One of my favourite winter day trips from Vancouver is to Grouse Mountain to snowshoe. Fresh air, breathtaking views, top notch trails. You can also snowboard and toboggan and ice skate, but “shoeing is what the hip kids are doing.”1
Mountains surround Vancouver, and they’re all worth visiting, but this one’s the closest. A 20 minute drive from downtown gets you there, or you can carpool with a bunch of strangers via public transit. First stop is the SeaBus (don’t be fooled, this is a boat) to get to North Vancouver.
For reasons unknown, the SeaBus is the most reliable way to put me to sleep. Five minutes in and my eyelids feel heavy; ten and I’m practically snoring. I swear they pump something through the air vents.
After groggily disembarking, hop a bus (the land kind) to get to the Grouse Mountain gondola. The view as you rise 1,100 meters above sea level is magnificent. Unless you’re scared of heights, in which case this whole trip isn’t for you.
At the top you can rent snowshoes if you don’t own a pair. Sometimes I see people attempt the trail in boots alone, but that’s not a challenge I would undertake. Even with snowshoes it’s a workout.
The trails are well-marked. The main one is the Snowshoe Grind. If you’ve tackled the summertime Grouse Grind and hated it (and how could you not), don’t be dissuaded by the name, it’s a doable trek.
Once you leave the chalet you’re in a monochrome world. Every direction you look is a postcard. On a clear day you can see all the way to Vancouver Island. Today was not one of those days.
Even when you’re in a cloud though the scenery is spectacular. The best part is the silence. You’re not far from the city, but the trees and snow muffle everything so that all you can hear is your own ragged breath. It’s the stuff of poetry (the scenery, not your tired panting).
I mentioned that summitting the peak is a workout. Fortunately the way down is 10x easier and takes a fraction of the time. On the steep sections you can simply sit down and let gravity do the hard work.
Snow pants recommended. I see people use plastic bags as makeshift sleds which is a fine alternative. Just don’t attempt it in yoga pants.
Back at the chalet there’s a sleigh ride. Think you’re too old for sleigh rides? Think again buster, this is what makes life worth living.
Update 2019-02-24: Here’s the peak on a different day. What a difference a bit of sunshine makes.
And… mumble rap? Cryotherapy? Ripped jeans are still in, right? What are the hip kids doing? ↩