When to go to B.C. and the Canadian Rockies depends largely on what you intend to do when you get there. Summer brings warm weather and largely sunny skies, and also the most festivals and events. Unsurprisingly, this is also when the most tourists choose to visit, and many areas, particularly the Canadian Rockies, are absolutely thronged. However, even if you travel during the heavily touristed months of summer, this guide offers suggestions for less-frequented parks and activities where you can experience the solitary pleasures of the Canadian outback.
By and large, winter means skiing, which is big business here. Both B.C. (Vancouver and Whistler) and the Canadian Rockies (Calgary and Nakiska) have hosted the Winter Olympics, and recent years have seen the opening of ever more upscale resorts, particularly in the mountains of southeast B.C. Winter can be a fun time to visit B.C. and the Canadian Rockies, as it's literally a winter wonderland, and all the top restaurants and hotels are running at high gear.
Spring (Apr and May) and late fall (Oct through early Dec) are definitely off season, and in many ways can be the nicest times to visit. Hotel prices are often one-third to one-half of high-season rates, and you'll have dining rooms to yourselves. Come prepared for changeable weather, but otherwise this can be a low-key, budget-pleasing time to visit.
Canada west of the Rocky Mountains has generally mild winters, with snow mostly at the higher elevations. Even though spring comes early -- usually in March -- gray clouds can linger through June. Dry summer weather is assured only after July 1, but often continues through October. The Canadian Rockies and the mountains of the B.C. interior are often socked in with clouds and rain throughout the summer; plan to spend several days here to assure that you'll catch at least some good weather. In winter, the Rockies fill with snow, but frequently the weather is not as cold as you'd expect. Chinook winds from the prairies can bring warm-air systems, boosting temperatures up to early spring levels. On the prairies of Alberta, winters can be fiercely cold and windy. If you plan to travel across the prairies or through the Rockies in winter, be sure to have snow tires and chains.
Remember that your car should be winterized through March and that snow sometimes falls as late as May. Evenings tend to be cool everywhere, particularly on or near water. In late spring and early summer, you'll need a supply of insect repellent if you're planning bush travel or camping.
Coastal B.C. can be very rainy in winter, and even in high summer (July and Aug) rain and fog are not uncommon. However, it's never very cold due to offshore currents.
For up-to-date weather conditions, check out http://weatheroffice.ec.gc.ca or www.theweathernetwork.com.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.