After a snow drought most of the winter, the floodgates have opened. The last several weeks have seen the Vancouver mountains blanketed with metres of fresh snow. For skiers who have waited patiently, the time is now to hit the slopes.
I checked out Grouse Mountain over a recent weekend, on a day when it was pouring rain in downtown Vancouver. Up on Grouse, however, all that precipitation was light, fluffy snow; in fact, the mountain had been dumped with nearly 25 centimetres of white stuff in the last 48 hours.
Situated only about 15 minutes from downtown, Grouse is known as the “Peak of Vancouver.” It offers 26 runs serviced by four chairlifts, plus two terrain parks. While the mountain may not have the biggest vertical drop or most technical trails in the area (that distinction generally goes to nearby Cypress), it is a great setting for people (like me) still learning to ski, with more than a half-dozen easy green and blue runs.
It was with plans to conquer some of Grouse’s blue runs that I rode the Skyride cable car up to the ski area. The enticement of fresh powder had lured big crowds up top, which led to some long lift lines. But the good news was that the snow was falling so fast that each run felt almost like the first of the day.
Even The Cut, Grouse’s most popular green run, was blanketed with fresh snow. A few inches of powder made the slope manageable even for newbies like me, with none of the icy patches you sometimes find on Vancouver mountains this time of year.
After a few practice runs on The Cut, I was ready to hit the blue runs. Locals out there who have been skiing all of their lives can probably handle Grouse’s blue (or intermediate) runs with their eyes closed. But for me – and lots of skiers just starting out – they’re still a great challenge.
I started with the Paper Trail, which winds its way gently through evergreen forest with a few mildly steep stretches thrown in for a bit of speed and excitement. Whooshing down the slope, surrounded by nothing but forest and snow (and a bit of fog) I felt a world away from the grey streets of downtown.
I moved on to the Expo run, which is pretty much a straight shot down the mountain and a bit more of a challenge. Grouse staff had just finished clearing away the gates from a ski race, which meant I had the run to myself. I’d have to say that zipping through an inch or two of fresh powder – without having to drive to Whistler or Interior B.C. – is one of the great luxuries of living in Vancouver.
The snow giveth and the snow taketh away, however. After about four hours of skiing in – at times – near blizzard conditions, I was chilled to the bone and my parka was soaked through. I took a final run along Heaven’s Sake – a gently sloping blue trail that winds around Grouse’s iconic peak – admired the views of the foggy city far below and called it a day.
For skiers interested in taking advantage of the late season snow and saving on next season, Grouse is now offering its Y2Play pass (adults $359), which includes unlimited skiing this spring and all of next season. (Basically, if you use it more than six times, you end up saving over the standard lift ticket price of $58). In addition, the pass includes one free lift ticket for a friend, as well as a free ski/snowboard rental, skate rental and snowshoe rental. You also get 20-percent off of private lessons and retail purchases and other food and beverage discounts.
Anyone skied Grouse recently? What did you think of the conditions?
Follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza.