We had the best New Years Day ever! Marc and I were pretty relaxed on New Years Eve, but this meant we woke up full of energy on the first day of 2018. We had loads of fun on our previous snowshoeing adventure a few days earlier. So, we went out snowshoeing again, this time to the Hollyburn Mountain. The snowshoeing area, known as the Nordic area of the Cypress resort, is amazing! There are over 11 km of snowshoe trails over the wooded sections of Hollyburn Mountain. It is all soooo pretty!
Just to avoid confusion: Cypress Mountain is the name of the ski resort BUT there isn’t (as far as I can tell) a mountain called Cypress Mountain. The ‘Cypress’ part is the name of the bowl between Mount Strachan, Black Mountain, and Hollyburn Mountain. This is also the area that hosted some of the winter olympics in 2010, so it has decent facilities. It is only 30 minutes drive from central Vancouver, so it is easy to get to. This means when you explore this area, you are rewarded with views of the surrounding mountains AND the city.
Cost: It’s free to snowshoe in some areas of Cypress Mountain, if you have your own snowshoes. You just have to fill in a “Exclusion of Liability/Assumption of Risk” form before you go. If you’d like to wander up Hollyburn Mountain, you can get there along the edge of the Nordic snowshoeing area, so you can do that for free.
If you don’t have your own, you can hire snowshoes for $36 (including the $16 fee to enter the Nordic snowshoeing area.) However, you are not allowed to take the hired snowshoes out of the official snowshoeing area. If you’d like to explore the Nordic snowshoeing area with your own shoes, it costs $16.
How to get there: If you have a car, you can park right next to the Nordic area. If not, there are shuttle buses from several locations in central Vancouver. We took a shuttle from Science World at 9:30 am. It cost $23 dollars return.
The Nordic Area location: I wish I knew this in advance! The Nordic area (for cross country skiing and snowshoeing on Hollyburn Mountain) is 2km down the road from the main Cypress Mountain resort. We spent a while searching for the snowshoe hiring hut before we realised we were in the wrong place. Oops. There is a free shuttle-bus that takes people from the main ski-lifts down to the car park. That bus driver kindly gave us a lift all the way to the snowshoeing zone.
Maps of Hollyburn Winter Route:
If you plan to go snowshoeing in the Nordic area, you can pick up a map for free when you buy your ticket. You can also find maps online here. Or, if you want to go straight to the free trail on Hollyburn Mountain, I have included a map below.
In my previous blog post about snowshoeing, I mentioned that I thought snowshoes were like tennis rackets. Well, it turns out they really used to be like that! There were some old snowshoes on the wall in the rental hut. They really have changed! The shoes we hired were not quite as fancy as the ones we borrowed from my friend Tegan, but they still worked well.
The trails around Hollyburn Mountain were really beautiful. There are a mix of green, blue and black snowshoe trails. They wiggle around the cross country ski trails, so they are less steep than normal ski runs. There are also other facilities like warming huts, so if you walk a long way and feel chilly, you can warm up before exploring the next section. If you’ve never tried snowshoeing before, I recommend trying it out in these safe areas, rather than heading straight for a peak!
New Years Day this year (2018) was beautiful! It was actually pretty warm in the sun. So, the snow had started to melt off the trees in the sunnier areas, while remaining powdery in the shade. This meant the whole winter wonderland was gorgeous to explore. The only bad thing was, half of Vancouver had the same idea to start their new year healthily so the easy green runs were BUSY!
We were beginners…but as the green paths were so busy we decided to try some of the more difficult blue pathways. Lots of those paths were in the shade and a little steeper, so the trees were still piled with snow. We thought the blue runs didn’t actually seem that hard either, so we soon found ourselves on the hardest black-level trails.
Even for total beginners, snowshoeing is not too difficult. We found ouselves drawn towards the highest parts of the trails because although it can be hard work walking up a hill in snowshoes, the views were just sooo worth it! The bumpy mountain in the photos below is Crown Mountain (from a new direction!) and the bump in the centre of the photo is the gorgeous Goat Mountain, one of my favourite Vancouver walks so far! Now that would be too hard-core for us in the snow! Look how steep the sides of that mountain are!
We decided to walk towards the highest part of the trail on Hollyburn Mountain. We were not sure how high we could go, but the further we went along the trails, the fewer people we saw. I learnt that if I attempt jumping photos in snowshoes, I’ll end up covered in flipped snow!
When we made it to the highest point for Hollyburn Mountain on our map…we found loooads more people walking up the mountain in their snowshoes. Now, I can never resist a mountain, and Marc was easy to persuade, so we decided to follow everyone up the hill. The trees were bathed in sunlight this high up the mountain, so they were less laiden in snow, but it was still gorgeous.
You know when you hike up a mountain, the ‘top’ is never actually the top!? False peaks always trick you into thinking it’ll be easy when in reality you have a long way to go. That still happens in the snow! We got hungry halfway up Hollyburn Mountain, so we stopped where we thought was the peak (from below.) This was the view while we ate lunch. Not bad eh!?
This little dude was very sure that he should share our lunch. I know you’re not meant to feed the wildlife though, so he had to stay hungry and cute.
As we acended, the views from Hollyburn Mountain just got better and better!
This is a panorama of the surrounding mountains from the top of Hollyburn Mountain. You have all these mountains in one direction, and then Vancouver, the sea and Vancouver Island in the other direction.
The air was so, so clear! Mount Baker is over 150km away in the USA, but we could see it perfectly from Hollyburn Mountain. The clouds had started to decend over Vancouver, but you can see the bump of Burnaby Mountain in the foreground too.
I’m not going to lie, it was hard work to walk to the top in snowshoes (especially as it was only our second ever snowshoe outing!) But I cannot think of a better way to start the New Year! I even manage to take a jumping photo in front of the Lions.
Now for the ‘Oops’ part…
So, if you read my blog quite often, you may have realised that I have a tendency to do dappy things like fall down mountains. Well, I had read an article about how not to kill yourself in snowshoes, so I knew that it was a bad idea to decend a steep hill in snowshoes. You should remove them and walk down really carefully.
Or… you could bring a garbage-bag and slide down the mountain on your bottom! I had a couple of bin bags in the bottom of my backpack for this kind of eventuality. So, Marc and I had GREAT fun sliding and giggling our way down the mountain. It was brilliant! Speedy, pretty and hilarious.
The only problem is it can be very difficult to control your slide down a mountain! I somehow managed to catch my thumb on ice and over-extend it backwards. It was really painful by the time I made it to the bottom of the mountain. The following day it was swollen, and I could hardly move it, so I had to go to the doctors for an x-ray. Oops. Marc did something similar with his middle finger. Double Oops.
We then had to zoom back down through the Hollyburn Mountain trails to return our snowshoes in time. But we were treated to some stunning views of the edge of the Nordic area. You can’t really see it in these photos, but there were excellent views of the clouds hanging over Vancouver.
So, that was my perfect New Years Day with Marc. We both ended up slightly injured, but it was so fun that I don’t mind too much. Luckily I only had a couple of weeks before our next holiday, so my hand finally had a rest and fixed itself.
Would you be happy to end up with a small injury if you had a day this fun?