Skiing Around Vancouver

There are three ski hills in Vancouver, all within thirty minutes of downtown, and several ski destinations within a two-hour drive including Whistler, site of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Closest to town are Grouse Mountain, Cypress Bowl and Mt. Seymour. All three mountains offer complete ski schools, rentals, restaurant and pub facilities.

GROUSE MOUNTAIN
Grouse Mountain is the most obvious mountain above Vancouver as far as ski hills go. You can get there on a regular North Vancouver bus. Therefore, do not be surprised to see people carrying skis and snowboards on buses. Grouse is situated right in the middle of The North shore Mountains accessed by its 2800 vertical ft (900metre) Sky Ride Tram from the top of Capilano Road.

The one hundred-passenger tram whisks everyone in 8 minutes to an alpine paradise. On top there is a restaurant with a splendid view. It is said that Pierre Trudeau had his first date there with Margaret Sinclair.

Grouse has a variety of mountain terrain that is suitable for novices and experts. There are 25 trails, 13 of which have lights for night skiing. There is an average of 305cm annually recorded on a vertical of 1260ft.

There are also 35 snow making guns in case Mother Natures fails to co-operate The trails are serviced by two quad lifts, two rope tows and a magic carpet ride. The tram operates 365 days a year and the ski season can last from November till April, depending on the snow year. Your ticket on the lifts always includes access to the snow via the Skyride tram

There are double diamond runs such as “Purgatory” or “Devil’s Advocate” on the Olympic Express or enjoy The Cut for more gentle runs. The Screaming Eagle was Vancouver’s first Quad Chair. There are lots of other activities including snowshoeing and walking trails as well.

Grouse is really a great ambassador as far as metropolitan skiing is concerned. It may seem almost surreal to be skiing above Vancouver’s skyline and/or evening city lights, definitely a must try for the visiting winter enthusiast!

Grouse is also very rich in Vancouver pioneering history. Early adventurer and exploress Phyllis Munday skied and had a cabin on Grouse long before the ski lifts were in existence. Don and Phyllis Munday were famous BC pioneers. Phyllis is credited with discovering 14,000 ft Mt Waddington, BC’s highest peak.

Gazing eastward from the northern tip of Vancouver Island, she spotted a peak that seemed much higher than the others around it. She called it Mystery Mountain and later her husband wrote a book about their adventures trying to reach it. The Mundays made many trips to the area by horseback from the interior as well as by boat from the Pacific Inlets around it. There are many other pioneering stories on Grouse and sightseeing tours that recount these.

CYPRESS MOUNTAIN
To the left from downtown Vancouver, towering above West Vancouver and overlooking Horseshoe Bay is Cypress Mountain. Cypress offers the highest vertical and claims the most serious skiing experience on The North Shore.

The vertical Rise is 1700 feet or over 600 metres. It offers three quad chairs and two double chairs. The Eagle Express is a high-speed detachable quad. The Easy Rider quad is especially designed for beginners.

There are 38 downhill Runs and Cypress hosted both snowboard and freestyle events in the 2010 Olympics. Most of the runs are lighted for Night Skiing. Cypress also offers Cross Country Skiing, Snowtubing and Snowshoeing Tours.

Cypress can have phenomenal powder skiing in both gladed, tall, old growth, Cedar trees as well as terrain merging on true alpine meadows up high. The earlier in the season, the better and drier the snow is, although even on an April Morning, one can enjoy a fluffy dry powder run on this enchanted mountain.

There are steep runs through tight little Christmas trees to cruisers that will make your thighs burn. The views of Georgia Straight, Vancouver, English Bay and Howe Sound adorn the views from the trails.

The Solo Park features the best of terrain park features for both ski and snowboard enthusiasts.

Cypress is also a major Cross-Country Skiing Centre with a network of 19 km of prepared trails.

Besides skiiing, snowboarding and X-country, Cypress offers snowshoeing, snowtubing as well as some charming winter walking trails complete with a quaint teahouse located in a magical forest setting. There is fine Apr├Ęs Ski in the Growlies Bar or the historic Hollyburn Lodge.

The resort actually encompasses two lift-serviced locations and offers the more seasoned skiers and snowboarders a fulfilling experience.

MOUNT SEYMOUR
Mt Seymour is located eastward, to the right of Grouse Mountain when looking at The North Shore Mountains from downtown Vancouver.

The ski hill claims the deepest base and claims the biggest snowfall of all the local mountains, often well exceeding an average 300 cm a year. Mt Seymour is only minutes drive from North Vancouver and under a half hour from downtown.

Seymour has a base elevation of 1,010 m and a 1,400 m summit giving the mountain 1000 vertical skiable ft (330metres) on five lifts comprised of three double chairs and two surface lifts.

The terrain is divided up into 40% intermediate, 40% beginner and 20% expert. The longest run is 2.4 km. There are 10 km of cross country trails, snowshoeing, snowtubing, tobogganing, an in ground halfpipe for snowboarding, and a new snow slider park. There is lighting on 11 of the 21 trails.

Mt Seymour Park is a charming family ski hill with a real feeling of BC heritage. The BC Mountaineering Club conquered the peak back in 1908, climbing it for the first time.

The Mt Seymour Provincial Park was established in 1936 and the ski hill opened in 1984. You can cruise a few runs or dip into some old growth Cedars for some powder snow. For the more adventurous, there’s a 45-minute hike up Mt Strachan.

Getting There: Grouse Mountain is accessible via the Grouse Mountain SkyRide from the top of Nancy Greene Way ( the north end of Capilano Road). The price of the SkyRide ticket ($20) includes the use of the ice skating pond, a sleigh ride and a high definition video about Grouse Mountain and the surrounding area.

To reach Cypress Mountain from downtown Vancouver, cross Lions Gate Bridge and take the left lane toward West Vancouver. Follow the signs to Highway #1 (via Taylor Way). Go west on Highway #1 to Exit 8, Cypress Mountain Rd. Go up Cypress Mountain Rd. for 13 kms (8 miles) to the Cross Country, Snow Shoe and Snow Play/Tube Park, or continue 2 km to the downhill area.

Mt. Seymour Provincial Park is about 15 km (9 miles) from downtown Vancouver. Cross Lions Gate Bridge, get into the right hand lane and go toward North Vancouver. Go north (left) at the first intersection, Capilano Road, and continue up Capilano Road to the junction of Highway #1. Take Route #1 east.

Exit at Mt. Seymour Parkway and go left at the stoplight then right onto Mt. Seymour Parkway. Stay on Mt. Seymour Parkway until you reach Mt. Seymour Road. Go left on Mt. Seymour Road to Mt. Seymour Provincial Park.

Cypress and Mt. Seymour offer shuttle service from Lonsdale Quay if you’re coming from Vancouver.

MANNING PARK
When considering skiing around Vancouver, and especially for those living in the Fraser Valley, Manning Provincial Park is often a good option for skiing and snowboarding. The area is known for drier snow than you find on the coast.

The vertical drop is 1417 feet (437metres) on 24 well-groomed trails, from December till April. There are two chairlifts, one bar and a handle tow. The runs vary in 30% beginner, 40% intermediate and 30% expert.

There is lots of powder on trails that are left ungroomed as well. The summit elevation is 5,868 ft or 1790 metres. The resort is a popular get away in a more remote setting, three hours from downtown Vancouver, located between Hope and Princeton on highway #3.

HEMLOCK VALLEY
Hemlock Valley is a very popular ski destination for Vancouver visitors, and especially those living in the Fraser Valley. It is a two-hour drive from Vancouver. The resort is close to popular Harrison Lake and it’s renowned Hot Springs. The area is situated in a natural bowl and dotted with rustic cabins and tasteful condominiums.

There is snowshoeing and a great a terrain park making it very popular with snowboarders. There is some great backcountry potential thanks to some nearby logging slashes that can even provide backcountry powder thrills.

The vertical drop is 397 metres or 1,300ft. The Summit elevation is 1,372 metres or 4500ft. 20% of runs are beginner, 60% intermediate and 20% expert. Skiers are whisked to the top by two double chairs, one triple chair and a handle and tube tow.

OTHER DESTINATIONS
Day skiers and overnight visitors from Vancouver also frequent Whistler, an hour and a half away, as well as the Mt Baker Ski area in Washington State. Apex Ski area, Big White and Silverstar in the Okanagan are a little farther (See ski BC article) There is heli and cat skiing available from Squamish and other locations near Vancouver as well.