There’s no doubt that one of the most appealing features of the Vancouver region is the weather. When the rest of the country is still shovelling snow, Vancouver residents are watching tulips pop up. We often enjoy the mildest winters (and autumns and springs) of any place in the country and it’s not unusual to pass several winters with barely any snow at all – and what does arrive usually melts away quickly.
The downside? We miss out on all that snowy fun – snowshoeing, tobogganing, skiing, snow forts, and more – that the rest of Canada gets to enjoy for a good part of the year. Rain just isn’t as fun to play in.
Luckily, it doesn’t take much to find plenty of the white stuff, or close enough, to have lots of fun. Here’s a round-up of local options to get your family out for some winter activities.
Just 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver, Cypress includes three peaks – Mt. Strachan, Black Mountain, and Hollyburn Mountain – with areas for downhill and nordic activities. There are opportunities to ski, snowboard, and cross-country, but Cypress is also famed for Gnarly’s Tube Park, for snow tubing. With six chutes about 100 metres long, and a tow line to carry riders back to the top, it’s an ideal outing for kids (ages six and up) and adults. And if high-speed activities aren’t your thing, check out their newest attraction: Lights to the Lodge is a one-kilometre snowshoe trek to the historic Hollyburn Lodge through a self-guided trail in an old growth forest of ancient cedar, fir and hemlock trees, decorated with LED lights along the route.
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Dubbed the Peak of Vancouver, Grouse Mountain is a favourite among skiers and day-trippers. With its unique gondola that takes visitors from the parking lot to the top of the mountain all year round, Grouse is a particularly popular spot in the winter. That’s partly due to the beautiful location and views, but it also has a spectrum of activities to offer. It’s easy to fill an entire day at Grouse without skiing at all: there’s snowshoeing, ice-skating, a sledding area for little ones, and a light walk at night. Grouse also has a winter zip line that takes guests on an exhilarating ride at speeds up to 80 kilometres an hour.
Head up to Mount Seymour – the drive will take less than an hour from downtown Vancouver or opt for one of their handy shuttles – for a day of winter fun. Along with skiing and snowboarding, there are great options for families with younger kids including a tube park with a custom tow to pull riders back to the top and a toboggan area where visitors can bring their own sled or buy a sledding mat once there for under $10. Bonus: have a kid with a winter birthday? Mount Seymour offers tubing and tobogganing birthday party packages.
Have a little more time on your hands for a winter getaway? The Sea-to-Sky highway can get you from Vancouver to Whistler in about two hours. Once there, the options are endless, from skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing, cross-country, tubing, ice skating, trail hikes and much more. Whistler’s world-class facilities draw visitors from around the globe and the offerings reflect that, with food options that run the gamut from fine dining to do-it-yourself grocery options. As a full-time year-round town, Whistler is more than just a destination but home to thousands of people and one of Canada’s most beautiful regions. (And if you can’t get there in the winter, come back in summer for swimming, cycling, hiking and much more.)
Sasquatch Mountain Resort
For people in the eastern suburbs of Vancouver, there’s a closer option than the North Shore Mountains. Check out Sasquatch Mountain Resort (previously known as Hemlock Resort) for skiing, tubing, snowshoeing and more, north of Agassiz. It’ll take about an hour from Surrey but the drive is beautiful – as is the destination. Located in a natural snow bowl above Harrison Lake, the mountain is a great place to visit just for the scenery.
Skating at Robson Square
Not interested in driving through the snow for some winter fun? Head downtown to the popular Robson Square for a taste of winter – without the white stuff. The Robson Square ice rink is considered a popular holiday tradition in December, but the facility runs until the end of February open from 9 am to 9 pm Sunday to Thursday, and extended hours on Friday and Saturday from 9 am to 11 pm. Best of all? It’s free to skate. Skate rentals are available for $5.