Tis the Season for Powder...
When you hear the first merry chimes of Christmas music, you know it’s time to tune up the skis and the snowboard. The routine is as sacred as any tree-decorating ceremony. 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. Got your own faves? Let us know in the comment box below.
It’s certainly not the biggest resort around Vancouver, but what it lacks in size it makes up for with local flavor. All 26 runs have something to offer, 13 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 there’s Quicksilver Terrain Park. Built for intermediate and advanced riders, this one-kilometre park is all about trying your most technical tricks. Plus, if you get tired, there’s always someone else to watch as you rest, since Vancouver’s best riders practice here often.
This is the mountain where the incredible snowboard half-pipe event for the 2010 Winter Games was held. Although the Games had their own separate park, future Shaun Whites can head to Bell Power Park. The park is so popular that regular riders were incredulous when Cypress Mountain tried to close it for the 2010 Winter Games. The park is open day and night and features an amazing number of combination hits and freestyle features.
Cypress isn’t just for baggy-pants snowboarders. 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 Young Guns Terrain Park is ideal for new half-pipe riders because of its low-pressure atmosphere and tendency to go festive with exhibitions and music festivals. For the pros, Mount Seymour created Northlands Terrain Park, featuring a number of rails and boxes similar to urban skate 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.
Of course, you’d expect the best runs in North America to be at this legendary resort. Why? Its 8,100 acres of terrain -- which include multiple terrain parks, half-pipes and adventure parks -- outdo even Vail, Colorado, in the amount and variety of trails. And, thanks to the new Peak 2 Peak gondola, you can zip between the tops of the two mountains (Whistler and Blackcomb) 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 -- this one makes our bones shiver with anticipation -- through seven kilometres of glade runs, bowls and hops all the way to Creekside Village. Burnt Stew Trail, which we’re assuming is called such because it keeps your legs burning during its 11 kilometres, is great not just for the amazing terrain -- it’s also got glorious, awe-inspiring views.
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 powder extravaganza. Whistler offers heli-skiing packages that won’t soon be forgotten, featuring three to four runs. For you detail-lovers, that’s about 1,400 to 2,300 vertical metres of fresh, fluffy powder.
View Skiing in a larger map