Winter Wonderland 1,000 Feet Above Vancouver: Peak of Christmas Returns

ddi131211_gmr_poc_0545Over the weekend, Vancouverites living downtown awoke to discover a rare dusting of snow on the streets and in the parks.  Overnight flurries had turned the city into a winter wonderland, at least for a couple of hours.

But for a real winter wonderland, complete with feet of fluffy snow, an outdoor skating pond and even a couple of live reindeer, there’s only one place to go in Vancouver: Grouse Mountain.

Grouse’s annual Peak of Christmas celebration is back, Nov. 28-Dec. 24.  The event turns the top of Grouse Mountain into a miniature North Pole, roughly 1,000 feet above Vancouver.  It makes a great escape from the grey winter doldrums in the city below and, with some incredible natural scenery, should get even the grinchiest of folks into the holiday spirit.

Photo courtesy of Grouse Mountain

Photo courtesy of Grouse Mountain

The experience starts with a ride from the bottom of Grouse Mountain to the base inside the mile-long Skyride air tram.  Along the way, wet, rainy weather gives way to glorious snow, and lots of it.  The Skyride floats above Douglas firs laden with heaps of ice and snow, climbing higher and higher until depositing passengers at the top of the mountain.

The centrepiece of the Peak of Christmas is undoubtedly the 8,000-square-foot mountaintop skating pond. Set against a backdrop of snow-topped trees and bounded on all sides by high banks of snow, it’s among the biggest outdoor skating ponds of its kind on the West Coast.

After carving up the ice,  you can hop in an old-fashioned sleigh for a mountaintop sleigh ride through Grouse’s snowy forests and spend some quality time with Prancer and Dancer, the two reindeer that take up residence on Grouse for the season. Daily reindeer ranger talks (at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.) shed light on the amazing animals.

Photo courtesy of Grouse Mountain

Photo courtesy of Grouse Mountain

Of course, activities abound for kids (and the young at heart). Santa camps out at Grouse for the duration of the holiday season. Kids can visit him in his workshop (next to the skating pond) and have photos taken, sit down and compose a proper letter to Santa, or even join the big man in red for a special breakfast (Dec. 14-24).  There’s also an elaborate display of gingerbread houses and special photo stations where you can dress up as an elf and have photos taken.

Special events during the monthlong celebration include choir performances in the Grouse chalet featuring Christmas and gospel music by the VOC Sweet Soul Gospel Choir (Dec. 7, 14, 21 and 24), as well as skating events with international stars like world champion Karen Magnussen (Dec. 6, 13 and 20).

Tickets to the Peak of Christmas are $41.95 for adults, 23.95 for youth 13-18 and $13.95 for kids 5-12. Special family passes (2 adults and 2 youth/kids) are $79.95.  If you’re skiing on Grouse, you can also access the Peak of Christmas with an ordinary lift ticket ($58 for adults; $45 for youth; $25 for kids).

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