There’s never been a better year than this one to discover what’s available close to home and in the great outdoors for the whole family. If you’ve never visited some of the local options – or you’re a long-time fan already looking forward to another visit – now’s a great time to plan for the winter ahead.
While Vancouver may be best known for its rainy weather at sea level this time of year, you don’t have to travel far – or get much elevation – to find the white stuff, and lots of it. So while the options for fun may feel limited this year, it may just prove a good opportunity to explore something new-to-you while also getting some fresh air and taking in some of that world-class nature that usually draws visitors from around the globe.
Here’s a round-up of local options to get your family out the door in the coming months for some local winter activities, along with details on covid-related changes. Be sure to check each location in advance of visiting, as information and protocols may change quickly and without much notice. And, of course, extreme weather can (and usually does) impact opening hours and availability throughout the season.
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 Lights to the Lodge, 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.
COVID UPDATES: All purchases (lift tickets, equipment rental, ski school lessons, etc) must be purchased online in advance and all resort purchases are debit or credit card only. Ski lessons will have reduced numbers of students, and distancing measures will be in place in all areas of the resort. An outdoor dining area has been erected adjacent to Hollyburn Lodge for the season. Read the full details of current protocols on the Cypress Mountain’s covid update page.
Photo credit: Facebook
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 but gets its share of tourists and local throughout the seasons. 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.
COVID UPDATES: Guests are required to reserve a Skyride gondola boarding time for travel up to the top of Grouse and back, through the Skyride Reservation System, and capacity on the Skyride will be reduced to less than 50%. Masks and face coverings are required throughout the resort. Family groups may ride on chair lifts together, but separate individuals not visiting the mountain together cannot. Ski lesson capacity will be reduced and lineups will be spaced out. For all the guidelines, check out the Grouse Mountain PureClean Winter Experience webpage.
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.
COVID UPDATES: Season pass holders and guests will need to reserve a parking allocation for visiting on weekends through the winter and vehicles will be turned away without a reservation. Parking is first come first served on weekdays. Social distancing protocols will be in place throughout the ski area. The mountain is also introducing reservable four-hour time slots for both season pass holders and lift ticket purchasers on weekends and holidays. Tobogganing and snow-tubing are by reservation only this year. Check out their covid protocol page for details on how to make reservations for parking and activities.
With public health recommendations in place, this one’s for those who already live and work in the Sea to Sky region. The options at Whistler/Blackcomb are endless, from skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing, cross-country, tubing, ice skating, trail hikes and much more. Whistler’s world-class facilities typically draw visitors from around the globe but this year it’ll be all locals, of course. As a full-time year-round town, Whistler is more than just a destination but also home to thousands of people in 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.)
COVID UPDATES: Again, with travel restrictions on non-essential travel currently in place, Whistler is a great option for those who live in the region already and until that restriction is lifted. Tourism Whistler has a great round-up of covid-19 information on its website.
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. Note: chains are required on the road to the mountain. This is a great option to stay close to home if you’re a resident in the eastern part of the region.
COVID UPDATE: Booking online in advance is required and masks are required in all areas of the resort. Other social distancing and enhanced cleaning procedures are in place. Check out the Sasquatch covid-19 response plan online for additional details.
Skating at Robson Square – currently closed
The always popular Robson Square ice rink is currently closed in consideration of current public health orders. However, the situation will continue to be assessed throughout the winter, with instruction from the province. Check back regularly in case of changes.
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