December is the start of winter season and the weather in Montreal and Quebec City during this month of the year is usually all over the place. It can be sunny and warm one day, and there can be a snowstorm the next. Every year is different, and even though one can never really get used to the cold, most of us Québécois have grown up playing in the snow, thus loving it, and we can hardly imagine the holidays without a white blanket. To us, there’s nothing worse than rain at Christmas! This very rarely happens, but visitors coming to Quebec in December must be ready for everything.
Temperatures are usually a few degrees lower in Quebec City than in Montreal, so Quebec City usually gets more snow, while Montreal has more rain. Temperatures are almost always below zero degrees Celsius, albeit bordering it, and snow starts falling, although sometimes it doesn’t stay until Christmas. Thanks to snowmaking machines, the ski season usually starts mid-December, unless the temperatures are unseasonably warm.
An element that visitors to Quebec must absolutely consider is the wind. Winter weather forecasts here always provide two numbers: the temperature as displayed on the thermometer, and the temperature with wind chill factor. The wind chill factor measures the degree of “chill” the skin senses. For example, if the wind chill is -20°C while the outside temperature is only -10°C, it means that your face will feel as cold as if it was a calm day (no wind) with a temperature of -20°C.
Even though temperatures can get cold, the good side of winter in Quebec is that there are usually plenty of sunny days, which make it fun to go out (and they also do good for the soul!).
Temperature, Snow/Rain Fall Averages
Data from Environment Canada, the country’s weather office.
- December Temperature Averages: Max -2 °C (28 °F), Low -10 °C (14 °F)*
- December Average Snowfall: 48 cm (19 in)
- December Average Rainfall: 35 mm (1.3 in)
- December Temperature Averages: Max -5 °C (23 °F), Low -13 °C (8 °F)*
- December Average Snowfall: 78 cm (30.7 in)
- December Average Rainfall: 30 mm (1.2 in)
*Temperatures exclude wind chill factor.
How to Pack/What to Wear
- Layers, layers, layers! Bring warm, long-sleeved sweaters and sweatshirts that you can wear underneath your winter coat, if need be.
- Heavy, waterproof winter jacket or vest (or many layers to wear underneath a lighter jacket)
- Comfortable and warm waterproof shoes and boots
- Hat, mittens or gloves and a scarf. Believe me, you’ll need them
- Umbrella, for rainy days
- Sunglasses, as the sun shines almost every day and can become downright blinding at sunset (especially if you’re driving)
Good to Know
- Drivers should be aware that driving is difficult in winter. A Quebec law makes it compulsory for car owner to install winter tires from December 15 to March 15. All rental cars are loaned with winter tires on between these dates. When it snows, roads become slippery or icy and the visibility is poor. Some roads and highways can even be closed during major snowstorms. The government of Quebec provides up-to-the-minute road condition info on its Info Transport Website, and drivers can also call 5-1-1 on their mobile phones to get the latest info.
- National Holidays:
- December 25 is a statutory holiday where almost everything is closed, including grocery stores;
- December 26 is also a statutory holiday for almost everyone, except people working in the retail industry. December 26 is Boxing Day in Canada, a day when stores offer their biggest sales of the year. The event is similar to the US Thanksgiving Black Friday, so expect big crowds if you feel like going shopping.