Snowshoeing is often referred to as the fastest growing winter sport in North America! While we have no proof to support this (we don’t really like to spend our weekends counting snowshoers) it kind of makes logical sense. Snowshoeing is an inexpensive activity, which requires only some warm clothes, a moderate level of fitness, no lessons, a pair of snowshoes and some snow!!
Why give Snowshoeing a go at Mt Seymour?
For the powder junkies amongst you the thought of giving up the opportunity to be tearing down a mountain at high speed scaring the life out of beginners doing pizza wedge turns in order to go walking on the snow might sound ludicrous! However, have an open mind for a few moments and consider the following as to why you might want to make the 30 minute drive from Downtown Vancouver to Mt Seymour Snowshoe Centre….
– The trail passes for snowshoeing are relatively inexpensive at around $9 per day at Mt Seymour when compared to the cost of a full day lift ticket!
– You only need snowshoes and some warm clothing to participate, no need for fancy “go-pros” or carbon fibre skis made from recycled NASA rocket ships. We managed to pick up a beginner pair of glorified tennis rackets at Sportchek for around $70 in the January sales. If you don’t have your own you can always rent from Mt Seymour at a price of $27 per day which includes your trail pass.
– While your average downhill skier or rider would suggest their day is tiring, they clearly have not tried snowshoeing where gravity is not your friend! A 5 minute trudge uphill is a serious workout which certainly strengthens your legs and core!! Mt Seymour has around 10km of well-marked trails ranging from green, through blue to black.
– There are no barriers to entry such as needing expensive lessons to know what to do – if you can walk in a straight line you can go snowshoeing!
– There is low injury risk when compared to other winter activities such as downhill ski racing, ski jumping and the Skeleton Bob!! The trails at Mt Seymour are groomed and well-marked so you should not be able to get lost, even if the weather is inclement! Saying that you should remember you’re in a winter environment so you need you to carry water, snacks and a spare layer or two in case you happen to have an accident with a tree well!
– The groomed trails offer a great way to enjoy the mountains, beautiful forests and frozen lakes in a safe environment. The more hardcore of you can progress to showshoeing in the Back Country. Out of Mt Seymour car park there is the well-trodden Dog Mountain trail which is not maintained by Mt Seymour but has the added bonus of being completely free!
– It’s a great social activity where you don’t have to learn a new language to participate. There are no rails to grind, no biffs to incur, liplayers to avoid or jampiece shredders to applaud. It’s a great activity to enjoy the mountains and catch up with friends and family while getting fit!
– Mt Seymour also offers Twilight, and Chocolate Fondue Snowshoe guided tours if you fancy something a bit different!
– Bring snacks as there is nothing to eat on the trails except some forest floor fodder (but only if you are Survivorman or Bear Grylls) . However, at the end of the day the Mt Seymour Day Lodge serves up a choice of burgers, fries, chilli, coke, coffee, cookies…..basically everything you need to restore your sapped energy levels!
– Be warned that the last trail back to the car park is just under a km uphill so keep something in the tank to get back or you could look a little silly trying to jump on the magic carpet ride with the kids just to avoid the hill (the thought did cross our minds!!)
– When you get your trail pass stick it to a metal clip on your coat, not on your back as you will look like an amateur who has no idea what they are doing!
– And finally when going downhill don’t lean back….as you will soon find yourself moving rapidly downhill on your backside cleaning out any fellow snowshoers in your path!
So all in all, a cheap and fun way to enjoy the mountain, and a great way to get fit too!
Most Vancouverites only visit Mt Seymour in North Vancouver between the months of December and April to take advantage of the abundant white stuff (snow, to be clear for any employers / children / parents / bored customs officers reading this). However, after 2 years of simply admiring the beauty of the North Shore Mountains in summer we decided to head up to Mt Seymour to check out the hiking trails in Mount Seymour Provincial Park.
The drive up to Mt Seymour which is situated at 1449m above sea level takes about 20-25 minutes, sharing the road with insane cyclists riding up the mountain who at any point look likely to drown in their own perspiration.
The Provincial Park has 14 well marked hiking trails which vary in grading from easy to difficult. Now we just want to take this moment to raise an internationally significant issue (possible with the UN Security Council) regarding Canadians’ ability to accurately grade the difficulty of their hiking terrain. Take note that what your average “I skied my first black run when I was 3” Canadian would grade as “easy” would require a week of intensive Everest style base camp training for a normally fit and active Brit to conquer! Based on this level of grading we decided somewhat foolishly take on a “moderate” hike named Mystery Lake trail because of the promise of a refreshing swim in the lake at the summit of the mountain.
Only a 1.5km hike in length from the starting point in the car park to the finish at Mystery Lake, the walk gains nearly 200m in elevation. While that does not sound too steep a gradient on paper, the reality is that you are basically clambering up rocks. However, this hike offers more dangers than those of a twisted ankle…..hungry black bears!
So everything was going well on the climb until we met “Can Man”. This jolly fellow has nobly spent the last 6 years picking up the beer cans of visitors to the mountain (note that in Canada you receive a monetary refund from the supermarket when you return containers, making beer can collection in prime drinking areas a better career option than a job in PR). He advised us that he had just seen a 700lb bear in the bushes and its young cub on the path. Now we are not natives and we have only picked up a bit of bear knowledge from Les Stroud’s survival programs and once reading a bear smart leaflet in a coffee shop but even we know that getting between a big black bear and its cub is about as good an idea as telling a US border guard that they should smile more. Despite carrying the latest in anti-bear armoury of bear bells (a steel ball with a smaller ball inside which creates Ibiza club levels of noise and is very irritating for fellow hikers) and bear spray (a hand grenade meets a deodorant can that is a useful tool in hand to paw close combat) we were unsure whether to turn back and give up on our dream of swimming in the clear fresh cooling waters of the Mystery Lake oasis…..
Fortunately, we were saved by a couple on the trail behind us. No, they were not locals who had Masters degrees from Dr Doolittle University in Black Bear hostage negotiations, but were just bear ignorant tourists hiking in their flip flops and only carrying a swimming towel for protection, who really wanted to go swimming. So adopting the statistical survival philosophy that you only need to run faster than one other person in the group (and the male tourist clearly did not say no very often when asked if he would like to “supersize”) we proceeded on into the danger zone (cue top gun music). As we came over the ridge we were confronted by a violently shaking bush but fortunately no angry mummy bear. Clearly big bears prefer berries in the bush to naive tourists.
We reached Mystery Lake to be greeted not only by crystal clear fresh water but also by 30 blokes having some kind of weird Chinese hat wearing drinking session!
With the thermometer in the high 20s, Paul eagerly jumped into the Lake……..approximately 1.2 seconds later hypothermia and frostbite kicked in simultaneously, much to the amusement of a smug Helena who had already worked out that a lake made from melted snow in the middle of a ski resort is likely to be cold. Perhaps the Chinese hat wearing guys had the right idea, having primed themselves with copious amounts of beer, and their numerous empty cans could have paid the rent on a Yaletown flat for the previously mentioned Can Man. Overall, not quite the peaceful swimming oasis that we had in mind, but totally worth it for the amazing views of the Lower Mainland, Boundary Bay, Mt Baker and the Georgia Straight.
Thanks for reading.
Paul & Helena