You know those pretty mountains that sit in the background of those amazing photos of Vancouver's skyline? Did you know there are THREE ski resorts in them? Whistler's not even one of them (that's an hour and a half farther north). Vancouver's North Shore is home to Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour, and two of them are already open this season. While it's true that you can go from downtown Vancouver to the top of a ski run in about 45 minutes (with your own car), it takes a bit of planning to make a day of it if you're sans wheels. Here are some tips for those who want to stay out one of our Vancouver hostels at night but still rip up the slopes during the day without breaking the bank.
Cypress Mountain sits on top of West Vancouver and is the largest of the three North Shore resorts with 53 runs and 9 lifts. Remember Canada's first gold medal in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics courtesy of Alexandre Bilodeau on the moguls? That happened here. The resort runs a shuttle to and from the mountain and it stops just a block away from HI-Vancouver Downtown, at Davie and Thurlow. Round-trip tickets cost $23 and it has scheduled departures throughout the day (times vary depending on the day of the week and time of the year). Check their site for details, but it looks like they're still working out the 2012-2013 schedule.
Grouse Mountain is the home of the famous Grouse Mountain Skyride (a big red gondola). Up top there are 26 ski runs and 4 lifts, alongside ice rinks, sleigh rides, a wind turbine that you can go up, ziplines and more.
The resort doesn't offer a shuttle, but you can get to the gondola via public transit. From downtown, head across to the North Shore on the Seabus (Vancouver's public transit ferry between downtown and North Vancouver), and then hop on the 232 bus or the 236 bus. The whole trip takes just over an hour. Check the TransLink website for schedules and trip planning tools.
The smallest of the three North Shore resorts (in terms of acreage), Mount Seymour is tucked up behind North Vancouver. They have 39 runs off 5 lifts plus 4 terrain parks. They run their own shuttle bus, but it leaves from Lonsdale Quay — where the Seabus arrives in North Vancouver — and not downtown Vancouver. It leaves twice a day (times vary on weekends and weekdays) and it costs $8 each way. There's no morning trip up on weekdays, but there is a 5:30 pm departure from Lonsdale, which is ideal for night skiing. Get all the details on their website.
STILL WANT WHISTLER?
If you want to throw a trip to Whistler in the mix as well, it's easy to do as a day trip from Vancouver (or combined with a night or two at HI-Whistler). It's just a wee bit bigger than the North Shore resorts — over 200 runs and 37 lifts.
The Snowbus will pick you up across the street from HI-Vancouver Central (about a 10-minute walk from HI-Vancouver Downtown) and drop you right at HI-Whistler (by request) or in Whistler Village. HI members get the student rate ($25 one way or $40 round trip + tax).
Greyhound also travels between Vancouver and Whistler multiple times a day and HI members get a 25% discount there. One-way fares are as low as $17.25 with the discount. The Greyhound leaves Vancouver from Pacific Central Station and can drop you at Whistler Creekside or Whistler Village (but not directly at the hostel).