January is the coldest month of the year in Montreal and Quebec City. There are frequent snowstorms, which can make road and air conditions unpredictable, although both cities are very well prepared for quick snow removal and deicing of the roads. Visitors are often surprised to see how much Quebec can bear weather-wise without having to slow down its productivity, close roads or cancel flights. Sometimes though, conditions are just too dangerous and schools close to allow children and students to remain safely home and reduce traffic on the roads.
Temperatures are usually a few degrees lower in Quebec City than in Montreal, and Quebec City usually gets a lot more snow, while Montreal can sometimes get rain. Temperatures are always well below zero degrees Celsius. It is one of the best months for skiing and snowboarding, and the day following a snowstorm is always busier than usual in ski resorts.
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). If you’re prepared and sufficiently dressed, winter can actually be fun!
Temperature, Snow/Rain Fall Averages
Data from Environment Canada, the country’s weather office.
- January Temperature Averages: Max -5 °C (23 °F), Low -14 °C (7 °F)*
- January Average Snowfall: 52 cm (20.4 in)
- January Average Rainfall: 27 mm (1 in)
- January Temperature Averages: Max -8 °C (17.6 °F), Low -18 °C (0 °F)*
- January Average Snowfall: 73 cm (28.7 in)
- January Average Rainfall: 26 mm (1 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)
- Additional winter base (or inner) layers (made of wool, polyester or microfiber fabrics) especially if you plan on doing outdoor activities
- Comfortable and warm waterproof shoes and boots
- Hat, mittens or gloves and a scarf: you’ll wear them every day
- 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:
January 1 is a statutory holiday where almost everything is closed, including grocery stores.
- It’s the Big Sales Season: Montreal and Quebec City offer great shopping opportunities all year long, but January usually offer exceptional sales. Heading to shopping centers also keeps you out of the cold!