What Your Choice Of Vancouver’s Mountains Says About You
Choose your own adventure.
As the seemingly endless sun soaks Australia, it may be tough to imagine that at this very moment there are people actively looking forward to sub-zero temperatures and layers of snow.
Sound preposterous? Look no further than Vancouver, British Columbia, where mild temperatures and months of rain are finally starting to give way to snowfall. The city’s most picturesque attraction, the North Shore Mountain range, is about to become a hub of activity for thrillseekers of all sorts.
Vancouver’s North Shore Mountains are renowned not for their size but for the depth of activities available and their relatively short distance to downtown Vancouver. No trip to British Columbia in winter (or summer too, more on that in a bit) is complete without a winding trip up the mountain range.
But just as you might snigger at a wide-eyed, naïve traveller who lands at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport and promptly asks their taxi driver to take them “to the kangaroos,” you can’t just charge blindly at the ranges hoping for a hole-in-one. You need to be prepared. Despite looking similar from a distance, many of the mountains offer activities specific to your tastes and you’ll want to know exactly which mountain to spend your time at.
So grab your toque (don’t you dare call it a beanie) and discover what your choice of Vancouver’s mountains says about you.
You’re here to try something new.
For: Hiking, beginner skiers, views, accessibility
OK settle down tough guy – everyone shaves a few minutes off their official Grouse Grind time the second time around. The “Grind” as it’s commonly referred to is a rugged, laborious 2.9km hiking trail up Grouse Mountain with an 853 metre elevation gain and it’s open throughout the summer.
The “fun” element is debatable, but finishing the hike with no breaks under the average time of 90 minutes is as rewarding a physical challenge as you’ll undergo in Vancouver. Most participants burn between 1000-2000 calories in the trip up and the view at the top is simply sublime. You can also tuck into surprisingly tasty southern fare at the Rusty Rail BBQ at the top of the mountain and enjoy the view from the licensed patio. But the taste of that beef brisket may have benefitted from the fact that most are hungry enough to eat a couch after their trip up the mountain.
Grouse’s ski facilities offer options for skiers of every ability though it’s flagship run “The Cut”, visible from many parts of Vancouver, offers a lengthy run for beginners. And no trip to Grouse is complete without a ride up or down the Grouse Mountain Skyride, the largest aerial tramway in North America. You’ll have more time to take in the views, psych yourself up for the skiing or perhaps wind down after the Grind.
Given that Grouse is the only mountain accessible via public transit, it’s the mountain for those who resist daily exercise and instead choose to endure one day of strenuous physical activity to keep the guilt at bay.
You’re here to ski, damn it.
Best for: Advanced skiers, snowboarding, night skiing, large range of downhill runs
Many events at the 2010 Winter Olympics were staged in Vancouver including the moguls, aerials and parallel giant slalom. And with good reason: Cypress is the “big” mountain. With over 50 runs, it’s much larger than it’s counterparts. If you’re heading to Cypress it means you’re serious about your skiing and snowboarding and you want a full experience. Plus it’s only 30 minutes drive from Vancouver.
Sure there’s snow tubing and snowshoeing available, but it’s the skiing that’s the big draw here, and most hills are open for night skiing which means you can really maximise your day on Cypress. The snow is generally at its best early in the season so you’ll find that those who’ve been eagerly waiting to strap their skis on choose Cypress as their first point of call.
Skiing/snowboarding on Cypress means you get your work-out and view-seeking elsewhere – you’re here for the serious downhill runs, which are some of the best this close to a major urban centre, in the world.
You’re here to have fun.
Best for: Families, showshoeing, hiking, tubing, tobogganing, budget friendly
There’s far fewer ski and snowboard runs at Seymour than Cypress but that shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying the mountain. Where Seymour lacks in downhill runs, the make up for it with over 10kms of marked and maintained trails for snowshoeing. It’s the easiest way to explore the snow-covered mountain – if you can walk, you can snowshoe. (And no, they’re not made of wood and straw anymore.) Seymour also offers guided snowshoe tours. Rentals are reasonably priced at $28 a day including a trail pass. If you’re feeling adventurous there’s even more extensive British Columbia park trails on the mountain for you to explore. Take along a packed lunch, a camera and a mug of mulled wine and let nature nourish you.
You may also notice an abundance of young families at Seymour but don’t let that deter you – here’s your chance to unleash your inner child with some of the best snow tubing and tobogganing in Vancouver. Tube rentals are only $20 for two hours and, because you’re probably not interested making things difficult for yourself, there’s a custom tube tow to take you back to the top of the hill.
Tobogganing has long had a place in Canadian winter lore. If you walk past kids speeding down tiny hills in the city and get a little misty-eyed and long for your youth, make the trip to Seymour where tobogganing is only $10 per person. At Seymour, you can act like a kid and only pay like one as well.
You’re here to relax.
Best for: Hiking, accessibility, peace and quiet
OK, so there are no downhill activities at Lynn Valley but there are also no crowds either. Lynn Valley is the place to get a little escape from society for a few hours, plus it’s accessible by public transport.
This free park offers secluded trails, an authentic wooden bridge to cross over the valley and the peace and quiet you won’t get on any of the other big hills. Talk about tranquility.
(Lead image: Iwona_Kellie/Flickr)