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Enjoying the great (snowy) outdoors

December 19, 2023, 11:00 a.m. (EST)

Winter officially arrives on December 21, but here in Canada we’ve had bouts of wintry weather for a while now.

For many of us, that means fully embracing winter by enjoying some time outside! And you know we’ve got the stats. Every two years, the Households and the Environment Survey asks Canadian households about their participation in various outdoor activities spanning all seasons.

Our most recent data are from 2021, when nearly 8 in 10 Canadian households (78%) participated in outdoor activities close to home (within a 10-minute journey). This is up from 77% in 2019 and 75% in 2011, the first year the question was asked.

Participation rates varied by activity, by the province in which a household was located and by whether it was in an urban area or not. Let’s have a look at some winter-related activities.


This was the most commonly reported outdoor winter activity in 2021, with 13% of households nationwide going for a skate. This proportion was the same for those living in census metropolitan areas (CMAs) and outside them.

By province, Alberta households (17%) were most likely to lace up their skates, while those in British Columbia (7%) were least likely, at least partially because of the milder winters in parts of that province.

Tobogganing, sliding

One in 10 households (10%) across Canada found a nearby hill to slide down in 2021. Similar to skating, proportions were highest among households in Alberta (14%) and lowest among those in British Columbia (7%). They were also above the national average in Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, and Manitoba, as well as for households living outside CMAs (12% each).

Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing

Just under 1 in 10 Canadian households (9%) reported cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in 2021. Households in Quebec (16%) were in the pole position, and close behind in their tracks were households outside CMAs (14%), and those in New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador (13% each).

Ice hockey, broomball, curling

These ice-related activities slid into a tie for the fourth spot, with 6% of Canadian households participating in ice hockey, broomball or curling in 2021.

One in 10 households in Prince Edward Island took part in at least one of these activities, tops among the provinces, followed by Saskatchewan and Alberta (8% each).

Skiing, snowboarding, telemark

Tying for fourth place with the previous category were these activities, with 6% of Canadian households reporting participation in skiing, snowboarding or telemark in 2021. Households outside CMAs (8%) and those in Alberta (8%) and British Columbia (7%) were the likeliest to hit the slopes.


Given the need for lots of space or trails close to home, snowmobiling had a large urban–rural divide, second only to that observed for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. In 2021, 6% of households outside CMAs reported snowmobiling, compared with 1% of those in CMAs and 3% nationwide.

The provincial divide was a large one as well—about one in eight households (12%) in Newfoundland and Labrador hopped on a snowmobile, the only province in double digits. Most others hovered close to the national average.

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