Instead, the former prime minister had to settle for a party with 80 family and friends Friday night in Montreal to mark the occasion.
"It was a very nice party — my family and former colleagues and so on," Chretien said Saturday.
"Now I can't go skiing because the weather doesn't permit to do that."
The native of Shawinigan, Que. said he would spend Saturday, his actual birthday, at his home in Ottawa.
Chretien, who was PM for more than a decade between 1993 and 2003, said he feels great.
"I'm happy to be in good health and to continue to stay active," said Chretien, who continues to work at an Ottawa law firm.
"I don't feel as old as I am."
Chretien suffered a health scare in 2010 when he had to undergo surgery to remove a pool of blood putting pressure on his brain.
But that's behind him now.
Chretien said politicians still come to him for advice, though he won't say who has sought his guidance.
"One of the conditions that they want and I want is discretion," he said.
"I'm happy to give my views but it's always on a one-to-one basis, not for publication."
A charity fundraiser to celebrate his birthday and his entry into public life 50 years ago is planned for later this month in Toronto.
He was first elected as a Liberal MP in April 1963.
Chretien said the event will be non-partisan. Former prime ministers Joe Clark, Paul Martin and John Turner will be on hand, along with former NDP head Ed Broadbent.
"I don't do that very often... but it will be a good occasion where they will celebrate my 80th birthday," he said.Suggest a correction