The Best Outdoor Winter Activities to Try Around Vancouver

November 25, 2019 - 8 minutes read

Experience this city differently by trying these awesome winter activities in Vancouver.

Winter Activities in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Surrounded by an incredible mountain landscape and boasting mild seasonal temperatures, Vancouver was made for winter activities. By donning a few layers and getting the right equipment, it’s easy to take full advantage of the unique experiences that only winter can provide in this beautiful city.

For inspiration to get you into the great outdoors, we’ve put together the top 10 winter activities to try in and around Vancouver.

Lace-up your skates at an outdoor ice rink

Every winter, two very special outdoor skating areas pop up around the city – the ice rink and plaza at Robson Square in Downtown Vancouver and the skating pond atop Grouse Mountain.

Whether it’s the city vibe or the mountaintop you’re craving, there’s no better spot to lace up your skates and share some magical laps in the cool outdoor air.

Skate rentals are available at both rinks.

Explore the local trails on cross-country or skate skis

If it’s a great outdoor workout you’re seeking, look no further than spending a day on a pair of cross-country or skate skis. Glide through the towering trees at the Whistler Olympic Park in Callaghan Valley, explore the open valleys of the Whistler Lost Lake Park or take in the local terrain of Cypress Mountain on the North Shore. A variety of green, blue and black trails can be found at each venue to cater to all levels of ability.

Nordic ski rentals are available at all locations and some trails are even dog-friendly.

Hit the slopes with your skis or snowboard

It doesn’t get much easier to strap into a pair of skis or a snowboard when you live this close to three local mountains. With Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour all located just across the water on the North Shore, you’re only a 20-minute drive from a day on the slopes or an evening of night skiing.

Looking for a bigger day on the hill? Whistler is a world-class resort that offers an immense amount of terrain and nearly endless options for après at the end of a long ski day.

Ski season on these mountains typically runs from December through April but has been known to open as early as mid-November, depending on snow conditions.

Both ski and snowboard rentals and lessons are available at all four mountains.

Try biathlon in Callaghan Valley

Forget your typical snow day, head to the Whistler Olympic Park in Callaghan Valley to try your hand at biathlon. Pairing the speed and endurance of cross-country skiing with the skill and steady hand of target shooting, this sport is like nothing you’ve ever tried.

Group and private lessons are available for both beginner and advanced biathlon experiences or you can choose to opt-out of the skiing portion and simply test your accuracy at the firing range.

Try snow tubing with friends and family

Revisit your childhood by challenging your friends and family to a race down a snowy slope. With options to check out the Gnarly’s snow tubing park on Cypress, Grouse Mountain’s sliding zone, the snow tube park on Mount Seymour and Whistler’s Coca-Cola tube park all boasting their own version of a sliding zone, you can easily find a spot to hop aboard a snow tube and let gravity do the rest.

Each location offers multiple sliding lanes and a special magic carpet conveyor to bring you and your tube back up the hill for the next run.

Snowshoe through a winter wonderland

Extend your summer hiking into the snowy winter days by adding little more than a few extra layers and a pair of snowshoes. Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour, and Whistler each boasts its own unique set of tree-lined trails, many of which open up to offer beautiful views of the city and the surrounding snow-topped mountains.

Grab a trail map and head out on your own or join one of the many guided snowshoe tours offered throughout the season. Some of these tours even include extra perks like twilight exploration with headlamps, cheese, and chocolate fondue, or s’mores by the fire.

If you don’t own snowshoes, you can easily rent them at many outdoor stores in Vancouver or pick up a pair directly on the mountain. Be sure to book in advance as rental stock can be limited.

Take a walk through a holiday light display

With the sun setting earlier during the winter months, what better way to brighten things back up than by visiting an impressive outdoor light display?

With events taking place from November through to January, you have the option of viewing these twinkling light displays in the city at the Aurora Winter Festival and the Festival of Lights at the VanDusen Botanical Gardens, or heading to the North Shore to take in the Capilano Suspension Bridge Canyon Lights or the Grouse Mountain Light Walk.

Book a snowmobile tour

Explore the backcountry in a truly unique way by taking an exhilarating guided snowmobile tour in Whistler. With the option to book a private group, family or dual rider tour at a length of 2-4+ hours, there’s something available for all ages and levels of rider.

For an added bonus, you can choose options that include a hearty meal in a rustic cabin, a unique night ride or a pairing with either zip-lining or ice fishing.

Go dog sledding in Whistler

Sit back and get ready to cover a lot of ground by heading out on a Whistler dogsledding tour. Learn about the history of sledding and the physiology and training of the dogs then experience first-hand what it’s like to travel by sled.

Take the passenger seat and let your guide do the driving or learn to mush your own group of furry friends through the stunning landscape.

Experience the thrill of bobsleigh and skeleton

Ready to experience a major adrenaline rush? The Whistler Sliding Centre can help with that. Boasting records for the fastest ice track in the world, this Olympic venue offers the chance to try out passenger bobsleigh with a trained pilot or the public skeleton option to launch yourself head-first down the track.

As a bonus, the Sliding Centre is a non-profit organization and all proceeds are spent on efforts to grow these sports and support their athletes.

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