While Whistler gets most of the ski spotlight, Vancouver has three great ski mountains within a short drive of downtown. And while we may not necessarily be able to top Whistler in terms of downhill thrills, Vancouver does offer an incredible option for cross country skiing enthusiasts: Cypress Mountain.
Located a 30-45-minute drive from downtown in West Vancouver, Cypress Mountain is considered the most popular cross country skiing destination in all of Canada. Cypress boasts 19 kilometres of groomed/classic track trails with skating lanes, with 7.5 kilometres outfitted for night skiing. Better still, trails weave through stunning alpine terrain – a true winter wonderland of towering trees and snow drifts high in the mountains.
I checked out Cypress’ Nordic offerings for myself recently. Full disclosure: It was my first time on cross-country skis – so I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.
Part of the appeal of Cypress, of course, is that it’s so close to the city but feels so remote. By the time you’ve driven up the long, winding Cypress Bowl Road to the 910-metre base, it feels like you’re in the middle of the wilderness.
Nordic trail tickets are $19 for adults ($16 after 3 p.m.). There’s a big selection of classic cross country skis and performance skate skis available for rent starting at $20 a day for adults ($14 after 3 p.m.). Group lessons for beginners are available at $38 for a 1.5-hour session. (If you’re getting everything – the ticket, rentals and lesson – you might consider the package deal: $69 for people 13-and-up).
I opted to skip the lesson – maybe not the smartest choice – and headed for the trails. Conditions were a bit less than ideal for my first experience – slushy snow turning into ice – but the scenery more than made up for it. I slid into the track, got my arms swinging and legs sliding, and was gliding through the pristine alpine country. Trails are nicely forested, so you get an excellent feel for the woods and the mountain. And the amount of snow – literally metres – is incredible, especially considering that there’s not even a centimetre on the ground downtown.
I’ll admit, going down some of the hills was a challenge (even on the beginner trails), and I may have fallen oh . . . a dozen or so times. But it was a fantastic workout – harder but also more rewarding than any jog on the treadmill.
I wrapped up the day by popping into the historic Hollyburn Lodge. A true gem, the rustic 1926 warming hut is accessible only by ski (or a quick hike) and offers hot snacks and live music on some weekends.
For more info on cross country skiing, check out the Cypress Mountain website.