There is one silver lining to the incessant rainfall in Vancouver: snow in the mountains, and lots of it! A couple of weeks ago, Whistler had 79 cm (31 inches) within 24 hours. Our local mountains too, just a 15 minute drive from my rain-soaked abode, have piles of the white stuff. This makes me very happy! During the last few weeks I’ve snowshoed at Whistler’s Callaghan Valley and on the North Shore mountains, in West Vancouver’s Cypress Provincial Park. They were very different experiences, from trailblazing in hip-deep snow to a gentle jaunt in a winter wonderland.
Trailblazing at Whistler’s Callaghan Valley
Friends and I were in Whistler for a downhill ski weekend but plans changed on our last day when there was too much snow. That’s right…too much snow! The extensive avalanche control caused delays in lift openings, and upper lifts didn’t open at all. We decided to hightail it to Callaghan Valley, a cross-country skiing/snowshoeing area, and the venue for Nordic events at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
Callaghan has over 35 km (22 miles) of snowshoe trails that range from easy to challenging. Since we hadn’t come prepared for snowshoeing, and some of us were sporting less than appropriate footwear, we selected a moderate trail called Lookout Explorer. We enjoyed the pretty, undulating trail through the forest, but our poles were useless as they sank into the bottomless snow. After about 45 minutes, the trail came to an abrupt end. Well, not the trail, just the tracks. Trailblazing—sounds fun, right? It was … for a bit. This wasn’t soft, fluffy powder snow, but moisture-laden, cement-like snow. Instead of billowing through it, we had to lift our legs up and over on every step. It was exhausting (and oddly exhilarating type 2 fun). We switched positions every 10 minutes to give the leader a break. We definitely worked off all the wine and raclette cheese we had consumed the night before.
Winter wonderland at Cypress Mountain
Cypress Mountain is a North Shore Vancouver gem with great downhill, cross-country, and snowshoe trails. It also hosted a number of 2010 Olympic Game events in freestyle skiing and snowboarding. There are about 11 km of in-bounds snowshoe trails, maintained and operated by Cypress Mountain, and many more within the Cypress Provincial Park trail network (the next section in this post). On weekends, the parking lot can be very busy, and I’m always surprised how peaceful the trails are just a few kilometres past the entrance.
We had a wonderful late afternoon snowshoeing session followed by food, beer, and music at Hollyburn Lodge, a rustic ski-in cabin originally built in 1926 and respectfully renovated last season. Miraculously, after weeks of gloom, the sky cleared for the few hours that we were out on the trails. It was glorious! The beautiful winter wonderland scenery put me in an excellent mood and I had to pinch myself that I have this in my backyard. Hanging out over beers and enchiladas, with rosy-cheeked skiers and snowshoers at the fun and unpretentious lodge topped off a perfect day.
Sunset Snowshoe to Hollyburn Peak, Cypress Provincial Park
I’ve posted about Hollyburn Peak before. At 7 km (4.3 miles) with 430 m (1410 ft) elevation gain, and conveniently located close to my house, it’s one of my go-to winter workouts. And, the view from the top is pretty special. The well-trodden route can often be done with Microspikes or Yaktrax rather than snowshoes. A really fun thing that I’ve done a couple of times recently, is hike up to the top in time for sunset and return in the dark with headlamps. Sliding down on our behinds, in the dark, after drinking a hot, adult beverage, is particularly fun. In a previous post, I have photos of Hollyburn Peak on a sunny day after a big snowfall.
All this talk of snow is making me excited about the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.
I’ll leave you with a photo of the Olympic ski jump at Callaghan Valley. Wow, would you ever consider doing this?