5 Extreme Sports That Offer Unforgettable Perspectives

Adrenalin pumping activities, beautiful Canadian views.

11/09/2017 1:10 PM AEST | Updated 06/10/2017 10:09 AM AEDT
Jacek Loewe / Eyeem via Getty Images

Hailed by 'The New York Times' and 'Lonely Planet' as their top international destination for 2017 the excitement surrounding Canada is timely to say the least, given that this year also marks its 150th anniversary of Confederation.

It's evident a big part of Canada's draw is the array of extreme sports on offer -- and the unique perspectives they bring. In fact, between January to March 2017, official figures show that Australian arrivals were up 23.7 per cent.

From witnessing the aurora borealis (that's the Northern Lights, folks) whilst dog sledding across the snow in the Yukon and heli skiing on a remote mountaintop, to freeride mountain biking down the rugged West Coast; here are five extreme sports that will test your limits in any season and earn you serious bragging rights back home.

1. Heli Skiing

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British Columbia (BC) is home to more than 80 percent of the world's heli skiing.

Dropped off by helicopter on the top of a remote mountain, you'll experience uninterrupted views of snowcapped alpine terrain.

"It's the little piece of time just after the helicopter disappears, but before you drop in, when you can take a breath, look around, and realise you're in the middle of nothing," Tanya Otis, public relations manager, CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures said. "No calls, no texts, no email, no deadlines -- just thousands of acres of untracked powder in front of you, from now until sundown to play in."

The oldest and largest heli-ski operator in the world, the company operates on an exclusive three million-acre region, one third the size of Switzerland and offers 12 different backcountry lodge experiences across British Columbia's Columbia Mountains.

The location is perfectly situated away from the warmth of the ocean and naturally protected from blasts of arctic air, meaning that temperatures stay consistent and in mid-winter the snow you ski is three to four metres deep.

"You can heli ski if you are a strong intermediate to advanced skier," Otis said. "And we have programs for first timers to vertical hungry veterans."

The variety of lodges allow travellers to experience all types of terrain, but a favourite for Australian heli-skiers is Galena Lodge, due to its steep pitches, bottomless snow and famous ping-pong tournaments.

2. Dog Sledding

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The oldest winter recreation sport in the country, dogsledding, or 'mushing', is popular all over Canada, but it's in the Yukon wilderness, where the annual Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race is held, that offers the best experience.

Proper dogsledding requires decent snow cover, so December to March is the ideal time to participate. Not only that, but the location and time of year means potential polar bear encounters and views of the Northern Lights. No prior experience is necessary, but a decent level of fitness is a must if you want to lead your own team of dogs.

"The sound of the runners on the snow, the breathtaking scenery and the happy faces of the dogs give you a feeling of connection to your team and the wild land around you," Trudy Burdess, part owner, Sky High Wilderness Ranch said. "Dog sledding in the Yukon really is the adventure of a lifetime."

A perfect base is Whitehorse -- a wilderness city with a small town feel and several great hotel options. However, if you really want to experience the elements, try one of Yukon's many camp sites. What could be better than watching the Northern Lights in the heart of nature?

3. White Water Rafting

Offering wild, extreme rapids, alongside spectacular views through the Rockies, the spectacular Western Canada's Kicking Horse River begins in the pristine Yoho National Park.

"The river is beautifully tree-lined with wildflowers and above the tree tops, you'll see the mountain peaks which will keep some snow on them until well into July most summers," Ted Bilton, owner, Wild Water Adventures Inc said. There are numerous lodges in and around Yoho National Park -- Cathedral Mountain Lodge and Emerald Lake Lodge are both close to the river.

"Black Bears are also common visitors to the river banks, you might also see moose, coyote and even wolves." But it's the final 20-kilometre "roller coaster" ride that is its main drawcard.

"The rapids come one after another and range from class II, which is fun and splashy, to class IV, which is crazy and wet!" Bilton said. "Feeling every rapid and wave that you come face to face with is exhilarating."

A seasonal experience, tours run from late May to early September with the best months being June and July when the river level are at the highest, meaning that the rapids are more extreme. No prior experiences is needed, though an average level of fitness is required -- along with a sense of adventure.

Once you've got your heart pumping on the water, immerse yourself in nearby hot springs, you can even drive a hot springs route in the Kootenay Region.

4. Mountain Biking

Known as the birthplace of 'freeride' mountain biking, British Columbia is also Canada's most mountainous province housing all kinds of riding opportunities, from extreme descents, to epic single track, to relaxing routes for family adventures.

"The riding style changes with the landscape as you travel around," Martin Littlejohn, executive director, Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association said.

"The province is divided into six regions, each with its own unique flavour in terms of landscape and culture, so you get dramatically different perspectives, from the rugged West Coast, to the arid plateaus of the Interior, to the peaks of the Rocky Mountains."

To get the best out of the trip, Littlejohn advised travellers to be aware of wildlife and know what to do -- or what not to do -- in case of an encounter and to come prepared with first aid kit, extra tubes and parts and adequate hydration and navigation.

"Many mountain biking towns are small communities that offer warm, helpful hospitality," Littlejohn said. "You'll find great accommodation, coffee, eats, and in many places a craft brewery or two. Plus, strike up conversation with a local and they may show you one of their favourite trails, some of which aren't on any maps!"

Fitness and previous experience will determine how much a rider can do. "Know your limits and ride within them," Littlejohn explained. "Many trails are not that easy to access if an injury or other emergency should occur."

5. Ice Climbing

With endless crags, glaciers, icefalls and ice walls, the Canadian Rockies boasts some of the best and most varied ice climbs in the world. It's undoubtedly one of the most beautiful extreme winter sports Aussies can try.

"It's much more spectacular and exciting than regular climbing," said Sylvia Watson, marketing manager, Yamnuska Mountain Adventures, "The blue ice with its fantastic formations and reflections contribute to an extraordinary ambiance and beauty."

In this winter wonderland the Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park offers exceptional views and an amazing walk into the canyon's Upper Falls, which freeze to form natural ice sculptures.

Speaking of falls, when it comes to ice climbing it doesn't get more extreme than scaling an actual frozen waterfall -- which is part and parcel of a visitors experience with Yamnuska.

"Using ice axes and crampons to climb ice pitches may sound daunting," Watson said. "But people of all ages and physical capabilities can try this without brute upper body strength. Like all technical sports, proper technique goes a long way, making good coaching and instruction all the more important.

The ice climbing season runs from around November to the end of April depending on temperatures and elevation and Canmore, a town central to the Kananaskis Country is a great base.

For more reasons to visit Canada, now -- visit keepexploring.canada.travel.

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