this advice: perfect your layering strategy, invest in some good boots, and suck it up. Surviving these Canadian winters is actually a point of pride.

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About Author

Carolyn Albee

<p>Carolyn Albee is a lover of writing, dogs, and new cities—not necessarily in that order. When she’s not on a mission to find the best late-night snacks in those new cities, she’s off writing about why you should visit them, or doing some exploring of a different kind: Taking to the hills with her dog, Markus.</p>

14 Comments

  1. Carolyn those of us in Burns Lake LOVE your blog. We feel like we have hit the big time, ranked up there with Ottawa! Yellowknife! and all the other great places mentioned. We have a ton of blog material for you on Highway 16 out to Prince Rupert. You need to jump in your car (with your dog) and travel our way. We will make sure you have the time of your life!
    #visitburnslake
    http://www.visitbulkleynechako.com
    FB: love burns lake

    Reply
  2. As a Lethbridge resident I can tell you that we often have days, weeks, without a strong wind, lovely warm temps when other cities are dealing with snow that stays and stays. When we do get snow it rarely lasts more than two weeks. When others are getting snow and cold we seem to be in a bubble of warm and dry. Would not live anywhere else.

    Reply
  3. Nonsense. Lethbridge has one of the better climates in Canada. The natives called the Chinooks “Snoweater”. Much of the winter, there is no snow on the ground. All winds are not 117 km and if you think Lethbridge is windy, you don’t know what wind is. Chinooks basically occur when it is raining in the west coast and the other winds are fronts moving through which everyone gets.

    Reply
  4. To be fair, Tahtsa Lake is hundreds of kilometres from the Village of Burns Lake (totally different climate), and is actually situated in central BC. Burns Lake is also located on Highway 16, which is the main (only) highway connecting the lower mainland (Vancouver) with northern BC, the Yukon and Alaska. Also, Aksenz sells ladies dress clothing, so I doubt you will find much to keep you warm there! What Burns Lake does boast is beautiful lakes, amazing mountain bike trails and very friendly residents!

    Reply
  5. I once had a business meeting in Santa Monica, and we adjourned for lunch. At an outdoor cafe, the Californians all complained about how miserable the weather was that day – 68 degrees and a little misty, requiring a light sweater. I said my goodbyes, boarded a plane and landed in Calgary a few hours later. 38 below zero. I wonder why they call Californians snowflakes . . .

    Reply
  6. Once again, we find that the information posted on the Internet is not always correct. Surprise, surprise. It could be said that Tahtsa Lake is located near Burns Lake as it could also be said that Vancouver is located near Burns Lake. IT’S NOT! Tahtsa Lake is in fact much closer to Kitimat than it is to Burns Lake. You were correct in the fact that we do get snow and cold weather in the winter here in Burns Lake. In fact, the fat bikers (Mountain Bikers with snow tires) love the weather and ride regularly on our world famous mountain bike trails. We also have snowshoers, cross-country skiers and sledders (snowmobile riders) that enjoy our winters. Burns Lake is a wonderful, friendly committee with marvelous businesses that you can visit year round. As I look out at the beautiful blue skies and sunshine, I know that I will take our winters anytime over the gray skies on the coast.

    Reply
  7. The author didn’t do very good research – I’ve been to at least 20 places way worse than some of these!
    Stewart (my current home) is known as one of the cloudiest places in the world – which explains the 224 days of precipitation and annual snowfall of 220 inches. Stewart is fabulous though in spite of this – and nowhere near as miserable as Winnipeg or Rankin Inlet!

    Reply
  8. Not sure who you polled for this but obviously no one from lethbridge as I am sending this now it is +8 and a 20 k wind with sunshine while from Saskatchewan east is -25 or worse.

    Reply

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