Vancouver

Best Runs and Terrain Parks

From downtown Vancouver, you can see the snowline creep down the North Shore mountains in late fall, signalling that it’s time to tune up the skis and the snowboard. Wax ’em, dress the part and head up to the mountains, because ’tis the season for powder. For Vancouver newbies, you’ll want the definitive list of the top runs and terrain parks to launch that next trick. Four resorts make up Vancouver’s best ski and snowboard experiences; here’s a primer on our favourites.

Grouse Mountain

It’s certainly not the biggest resort around Vancouver, but what Grouse Mountain lacks in size it makes up for with local flavor. All 26 runs have something to offer, 14 of which are open for night skiing. The Cut is a prime example of the views that keep Vancouverites bragging about their beloved city. Save this gently sloping run until just before sunset, when panoramas of the city below and a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean are lit up like something from a dream. We know this might sound boring to some, which is why Grouse offers three terrain parks. Built for beginners, intermediate and advanced riders, each park offers challenges no matter where your abilities lie.

Cypress Mountain

You might know Cypress Mountain as the venue where the incredible snowboard half-pipe event was held during the 2010 Winter Games. Although the Games had their own separate park, future Shaun Whites can head to The District. Although Cypress is home to four different terrain parks, The District is where the big kids play. Or check out Patio Park, and hone your tricks and flips with the safety net of their airbag.

But Cypress isn’t just for baggy-pants snowboarders. It has the highest vertical rise of Vancouver’s local mountains, and 53 downhill runs. Skiers looking for a real mogul challenge can take on Top Gun. Snow loves to land on this part of Cypress. Other favourites include Panorama, a smooth beginner’s green run, and the infamous Black on Black run, which has obliged many a daredevil.

Mount Seymour Resort

Last but certainly not least, Mount Seymour is yet another area where the powder is fresh, and the landings are soft. The Mushroom Park is ideal for those new to freestyle because of its low-pressure atmosphere, before progressing on to the mountains three other parks. Skiers on a quest for that rare long black-diamond run will find it on Unicorn, while green-level skiers will enjoy a much more casual cruise down Brockton Gully. Can’t pack enough fun into the day? Thirteen of Mount Seymour’s runs are open for night skiing and riding.

Whistler Blackcomb

Of course, you’d expect the best runs in North America to be at legendary Whistler Blackcomb! Why? Its 3,300 hectares (8,100 acres) of terrain—including multiple terrain parks, half-pipes and adventure parks, outdoes even Vail, Colorado, in the amount and variety of trails. And, thanks to the Peak 2 Peak gondola, you can zip between the top of both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains and easily explore the best of both. The gondola, which opened in late 2008, is the highest and longest in the world, whisking skiers and riders more than four kilometres in just 11 minutes.

Ride the gondola from Blackcomb to Whistler and then hop on the Peak Express lift to the highest accessible point on the mountain. Then, sail down the aptly named Peak to Creek through 7-kilometres (4-miles) of glade runs, bowls and hops all the way to Creekside Village. More creatively named, Burnt Stew Trail offers 11-kilometres (6.8-miles) of amazing terrain, along with glorious, awe-inspiring views. Of course, then there’s the steep, fast and spectacular Dave Murray Downhill–the run used for the Super G and downhill events during the 2010 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games.

Might we add that the best of Whistler doesn’t go by any one name: some people like to call it heli- skiing; we call it a powder extravaganza. Whistler offers heli-skiing packages that won’t soon be forgotten, featuring three to four runs, meaning about 1,400 to 2,300 vertical metres of fresh, fluffy powder.