When foreigners are asked about their perception of the weather in Canada, some humorous answers typically arise:
“They live in Igloos up there, right?”
“Doesn’t it snow, like, year-round?”
“Canada is cold. I get the chills just thinking about it.”
Now, while this perception of Canadian weather is generally true in the winter time (except for the Igloos…it’s the 21st century, after all), many outsiders forget that Canadian winters usually only last about 3-4 months, depending on where you live in the Great White North. For the remaining 8-9 months, you can expect a combination of gorgeous Spring days, baking Summer months and a crisp, beautiful Autumnal period. Many who move to Canada agree: the toll of a Canadian winter is well worth the payoff of the spectacular months that follow. And here’s a great article on How to Dress for the Cold, just to help you prepare when the time comes.
CANADA IS BIG. REALLY BIG.
Before we get into a detailed rundown of Canadian weather by region, it’s important to remember that Canada is the 2nd largest country in the world. While some parts of Canada dip farther south than sections of America, other parts of Canada climb well into the Arctic Circle. That means that each Canadian province and city experiences all four seasons in a truly unique way, since every landing spot is situated in a different longitude and latitude across the map.
For example, winter in Vancouver can be pretty mild thanks to the West-coast oceanic climate. The average winter temperature of 7˚C is a cinch when compared to Canada’s northernmost territory, Nunavut, which undergoes winter temperatures of -15˚ to -30˚ quite regularly.
WEATHER IN CANADA: MOST POPULAR PLACES
If you’re having a tough time deciding what to pack for your move to Canada, we can make it easy for you: pack some of everything. No matter where you move, you’ll get a lovely taste of t-shirt weather, sweater weather and parka weather, and everything in between. But to help tailor your packing list to a certain city or province, we’ve broken down the year-round Canadian weather by the most major cities in the nation. As a general rule, if you’re moving to a city further north than the city we’ve listed, expected it to be a bit colder in the winter time and milder in the summer.
Weather in Toronto, Ontario
Summer: Sunny, hot, and oftentimes humid, Toronto’s summer months are happy and carefree for the 4 million-plus inhabitants that live there. The temperature usually ranges from 20˚C to 35˚C, and since the city is located close to the Great Lakes, the humidity can get pretty intense.
Packing List: shorts, swimming shorts, t-shirts, sandals, sunglasses and big tub of sunscreen.
Fall: The fall months in Toronto are spectacular, mild and occasionally unexpected. As the temperature drops to an average of 23˚C in September, then to 9˚C by November, the leaves in the city start changing colour before sprinkling themselves on the ground. The foliage can be breathtaking, and hiking becomes a national sport. But be warned: it isn’t unnatural if the temperature drops to winter-levels for a few days in November, so be sure to pack warm.
Packing List: jacket, sweaters, jeans, boots, anything that can be layered
Winter: Cold, snowy, and fortunately, more mild than in other Canadian cities. With temperatures that drop below 0˚C, and an average snowfall that drops up to 49 inches (121.5cm) per season, it’s a good idea to bring a thick coat…or two.
Packing List: winter coat, winter boots, scarves, gloves, winter hat.
Spring: The springtime in Toronto can be more variable than x’s in a grade 10 math class. Although the weather starts to warm to about to 5˚C in March, 12˚C in April and 19˚C in May, Canadians aren’t surprised to see the grass showing in early spring or a snow-flurry towards the end. But if there’s one thing Toronto spring is known for, it’s the Cherry Blossoms, which bloom in High Park in May. Oh, and lots of rain.
Packing List: umbrella, semi-thick coat, jeans, boots, light scarf, gloves.
Weather in Montreal, Quebec
Summer: Located close to the Great Lake of Lake Champlain, the humidity in Montreal’s summer months can get pretty intense. But that doesn’t stop the Quebecois from enjoying the flourishing summer festivals that happen between June and August. Temperatures can range between 24˚C-26˚C in those months, so bring out the sunscreen and get ready to enjoy.
Packing List: Packing List: shorts, swimming shorts, t-shirts, sandals, sunglasses and a giant vat of sunscreen.
Fall: While a Montreal summer can sometimes trickle into the fall months, your best bet is to pack for a variety of weather conditions here. Warm September days are followed by chilly October nights, so a layerable coat is a must-have here—especially with temperatures that reach a high of 15.7˚C in November and a low of 2.5˚C in November.
Packing List: Warm coat, jeans, boots, umbrellas and binoculars for awesome sight seeing.
Winter: We won’t sugar coat this one: Montreal winters can be pretty brutal. Temperatures can drop as low as -25˚C, with windchill, and the clouds can drop over 2 meters of snow throughout the season. Wrap that scarf around your face and brace for a tough few months.
Packing List: Scarf, gloves, winter boots, winter parka, hat, a little bit of prayer to the Master of Snow in the sky.
Spring: Montreal springs are pretty unpredictable, but on average you can expect a cool March (2˚C max), a mild April (11˚C) and a that’s-more-like-it March (19˚C). It isn’t exceptionally rainy, as rain in Montreal is well-dispersed throughout the year. However, the temperature can definitely go through some mood swings, so prepare for some thunderstorms.
Packing List: Umbrella, warm jackets, jeans, boots, and a pair of shorts when the weather is your friend again.
