While Vancouver and its immediate area sees mostly rain during the winter months, head out towards the mountains and that rain quickly changes to snow… lots of snow, ideal for plenty of winter adventure. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing along with the growing popularity of fat bikes lead to a ton of exciting opportunities for the winter outdoor enthusiast. Backcountry skiing options abound as well, but those heading out should have avalanche training. Dress in layers, let someone know where you’re headed and then check out some of the great recreation locations described below!
Cambie Creek Cross-Country Ski Trails
Located in Manning Provincial Park, this series of cross-country ski trails have also become a popular snowshoeing destination. The trails range from the easy Cambie Loop, a 2.5 km trail through the meadows and over a bridge, to the difficult Fat Dog Trail, a 15 km (9.3 mi) return trip that climbs 700 m (2,295 ft) up into the subalpine of Big Buck Mountain. These trails are not groomed, but are usually well tracked.
Photo via: Western Canada GPS Maps
Cypress Mountain Ski Area
The closest place to Vancouver for cross-country skiers to hit the trails is Cypress Mountain. The Cypress Bowl has 19 km (12 mi) of trails groomed for skate and classic. 7.5 km (4.7 mi) of the trails are lit for night skiing. Snowshoers will find about 12 km (7.5 mi) of marked trails. The mountain also offers downhill skiers six lifts (two of which are high speed quads), servicing 243 skiable hectares (600 ac) and 53 named runs, including a number that are lit for night skiing.
Photo via: vancouvertrails.com
Knuckleheads Recreation Area
East of Powell River, this is a popular winter recreation area that is accessed from the gate on the E Branch Road off of the Stillwater Mainline. A four-wheel drive vehicle is required to get to the trailhead and the area has expanded with three main ski areas: E Branch, A Branch to the south, and The Sentinel further north. Snow can start in November and last through May. The Knuckles sit and an elevation of 1,676 metres (5,500 ft), and the old Mount Diadem Ski Club Cabin at around 975 metres (3,200 ft) makes a nice base to explore the many old roads/trails. Both backcountry skiers and snowshoers can enjoy the trail system in winter.
Photo via: sunshinecoastcanada.com
Lost Lake Cross-Country Area
Nestled amongst the trees and golf courses at the base of Blackcomb Mountain, this 32 km (19.5 mi) series of trails offers some of the best cross-country skiing in the province. Amenities abound, the views of the surrounding mountains are breathtaking and the (daily) grooming impeccable. The trails are well signed and are rated from novice to expert. There is even 4 km (2.5 mi) of trail around Lost Lake lit for night skiing. Snowshoers will find a trail network located in the same area.
Photo via: whistler.ca
Garibaldi Provincial Park
The two primary areas for winter activities in Garibaldi are the Black Tusk/Garibaldi Lake or Diamond Head via Elfin Lakes. The road to the parking lot at Garibaldi Lake is not plowed in the winter and to access the Diamond Head area, chains and a four-wheel drive vehicle are recommended. Skiing is typically backcountry using telemark or alpine touring gear, but snowshoeing is also quite popular and a fat bike ride out and back to the Elfin Lakes can be an exhilarating ride! Expect to push your bike up a good portion of the climb, but the downhills on the way out more than make up for the effort.
Photo via: Pinterest
While downhill skiers and snowboarders will find 40 named runs and 80 skiable hectares (200 ac) here, the official Mount Seymour snowshoeing trails lay to the east of the parking lot, between the Mystery Peak Chairlift and the Goldie Rope Tow. There are 11 short trails, ranging from 100 metres to 1 km long. These add up to 5.5 km (3.4 mi), mostly in the beginner to intermediate range. Looking for a more challenging route? From the parking lot, snowshoers can travel along the left-hand edge of the ski area boundary, all the way to the top of the mountain. It is a 10 km (6 mi) return trek with an elevation gain of 450 m (1,475 ft). Expect to take about four hours to the top, or another two if you want to follow the ridge along the three pump routes. On a clear day, the views are worth the effort!
This huge icefield north of Whistler and east of Pemberton is a backcountry winter sports mecca. The ascents and descents are gentle and a backcountry ski trip here dovetails nicely into the Squamish-Cheakamus Divide, making a good week long trip. To ski from the north trailhead to the south trailhead can take as little as three days, but most people take a few more days to explore. The Harrison Hut is located along the route.
Photo via: Vancouver, Coast & Mountains BC Backroad Mapbook
Snowspider Mountain Area
Located in the high mountains above Lillooet Lake, Snowspider Mountain is a great weekend trip. Although the route can be done in two or three days from Van Horlick Creek Road, arguably the best approach is to ski up Cerise Creek from the Duffey Lake Road (Highway 99), a one-way trip of approximately 11 km (6.8 mi) that gains around 700 m (2,300 ft) of elevation. When the snow is high, an alternate route is up the logging road along Twin One Creek from Lillooet Lake. There is a hut that holds four on Snowspider.
Whistler Area Trails
While the Whistler area is known as a bit of a downhill ski mecca, those on fat bikes will find plenty to explore in and around the village. The Valley Trail System is an extensive 40 km (25 mi) network of pathways and boardwalks that connect all Whistler’s neighbourhoods. The section between Meadow Park and Rainbow Park is groomed for cross-country skiers and makes a great spot to ride a fat bike as it connects to other great trail riding opportunities. These include the Cut Yer Bars, Emerald Forest and Mel’s Dilemma Trails, all typically well-packed from walkers and snowshoers.
Photo via: whistler.com
Whistler Olympic Park/Callaghan Country
Between the Olympic Park and the Callaghan Country Wilderness right next door, cross-country skiers will find over 95 km (59 mi) of groomed trails set for both classic and skate. Some of the trails are dog friendly and while snowshoers will find some trails in the park, the longer routes are in Callaghan Country. The Olympic Park also offers several groomed trails for fat bike riders.
Photo via: callaghancountry.com
You can find all of these winter recreation destinations and more in our Vancouver, Coast & Mountains Backroad Mapbook and our BC GPS Maps!
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