Tag Archives: winter

Lower Mainland winter hiking: so much more than just a walk in the park

There may be snow on the mountains, but at lower altitudes there are still great year-round hiking options.

There are some great lower elevation hikes in North and West Vancouver that stay snow-free a lot longer than some of the classic mountain trails.

North Vancouver

Some trails in Lynn Headwaters head into the back-country and are inaccessible until June or July when the snow finally melts, but others like the shorter Lynn Loop (5 km) usually won’t receive snow unless the rest of the city does. This easy trail is suitable for beginners, joggers and dogs and is a great way to get some exercise.

Third Debris Chute in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park on a cloudy February day.

If the loop is  too short, venture further up the Cedars Mill Trail instead of looping back and you’ll pass the debris chute (an open area next to Lynn Creek that offers a great view of the surrounding mountains).

Further up the Lynn Headwaters trail is Norvan Falls, a great waterfall and a nice place to stop for a bite to eat (14km round trip). Hikers are a bit more likely to find snow in around the falls, but it’s still a fun destination for warmer days. Next to the falls is a swinging suspended bridge across Norvan Creek where the trail heads into Hanes Valley and eventually loops back to Grouse Mountain. The valley is snow-locked during the winter and the trail is closed until things thaw out.

The British Properties (West Vancouver)

Another fun winter option for a walk in the woods is the Brothers Creek loop in West Vancouver.

A wooden bridge crosses Brothers Creek on the loop hike.

This hike is even enjoyable on rainy days, because the thick canopy of the coniferous trees shelters the forest floor from a lot of the precipitation.

The old Candelabra fir towers above many of the surrounding trees.

Located at the top of the British Properties, the hike has some interesting historical elements as well. Remnants of old logging equipment can be seen along the way, and the beautiful old candelabra fir is only a short detour from the main trail. For history buffs, the West Vancouver Historical Society runs heritage hikes led by a knowledgeable guide who lectures about the logging activity that took place between 1870 and 1950 in the area.

The terrain can be a bit rough in places, with loose rocks that can become slippery in damp weather, but at 7km and an elevation gain of only 350m, the hike is still suitable for first-timers.

Caulfeild area (West Vancouver)

A scenic, leisurely hiking destination that’s fun year-round is Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver.

Trails wind through smooth-skinned arbutus trees and emerge onto craggy rocks that drop into the ocean. It’s a great family destination for that very reason – seaside playtime can be incorporated into the hike.

Pack a picnic, bring your pet, and enjoy a leisurely walk in the woods. There are a variety of trails that wind through the forest, and your hike can be as short as 1km or as long as 6km.

Other options:

Did I miss your favourite? Tell me about other great off-season hikes!

A view of Cypress Falls from the trail

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Cross-country skiing gaining momentum in post-Olympics Vancouver

Vancouverites looking for winter adventure that doesn’t include careening down a near-vertical slope on two slats of fibreglass shouldn’t discount skiing altogether. Cross-country skiing may not have the sex appeal of downhill skiing or snowboarding, but the sport offers snowy fun with a great workout thrown in.

Photo from blogto.com. A cross-country skier glides on a slight downhill slope.

Since the 2010 Olympics, local interest in cross-country skiing has surged. T.K. Campbell, who works at Kitsilano-based nordic ski shop Sigge’s, said there has been a definite increase in interest, particularly among baby boomers looking for an alternate to downhill, and in young, fit people looking for a tough workout.

“The young people are definitely coming in to skate ski,” Campbell said, referring to a type of nordic skiing where a skating-like technique is used.

Campbell said the first time out can be fun for a beginner since picking up the basics isn’t too tricky. What is more difficult is perfecting the technique.

Best local option: Cypress Mountain

Cypress Mountain is a good option for beginners, since it offers rentals and is close to town. Cypress also boasts lit trails for night skiing, making weeknight outings possible for those stuck in the office or classroom during the days.

Stephen Greenaway, a former competitive cross-country skier, said the Cypress nordic ski area is on the side of the mountain, which is both a perk and a downside.

“The easy trails mostly stay at one elevation,” Greenaway said. “If you want more interesting trails, you either have to ski down for a while and then all the way back up in one shot, or all the way up and then down.”

Overall, he said the trails are good for beginners, and a long slope at the beginning of the park gives skiers a solid workout.

Cypress doesn’t offer a student or youth rate, but fortunately cross country ski tickets are far cheaper than downhill tickets, making this an affordable day on the mountain. A full-day lift tickets for adults (19-64) costs $17.86, and a half day (3 p.m. to close) costs $15.18.

Not sure you can even put skis on, let alone glide in them?

Cypress offers one-day lessons. $66 includes a lesson, rental and ticket.

 

Photo by: Rob Baxter. Two cross-country skiers enjoy a snowy day in the Callaghan Valley

A bit further away: Callaghan Valley

 

The Callaghan Valley, located just south of Whistler along the Sea-to-Sky Highway, is a cross-country skier’s paradise. More than 90km of trails wind through snow-covered deciduous trees across visually stunning landscape of towering peaks.

The valley is also the site of the Whistler Olympic Park, where the Nordic events of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games were held.

Not surprisingly, deluxe fancy ski and stay packages are available, and different itineraries are available. Prices vary.

Gear

Skiis, poles, bindings and winter clothing. Simple, right?

Well, yeah. But be aware: downhill skis and cross-country skis are different. Classic cross-country skis are long and narrow to distribute the skier’s weight, allowing him or her to move quickly. Ski length varies based on a person’s height, but average dimensions are 2m long by 5cm wide.

Skate skis tend to be shorter and stiffer than those used for the classical technique, and the poles are longer.

I will be strapping on cross-country skis for the first time on Sunday! Stay tuned for an update on my experience (with photos).

 

 
 
 
 
 

 

Photo by: Timi Newton-Syms. A skier's view.