Weather in Calgary, Alberta
Summer: Hold on to your cowboy hats, friends, because Calgary summers are blazing hot and fiercely windy. Fortunately, unlike the humid Toronto, the heat in the midwest is a dry heat thanks to the prairie climate. What makes Calgary summers truly special is the Stampede festival (July 6-15th), where tourists and locals alike dawn a pair of cowboy boots for some real Western fun.
Packing List: T-shirts, shorts, sunglasses, sunscreen, cowboy hat, and a windbreaker for the windy nights.
Fall: Variability is the name of the game here. In October, the temperatures can undergo a wild range from 20˚C to -30˚C depending on the weather systems blowing across the prairies. So bring every kind of coat you have—who knows if you’ll need it!
Packing List: Umbrella, warm coats, jeans, boots, and a backup hat/pair of gloves.
Winter: Thanks to the flat prairie conditions, the sun is usually shining bright in the sky, even when the temperature drops to the occasional -30˚C in mid-January. The average temperature throughout the winter is around 0˚C on the high end and -13˚C on the low end. Since big snow storms are pretty rare in Calgary, you can look forward to a dry cold with lots of Vitamin D from Mr. Sun throughout the season.
Packing List: Warm coats, winter boots, winter gloves, scarves and hats and a pair of skis.
Spring: When spring tries to shine, Calgary winter often puts a damper on the mood. Don’t be surprised if snow continues to fall well into the spring months, and if it leaves a bit of slush on the ground when the temperature suddenly warms again. Like most Canadian springs, it’s unpredictable here in the West, so watch out!
Packing List: Umbrella, layerable coats, boots, jeans and a hat/gloves combo.
Weather in Vancouver, British Columbia
Summer: Thanks to the varying altitudes of British Columbia, Vancouver embraces a wonderful summer where you can get a bit of everything. Below the mountains, in Vancouver proper, you can experience swooning temperatures of up to 22˚C. When you climb up high, those temperatures can drop to 10˚C and below. Plan accordingly!
Packing List: Sunglasses, t-shirts, shorts, and good shoes for hiking.
Fall: The spring, fall and winter months kind of blend into one in Vancouver, but we’ll try our best to differentiate. Fall is usually wetter than spring, and the weather follows an inverse trend, dropping from 19˚C in September to 9˚C by November. Not as cold as other Canadian cities, but definitely more rainy.
Packing List: Umbrella, second umbrella, raincoat, pants and waterproof boots.
Winter: What is undeniably the most mild Canadian winter, Vancouver winters make up for a lack of snow with a surplus of rain. The temperature rarely falls below 0˚C, but the rainfall can sprinkle the streets with 435mm of rain throughout the season (on average). Fortunately, incredible skiing is just a few hours’ drive away into the mountains, with Whistler and Blackcomb offering some of the best snow conditions in the world.
Packing List: Waterproof winter coat, waterproof boots, waterproof just about everything.
Spring: Winter blends in spring in a beautiful way, offering less rain, more sunshine and warmer weather. As the weather improves, so too do people’s moods from a rather dreary winter, and hiking activity rises to normal levels again.
Packing List: Jeans, sweaters, t-shirts (to change into during a mild hike) and good hiking boots.
Weather in Winnipeg, Manitoba
Summer: Winnipeg summers have hit a kind of sweet spot. With humidity levels that hover around 50%, the summers here aren’t too wet. Temperatures hover in the mid-to-high twenties, which is a reason to smile for most Manitobans. That, and the fact that Winnipeg is one of the sunniest cities in Canada. Unfortunately, thunderstorms are pretty frequent—they get about 27 per year. So bring an umbrella if you’re making the move to the Peg!
Packing List: Umbrella, t-shirts, shorts, swim suits and a high-end camera to capture those beautiful thunderstorms.
Fall: Ever heard of the term Indian Summer? That’s where summer weather returns after the first frost. And the Winnipeg fall months are famous for that. It’s a clear indication of the variability you can expect in Winnipeg during the fall: blazing hot or frigidly cold. It’s all a matter of luck, really. Fortunately, that sunny climate continues into the fall, no matter how cold it gets.
Packing List: t-shirts, shorts, with sweaters, pants and coats you can layer on top just in case.
Winter: Winnipeg’s winter is the 10th coldest out of Canada’s cities, with an average low of -20˚C. Compared to the list above, that easily takes the cake. While the snowfall here can be, well, terrifying, the good news is that you have some beautiful scenery to make up for it. The Aurora Borealis can be viewed from Winnipeg from time to time, which makes this long winter worthwhile.
Packing List: Warm, thick coats, gloves, scarves, hats and a big shovel for your car.
Spring: As a city in a prairie province, Winnipeg’s spring months are windy and not too rainy. Unless, of course, the temperature drops below freezing and frozen rain (read: snow) hits the ground. It’s a common occurrence in this lovely city, so don’t be surprised when it happens!
Packing List: Windbreaker jacket, jeans, boots and a backup smile when the snow falls for an unwelcome return.
WHAT ABOUT THE REST?
To get the lowdown on the weather in the rest of Canada, including the Atlantic provinces and the Northern territories, we recommend consulting this list from the Government of Canada, and viewing the extended forecasts for each province.
If you’ve fallen in love with one of the cities above, and aren’t too daunted by the “igloo winters” some outsiders might tout, then you should definitely check out our Online Relocation Guides to get fully informed on everything it takes to make the move to Canada. We make it simple and straightforward, so the only thing you have to worry about is what to pack for the seasons ahead.
Photo Credit: Unsplash