There are three Skiing Areas on Vancouver’s North Shore:
Downhill skiers and snowboarders have their pick of Cypress Bowl (23 groomed runs, 1,750 feet/767 m vertical, 4 chairlifts) in West Vancouver, and in North Vancouver, Grouse Mountain (24 runs, 1,200 feet/365 m vertical, 5 chairlifts) or Seymour Snow Country (21 runs,1,115 feet/340 m vertical, 4 chairlifts). Intermediate and advanced-level skiers and snowboarders gravitate to Cypress and Grouse, while Seymour has the distinction of being the place where three-quarters of Lower Mainlanders learn to ski, and it’s got 5,000 pairs of rental skis (and snowboards) to prove it.
No one mountain has an edge on the others when it comes to chairlifts. This isn’t Whistler, so don’t expect state-of-the-art, high-speed lifts with protective bubbles to keep out the elements. Slow but steadily up the mountain is the pace on the North Shore. Some days half the crowd (or more) will be on snowboards. All three mountains have snowboard parks – Cypress has a dozen or more sprinkled around its slopes – which is a big draw for those who like to practise their moves as they launch off the top of an old school bus and other props that have been positioned to create jumps and chutes. Caution: Perfect powder conditions do occur on the North Shore and, day or night, that’s the time to hurry up the mountains to catch winter at its best.
Unless you have winter (not all-season) tires, don’t attempt to drive to Mount Seymour or Cypress in a snowstorm. The roads are plowed frequently but can still be hair-raising, even with a good grip on the road. Grouse Mountain’s gondola is the safest bet during a snow dump. Because of the moderating influence of the ocean, the texture of the snow that drops on the North Shore is heavier than that which falls inland. Coast Cement is not just the name of a local concrete company! Still, on those days when the temperature drops low enough, you will discover light, fluffy flakes of magic on the trails. Sometimes it snows all night then clears at first light: that’s when being a member of the crack-of-dawn club pays dividends. All three mountains open early (8-8:30am) and close late (11pm), and all have lighted trails with specially priced lift tickets after 4pm.
Snowshoeing is enjoying a renaissance. If you can walk, you can snowshoe. You can rent a pair on either Seymour Snow Country or Hollyburn Ridge, or from a number of sports shops in the Vancouver area. Snowshoeing is permitted on designated trails on all three mountains.
Cypress Mountain and Area
Cypress Mountain offers some of the best skiing in Vancouver, and one of Western Canada’s most respected Ski and Snowboard Schools. Day or night, you’ll enjoy great conditions and a wide variety of runs for skiers of all levels. Snowboarders will love the awesome variety of Freeriding terrain, along with kickin parks and pipes all over the mountain.
Cypress is recognized as the most popular cross country ski area in Canada, and can accommodate in excess of 2,000 cross country skiers per day. Cross Country skiing at Cypress Mountain is a unique experience for the whole family. At the SnowPlay area you can feel the thrill of sliding down trails in a snow tube, and let the tube tow do all the work getting you back up the hill, or cruise the slopes in a toboggan. Cypress Mountain is located in Cypress Provincial Park in West Vancouver, 7.5 miles (12 km) off the Trans-Canada Highway 1.
Hollyburn Ridge in Cypress Provincial Park is the domain of cross-country skiers. Hollyburn’s 10 miles (16 km) of groomed and track-set trails, as well as skating lanes, are cut through some of the most challenging terrain in Western Canada. The tradition of skiing is an old one here, dating well back into the 1920s. Evidence of this can be seen in the many rustic cabins that dot the woods. There are trails here to suit all skill levels.
Grouse Mountain and Area
At Grouse Mountain on Vancouver’s North Shore, the snow hills are made for thrills. The ultimate challenge awaits skiers and boarders on the Peak. The snowboard park features a challenging mix of terrain, and machine-groomed trails await the cross-country skier. Take a snowshoe hike and explore Munday Alpine Snow Park, consisting of the Blue Grouse Loop, a groomed trail for beginner and intermediate snowshoers, and Dam Mountain, a groomed loop that consists of four main trails that encircle Dam Mountain and Thunder Bird Ridge. All areas are well marked and patrolled regularly.
Enjoy the fresh, crisp air on the mountain-top Ice Skating Pond, the only one of its kind on the West Coast. Located just 100 metres from the Chalet and the Skyride Station, you can enjoy a leisurely skate on the regularly prepared ice surface. Grouse Mountain offers outdoor adventures for everyone, including helicopter rides with breathtaking views of B.C.’s incredible mountains and valleys, and a skyride on North America’s largest aerial tramway system. Grouse Mountain is located only 20 minutes north of downtown Vancouver. Take Hwy 1 to Capilano Road and go north to Grouse Mountain.
Mount Seymour and Area
Mount Seymour on Vancouver’s North Shore has the highest base elevation and the deepest annual snowfall of the three local mountains, offering downhill skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and snow tubing. The team of professional guides and certified instructors at Mount Seymour outdoor school create a positive and encouraging learning experience for students of all ages and abilities. Mount Seymour offers a variety of ski, snowboard, snow tube and snowshoe programs, and avalanche safety courses.
Mount Seymour is located in Mount Seymour Provincial Park, only 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver. Their Shuttle Bus runs seven days a week, and the Mountain Express Bus operates during the Christmas and Spring Break holidays. Both have stops throughout the Lower Mainland.
More informal, though no less fun, are the trails in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, North Vancouver (see Hiking). Cut your own cross-country tracks along the Lynn Loop Trail (2 miles/3.5 km return) and Cedar Mill Trail (2.5 miles/4 km return), both of which run beside Lynn Creek with only limited elevation gain. Cross-country skiers also head for the Seymour Demonstration Forest (see Hiking in Greater Vancouver). The wide swath of the Seymour Mainline Road (17.4 mile/28 km) isn’t plowed in winter. The route has limited elevation gain for the first 3 miles (5 km), then one major hill to negotiate.