Snowshoeing is one of the easiest winter activities to learn. While you could be wobbling for days learning to ice-skate or struggling for weeks on the local ski slopes, most people can get the hang of snowshoeing within an hour.
Take your first trip on a guided tour. Guided tours generally include a guide, brief instruction session, and a pair of rental snowshoes. You may have the choice of traditional snowshoes made from wood and a web of rawhide laces, or modern snowshoes made from plastic and with metal grips. While the wooden snowshoes are certainly gorgeous, they are also far more slippery. Without metal grips it is harder to snowshoe uphill.
There are many places to snowshoe in the Vancouver and Whistler areas. Most guided tours are based out of the local ski hills. Some include dinner, or a warm treat like chocolate fondue. Other rental shops provide you with a map and a rental, but little more.
For snowshoeing -- like all outdoor winter activities -- wear warm layers and a water-resistant pair of hiking boots. Bring a warm hat, scarf, and gloves.
Snowshoe trails at Cypress Mountain run through the mountain’s Nordic skiing area. You can explore alone, or join a guided tour. Various food-and-snowshoe tours include fondue or hot chocolate. While other Vancouver ski hills have newer-style chalets, Cypress has historic Hollyburn Lodge -- a 1926 cabin that serves three-courses of fondue.
Hiking trails in adjoining Cypress Provincial Park also serve as winter snowshoeing routes.
Address: 6000 Cypress Bowl Rd., West Vancouver
Grouse Mountain has beginner, intermediate, and advanced snowshoe trails. To match its summer-only hike the Grouse Grind, the mountain has a winter version called the Snowshoe Grind. Running a little over 4 kilometers (2.5 miles), the route is located on the mountaintop and challenges snowshoers with the climb to Dam Mountain.
Address: 6400 Nancy Greene Way, North Vancouver
Seymour Mountain has a mix of trails for self-guided snowshoeing and tours. The ski mountain's nature trail follows a route past two lakes and through old-growth forests. Other marked trails span beginner loop trails to more advanced routes. The rental shop offers a full range of snowshoes.
Exploring off the resort, there are also hiking/snowshoeing trails in neighboring Mt. Seymour Provincial Park.
Address: 1700 Mount Seymour Rd., North Vancouver
4. Whistler Snowshoeing
Lost Lake Park Snowshoeing
For those comfortable on snowshoes, Whistler has a number of destinations and trail systems that are suitable for independent explorations. Within easy walking distance of Whistler Village, the mountain biking terrain around Lost Lake Park becomes snowshoeing trails in winter. There are rentals available on-site.
Address: 7400 Fitzsimmons Rd. South, Whistler -- northwest of the village
Callaghan Valley Snowshoeing
There are more than 35 km (22 miles) of snowshoe trails in the Callaghan Valley (read a review of my snowshoeing excursion here), with some in Whistler Olympic Park -- a legacy of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Two day lodges provide rentals and cozy spots to warm-up. Whistler Olympic Park is a 30-minute drive south of the village.
Address: 5 Callaghan Valley Rd., Whistler -- 16 km (10 miles) southwest of the village
Hemlock Valley Resort has snowshoe trails at base level as well as the alpine area. The base-level routes follow the cross-country loop, while the alpine option includes a chairlift ride to higher altitudes. The resort is located 2.5 hours east of Vancouver, in a valley that's just north of Harrison Mills and Harrison Hot Springs. Note that vehicles traveling Hemlock Valley Road must carry chains or cables, which most city drivers don't own.
Address: 20955 Hemlock Valley Rd., Hemlock Valley
Phone: 1-866-567-6866, or 604-797-4411