Top spots to take a deep breath in Canada

Breathe in some of Canada's great air. (Shutterstock)

Breathe in some of Canada's great air. (Shutterstock)

Suzanne Morphet, Courtesy the Canadian Tourism Commission

, Last Updated: 2:30 PM ET

Canada’s got great air – and now we can prove it. The World Health Organization (WHO) gathered stats on outdoor air quality from more than 1,000 cities in 91 countries around the world. Canada ranked third, just behind Estonia and Mauritius. And nine of our cities were among the Top 10 cities with the best air quality.

We wouldn’t want to sound smug about our largely smog-free air, but we thought you’d like to know where to go to breathe some of the cleanest air on the planet. And besides great air, these places have something else in common – exceptional outdoor recreation. You won’t be afraid to breathe deeply when you play hard in any of these places.

Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon, has the best outdoor air quality of all of the cities that provided data to the WHO. In summer, rent a canoe and paddle down the fabled Yukon River that bisects the city. Re-enact the Klondike Gold Rush by paddling the 736 kms (457 miles) to Dawson City, passing trappers’ cabins and old Northwest Mounted Police outposts along the way.

The northern British Columbia communities of Kitimat, Burns Lake, Houston and Terrace are known for their great hiking, mountain biking, fishing, skiing – and now – their fresh, clean air.

· In Kitimat, get a healthy lungful hiking up Mount Elizabeth to watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.

· In Burns Lake, mountain bikers can choose between two areas with excellent and easy to navigate trails.

· In Houston, a.k.a. the Steelhead capital of Canada, hire a local guide and get ready for the biggest fish fight of your life.

· In Terrace, join the locals and head to Shames Mountain for powder skiing. It collects almost 12 metres (40 feet) of snow every winter, making it “one of the deepest, most consistent snow packs in North America,” according to Powder magazine, “and its backcountry access is unrivalled.”

Stand on the edge of the Pacific Ocean in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island and inhale the clean, salty air. Then catch a passenger ferry to Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park and walk or cycle through shady forests and pristine beaches.

Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador, catches big breezes off the Atlantic. Maximize your intake of clean oxygen by hiking the Blow Me Down Mountains (hold onto your hat!) or in winter, skiing the Blow Me Down Trails. Both have scenery that will take your breath away.


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