A ski resort with terrain for all levels and closeby lodging, lots of apres ski activities and a good ski school make for great vacations on snow.
Vancouver: Ski Slopes At Your Fingertips
Vancouver, British Columbia, is one metropolitan enclave that requires little in the way of drive time to reach the slopes. Several ski hills, in fact, sit right on the edge of the city.
You're literally just minutes from the slopes when you land at Vancouver International Airport 10 miles from downtown. The city rests at sea level with mountains abutting suburbia right in the path of north Pacific storms known for dropping voluminous snows.
Three resorts tuck into mountaintops within an arm's reach of downtown. You'll find Grouse, Cypress, and Seymour each a quick 15- to 30-minute drive away. You can button up business downtown and head to the slopes for night skiing all in the same day.
Catch the aerial tram just on the edge of the north suburbs to get up to the closest resort. Grouse Mountain's 1,197 vertical with six lifts sits above the city like an eagle's aerie. Daytime views stretch across the Straits of Georgia to the islands, and nighttime sprinkles twinkling city lights below your feet.
The Olympic Games brought renovations to Cypress Mountain. Cypress completed a new 50,000-square-foot day lodge in the base area to complement the ski hill that straddles two mountains—Mt. Strachan and Black Mountain—with nine lifts on their flanks.
Mount Seymour plops its five lifts and two terrain parks on 200 acres in the North Shore Mountains of a rugged provincial park. It's a good place for gawking at views of the city and islands to the west, but small enough for a family-friendly atmosphere. The added attractions of tubing and toboggan areas lure the kids.
A two-hour drive puts you in reach of three more resorts, including one of the biggest in North America. Most skiers and riders beeline north up the Sea-to-Sky Highway for Whistler Blackcomb, where two mountains combine slopes for 8,171 acres, one mile of vertical, 38 lifts and 200 trails, including skiing on three glaciers.
The resort's Peak 2 Peak gondola connects the two mountaintops, saving skiers and riders a huge detour through the village to ski both mountains. You can also leave the driving to someone else by hopping the train that runs between Vancouver and the resort.
Hemlock Valley Resort sits a bit inland to the east of Vancouver near Harrison Lake. Its four lifts and 1,300 feet vertical lob it into the family-friendly category. But Harrison Hot Springs sits only 35 minutes away from the resort, making the combo more of a romantic adventure by pairing up Hemlock's cold brisk skiing with hot mineral soaking.
Head south of the Canadian-U.S. boundary to reach Mt. Baker—a freerider haven that piles up more snow than any other Vancouver resort. The day-use only ski area sees over 54 feet of snowfall each year. Natural half pipes and gullies abound, and backcountry skiers find even more to lure them beyond the boundaries.
Extend the trip to three hours, and you have two more resorts. More adventurous travelers who want to link up a drive with a ferry ride across the straits should head to Mount Washington on Vancouver Island. The resort is designated as an Olympic training venue with almost half its slopes targeting experts. Renovations over the past decade included a six-pack lift, a quad, two lodges and the addition of night skiing.
Drive east of Vancouver to ski Manning Park, where the inland mountains yield drier snows. The resort with 24 trails and four lifts attracts families for its smaller, more intimate setting and kid faves like its terrain park, snowplay area and tubing.
Vancouver is all about having ski slopes at your fingertips. Hop in the car and go hit the snow.