Come wintertime, outdoor activity doesn’t slow down in Vancouver; it just calls for a little more bundling. With three popular local mountains (Cypress, Mount Seymour and Grouse) just 30 minutes from downtown, as well as one of the world’s top ski resorts (Whistler/Blackcomb) just under two hours away via the Sea to Sky Highway, on any given weekend you’ll see busses packed with powder seekers and cars with equipment strapped to the hood, all heading north to hit the slopes.
Skiing and snowboarding are popular, but require commitment: rentals, passes, proper (and expensive) gear — not to mention a bit of skill so the day isn’t spent sliding down the bunny hill in terror.
But getting the full mountain experience of fresh air, panoramic views and fluffy snowflakes is as easy as putting on a pair of snowshoes. Less serious than other winter sports, snowshoeing is safe, inexpensive and a wonderful way to enjoy an afternoon on the mountain — while staying vertical in the process.
The giant, wood-and-leather snowshoes are a thing of the past; a few nostalgic enthusiasts still swear by them, but by and large the design and style is modernized. Most sets are made of lightweight aluminum with lifts for maximum comfort and effectiveness. Rentals run under $30 and no specific equipment is needed, but waterproof, warm clothing (including a knit cap and gloves) and snow boots (or at least waterproof shoes) are always recommended, especially in chillier months.
Cypress, Mount Seymour and Grouse each have a cross-section of well-maintained, clearly marked trails in their snowshoes parks for novice and intermediate levels. Surrounded by snow-capped trees, you’ll see parents with babies attached to their backs and dogs happily plodding along with their owners. No lessons are needed, and it’s a leisurely, social, go-at-your-own-pace activity. For the full mountain feel, end the day at the lodge with a steaming hot chocolate. Adding a shot of peppermint schnapps and dollop of whip cream to your mug is optional, but definitely deserved.
Photos Courtesy of Tourism Vancouver and iStock-lightpix