BC’S SKI SE­CRETS

Where Van­cou­ver lo­cals go for snow

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - DESTINATION CANADA - ALISSA JENK­INS

Come the Cana­dian win­ter, one of the great­est draw­cards to Van­cou­ver, BC, is the pin­na­cle of North Amer­i­can ski re­sorts, Whistler Black­comb. Just 130km north of Van­cou­ver In­ter­na­tional Air­port, this eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble, dual-moun­tain re­sort re­ceives about 1.5 mil­lion vis­i­tors every win­ter.

With 37 lifts, more than 33sq km of ter­rain, more than 11m of an­nual snow­fall, let alone an ever-pop­u­lar ar­ray of bars, restau­rants, shops and other après en­ter­tain­ment, Whistler de­serves its hype as the con­ti­nent’s lead­ing ski re­sort. How­ever, like all great tourism en­ter­prises, high de­mand goes hand-in-hand with high prices and long queues. But for all the bal­ly­hoo sur­round­ing Whistler (now un­der man­age­ment by Vail Re­sorts), what trav­ellers of­ten miss is that just down the road is a med­ley of other lo­cal moun­tains to ex­plore, which come un­der­rated and un­crowded.

All within three hours from Down­town Van­cou­ver (of­ten less), these pic­turesque peaks may be smaller and less renowned to the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket, but come with their own ap­peal.

CY­PRESS MOUN­TAIN RE­SORT

Barely a 30-minute drive (by car or shut­tle bus) from Down­town, Cy­press is a hot favourite among the city’s ex­pe­ri­enced skiers and snow­board­ers. As the largest of Van­cou­ver’s three North Shore Moun­tains, Cy­press en­com­passes 53 runs, as well as the most ski­able ter­rain, ver­ti­cal drop and lifts com­pared to neigh­bour­ing peaks, Grouse and Sey­mour. With stats like this, it hasn’t al­ways slipped un­der the radar, hav­ing been the of­fi­cial freestyle ski­ing and snow­board venue for the 2010 Olympic Win­ter Games.

Adding to its re­sume, Cy­press Moun­tain of­fers one of the largest cross-coun­try ar­eas in North Amer­ica, with 19km of track set trails. There’s also 10km of self-guided snow­shoe trails – ideal for non-skiers who want to ex­plore the moun­tain – plus the fam­ily-friendly Snow­tube Park. Equally as stun­ning as the moun­tain it­self are the breath­tak­ing vis­tas over the sur­round­ing coastal moun­tains, erupt­ing out of the ocean, as well as the city.

But if you were way­laid sight­see­ing dur­ing the day, Cy­press of­fers night-time rid­ing un­til 10pm through­out win­ter.

FULL DAY ADULT LIFT TICK­ETS FROM $C75 (ABOUT $78); CYPRESSMOUNTAIN.COM/

GROUSE MOUN­TAIN

Just 15 min­utes north from Down­town Van­cou­ver, Grouse claims to be the most eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble of the North Shore Moun­tains, as well as the most fam­ily friendly. Cou­pled with an un­par­al­leled selec­tion of moun­tain en­ter­tain­ment be­yond ski­ing and snow­board­ing, it’s also an es­pe­cially tourist-friendly peak. Expect snow­shoe­ing, zip lin­ing, ice skat­ing and sleigh rides, as well as im­pres­sive din­ing and shop­ping op­tions in this win­try won­der­land, cater­ing to out­doorsy and in­doorsy types alike.

There’s also the Grouse Moun­tain Refuge for En­dan­gered Wildlife, where you can learn about (and per­haps meet) some of the lo­cals that call Grouse home, in­clud­ing griz­zly bears, owls and hum­ming­birds.

But if you’re solely vis­it­ing for the slopes, Grouse de­liv­ers 33 runs across its scenic ter­rain – 15 of which re­main open and flood­lit for night ski­ing un­til 10pm. There’s also out­stand­ing groomers, five ter­rain parks and nine kilo­me­tres of snow­shoe­ing trails to ex­plore. But un­like other moun­tains, you can’t drive to the slopes – you must take the Skyride tram to the top, which makes for a wel­come op­por­tu­nity to take in the alpine views and con­trast­ing cityscape be­yond. FULL DAY ADULT LIFT TICK­ETS FROM $C63. GROUSEMOUNTAIN.COM

MOUNT SEY­MOUR

Forty min­utes north­east of Down­town Van­cou­ver, Sey­mour is known for its gen­tle, con­toured be­gin­ners’ slopes and tech­ni­cal ter­rain for ad­vanced riders (all are equipped with night light­ing). You can expect to keep things cheap and cheer­ful at Sey­mour with af­ford­able prices and pack­ages. Pop­u­lar with lo­cals is Ladies Night at Sey­mour which al­lows women of all ages to ski or ride on Mon­days, 6pm10pm, for just $C15. Guys pay $C33.

