Winter Adventures in Vancouver

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Winter Adventures in Vancouver
While some cities go into hibernation, Vancouver comes to life in winter. Besides skiing and snowboarding at such renowned resorts as Whistler-Blackcomb, the area offers unique cold-weather pursuits as well as light festivals and Christmas markets.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Arnold/Tourism BC
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    Skiing and Snowboarding
    There is a reason why the 2010 Winter Olympics was hosted in Vancouver. The city's close proximity to several world-class ski resorts makes it a paradise for skiers and snowboarders. Local peaks Seymour, Cypress, and Grouse offer fun for all skill levels. Some of the mountains are open as late as 10:00 p.m., providing fantastic night views of the city. But for some of the best skiing and snowboarding in North America, drive north two hours to Whistler. With more than 200 runs on Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, no winter sports enthusiast will be left unsatisfied.
    Photo courtesy of Kevin Arnold/Tourism BC
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    Walking on Snow
    Snowshoeing is a sport anyone can appreciate. The payoff here is fresh air and stunning views of wilderness areas or the Vancouver skyline. There are several snowshoeing trails to choose from depending on your level of expertise. You can either go solo or join a guided tour and perhaps finish off with a fondue dinner in the mountains. In North Vancouver, there are beginner and intermediate trails on Mount Seymour and Grouse Mountain. For those who want a more challenging experience, head over to West Vancouver’s Cypress Mountain for a serious workout in the snow.
    Photo courtesy of Mount Washington Alpine Resort/Tourism BC
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    Wintry Rides
    Ascending a mountain, even for those not strapping on skis or a snowboard, is a must when visiting Vancouver in winter. Head to Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver and take the Skyride to the peak. Views of Vancouver, the Gulf Islands, and the Pacific are all yours at the top. Farther north in Whistler is the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, which whisks riders from Whistler Mountain’s Roundhouse Lodge to Blackcomb Mountain’s Rendezvous Lodge or vice versa. It's the first lift to connect the two mountains, and it has set world records for its length and height. Those without a fear of heights should wait for a glass-bottom cabin to get a view of what’s below as well as what's around.
    Photo courtesy of Tourism BC
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    Vancouver on Ice
    Whether ice-skating at an outdoor rink or watching the city's beloved hockey team, being on or near the ice is a favorite pastime among Vancouverites. Feel like an Olympian and skate the Richmond Oval, where speed skating events took place during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Become an honorary Canadian by skating outside at either Robson Square in the heart of downtown or on Grouse Mountain’s frozen pond. Those who'd prefer to enjoy ice-skating from the stands should head to Rogers Arena and feel the city’s fervor at a Vancouver Canucks hockey game.
    Photo by Flash Parker
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    Apr├Ęs Ski
    Nothing beats a warming drink after a long, strenuous day on the mountain. At Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver, sip hot toddies and munch on appetizers at Altitudes Bistro while you take in incredible views of the city. On Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver, sit by the fireplace at Crazy Raven Bar and Grill and drink the signature pale ale by Granville Island Brewery. At Whistler, post-ski drinks are almost mandatory. Luckily, there are plenty of options; try the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler, Rendezvous on Blackcomb, or one of the many restaurants, bars, or pubs in the Village.
    Photo courtesy of Randy Lincks/Tourism BC
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    Backcountry Bliss
    Experienced skiers and snowboarders looking for a backcountry adventure should head to Mount Seymour or Cypress for deep powder sessions less than an hour from Vancouver's downtown core. For a multitude of options, go north to Whistler. From the Village, adults can take snowmobile tours through the trees, and children can join in on child-sized vehicles. To really get away from the lift lines, try a snowcat excursion. Small groups are taken to a private skiing and snowboarding area that usually has double the amount of snow seen on Whistler or Blackcomb Mountains. For endless powder runs on pristine glaciers, go heli-skiing or boarding and fulfill your winter fantasies.
    Photo courtesy of Randy Lincks/Tourism BC
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    Winter Festivals
    Starting in early December and continuing into the New Year, winter events bring holiday cheer and festive light displays to the streets and parks of Vancouver. The Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden is a must for locals and visitors. With more than a million twinkling lights, it's a romantic way to get into the holiday spirit. Bring the whole family to Stanley Park for a ride on the popular Miniature Train that takes visitors through a brilliantly lit forest. For a unique Vancouver experience, be sure to check out the Carol Ships, which parade through Vancouver’s harbor dressed up in flashing colors. It’s free to watch from land, but many boats offer on-board packages that include dinner, drinks, and an insider's view.
    Photo by Michael Wheatley/age fotostock
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    Tubing and Tobogganing
    For winter fun for the whole family, ride a toboggan or an oversized inflated tube and slide down a mountainside. For a proper toboggan run, go to West Vancouver’s Cypress Mountain or North Vancouver’s Mount Seymour. A newer winter activity in these parts is tubing through well-maintained snow. If it snows in the city, take the kids to Queen Elizabeth Park, which features the highest point in Vancouver proper, for a do-it-yourself sledding session. Burnaby Mountain, east of the city, is another sledding hill that's free and popular among locals.
    Photo by Don Weixl/age fotostock
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    Christmas Markets in Vancouver
    A popular winter activity in Vancouver is shopping at the city's Christmas markets. Some start as early as mid-November and most run through Christmas Eve. Buy ornaments, toys, art, jewelry, clothing, and food; the markets are the best places to find unique, handmade gifts for the holidays. The Circle Craft Market at the Vancouver Convention Centre is the biggest of all the Christmas markets; with more than 200 vendors, it's also the largest craft fair in Western Canada. The Vancouver Christmas Market, located near Queen Elizabeth Theatre, brings a German-style experience to the city. Check out the rows of wooden huts selling crafts, trinkets, and typical German fare like bratwurst, fruit cake, and glühwein (mulled wine).
    Photo by Murissa Shalapata
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    Santa and His Sleigh
    It may not be the North Pole, but Santa can often be found hanging around Vancouver before Christmas. Take the entire family to Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver to go for a sleigh ride on the mountain and meet Santa and his reindeer. For other photo opportunities with jolly Saint Nick in Vancouver, head to the Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden, Bright Nights at Stanley Park, or the German-style Vancouver Christmas Market. The man in red can also be seen in his annual parade that runs along a main corridor in the city’s downtown, and at just about any local mall.
    Photo by Sami Sarkis/age fotostock