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Vancouver's Best Winter-only Outdoor Activities

Skiing, Snowboarding, Snowshoeing, Ice-skating, and Wildlife Watching

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Snowy mountains, outdoor hockey games played on a frozen lake, or snowshoeing along a woodland trail -- these typically wintry scenes can only be found in Vancouver during the coldest season. If visiting Vancouver and Whistler from December through March, you'll find the region in prime winter mode.

To enjoy the outdoors during this time of year, your options range from skiing and snowboarding to outdoor ice-skating and wildlife watching.

1. Skiing and Snowboarding in Vancouver

© Chloë Ernst

You can see the North Shore Mountains from many spots around Vancouver. The mountains are the home of three ski hill resorts with varied downhill runs, cross-country trails, and many winter activities. Cypress Mountain has some of the most challenging runs, Grouse Mountain has lots of family-friendly activities, and Mt. Seymour has a welcoming learn-to-ski program.

Outside of Vancouver, find world-class skiing at Whistler Blackcomb resort, where there is also heli-skiing.

2. Snowshoeing in Vancouver

© Chloë Ernst

Ski hills like Whistler and those on the North Shore Mountains near Vancouver also have snowshoeing trails. Vancouver’s Cypress Mountain has the historic Hollyburn Lodge, which dates to 1926 and is known for its three courses of fondue.

Snowshoeing is one of the easiest winter sports to learn, and can be enjoyed on a guided tour or independent trip.

3. Outdoor Ice-skating

© Chloë Ernst
There's another side of ice-skating than fast-paced hockey. Outdoor skating rinks are a great way to experience the fresh wintertime air. Grouse Mountain has a pretty, pond-like rink on the mountaintop, while both Vancouver and Whistler have free public ice-skating in their downtown areas. Vancouver’s free rink is the Robson Square Ice Rink and Whistler’s new-in-2011 rink is in Whistler Olympic Plaza.

4. Vancouver Wildlife Watching

Although bears hibernate during winter, you can still see a variety of wildlife in the Vancouver area. From November on, bald eagles come to the Squamish area (mid-way between Vancouver and Whistler) to fish and feed. Other birds that can be spotted in the area are various types of hawks and owls. The George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary near Delta, B.C. is a popular spot with birders.

In mid-March there’s the Pacific Rim Whale Festival on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Tofino, Ucluelet, and Pacific Rim National Park are bases for spotting gray whales as the mammals return from calving grounds in Baja California.

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