But if you’d rather some­thing milder, Sey­mour fea­tures an ex­ten­sive net­work of snow­shoe trails to ex­plore on a tour or at your own pace, tak­ing in frozen lakes and old­growth forests. If you’re vis­it­ing with lit­tle ones, check out Snow Tube Park.

FULL DAY ADULT LIFT TICK­ETS FROM $C47. MTSEYMOUR.CA

SASQUATCH MOUN­TAIN RE­SORT

You’ll find lit­tle-known Sasquatch Moun­tain Re­sort 125km east of Van­cou­ver, on the edge of the Fraser Val­ley. For­merly known as Hem­lock Val­ley Re­sort, Sasquatch is the quiet achiever of the re­gion, with ma­jor ex­pan­sion plans un­der way.

Be­ing fur­ther in­land than Van­cou­ver’s North Shore Moun­tains, it also re­ceives re­li­ably good, dry snow. With steep, expert runs and open alpine bowls, there are plenty of op­tions for in­ter­me­di­ate and ad­vanced skiers and snow­board­ers here. There’s also a ter­rain park sec­tioned into four lev­els, with a solid selec­tion of jumps, ramps, rails, half pipes and the like, de­pend­ing on con­di­tions. For a more laid-back ex­pe­ri­ence, check out the ex­ten­sive snow­shoe trails, or take ad­van­tage of the re­sort’s epic new eight-lane tube park for kids (and big kids at heart).

But to re­ally un­wind (or re­lax any tired mus­cles), take a day trip to Har­ri­son Hot Springs, a 45-minute drive south of the re­sort, where you can soak in the town’s heal­ing hot min­eral wa­ters.

FULL DAY ADULT LIFT TICK­ETS FROM $C60. SASQUATCHMOUNTAIN.CA/

MAN­NING PARK RE­SORT

Even fur­ther east of Van­cou­ver, 220km in fact, Man­ning Park Re­sort lies in the heart of the Cas­cade Moun­tains. While it is fur­ther afield com­pared to Van­cou­ver’s other lo­cal ski hills, its in­land lo­ca­tion, away from the ocean, means the moun­tain re­ceives even bet­ter pow­der. It also makes for a great overnight ski stay if you’re plan­ning to visit Bri­tish Columbia’s Okana­gan wine re­gion.

Av­er­ag­ing 546cm of snow each year, Man­ning Park of­fers great down­hill ski­ing and snow­board­ing, as well as over 60km of groomed cross-coun­try ski­ing and snow­shoe­ing trails. For the ex­tra ad­ven­tur­ous, there are about 160km of se­ri­ous back-coun­try trails, too.

But if you’d rather keep things rel­a­tively low key, check out the Po­lar Coaster Tube Park, or try your hand at Canada’s na­tional pas­time, ice hockey, at the re­sort’s pic­turesque out­door ice rink.

FULL DAY ADULT LIFT TICK­ETS FROM $C57. WIN­TER.MANNINGPARK.COM

MT BAKER SKI AREA

Cross­ing the US bor­der into Wash­ing­ton (re­mem­ber your pass­port and ESTA visa), Mt Baker is a two-hour drive south­east from Van­cou­ver. A dream for ex­pe­ri­enced pow­der hounds, this lo­cal gem boasts the record for the most snow­fall in one sea­son (an in­cred­i­ble 29m in 1998-99). Last sea­son Baker also re­ceived the most snow of any ski area in North Amer­ica, with al­most 21m.

But with such re­li­ably deep pow­der, groomed runs can be scarce and white-outs rel­a­tively com­mon, so this is a des­ti­na­tion typ­i­cally en­joyed by more ad­vanced skiers and snow­board­ers.

FULL-DAY ADULT LIFT TICK­ETS FROM $US57 (ABOUT $77) . MTBAKER.US

EQUALLY AS STUN­NING ARE THE BREATH­TAK­ING VIS­TAS OVER THE SUR­ROUND­ING COASTAL MOUN­TAINS

PIC­TURES: PETER LON­ER­GAN, ISTOCK, GROUSE MOUN­TAIN

Cy­press is a hot favourite among Van­cou­ver skiers and snow­board­ers; last sea­son Baker re­ceived the most snow of any North Amer­ica ski area; and Grouse is fam­ily-friendly.

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