Snowshoeing in the Pacific Northwest; or, the day I got to pretend I was Ray Mears

Last year in the Alps, I went snowshoeing with the wonderful Pip (www.pipofthealps.com); it gave me a chance to see the alpine world at slightly slower speed, and appreciate the landscape and wildlife without simply rushing past.  I was hooked – I came home and started looking at snowshoes on the internet, plotting when I could go again.

Well, I finally got my chance yesterday (Friday).  I persuaded Dave that he wanted to extend one of his less favourite activities – hillwalking – into a winter wonderland, by strapping the ludicrous plastic tennis rackets to his feet and tramping through the snow.

Our trip up to Mount Seymour, just outside Vancouver, was eventful enough for one day.  Although the mountain is very close by (comparable to Grouse Mountain, and Cypress Mountain, currently taken up with the Olympics), it's not straightforward to get to.  One bus got us out of the city, and another to the foot of the mountain.  From here, the resort of Mount Seymour (a commercial organisation which leases a portion of land from BC Parks; the remainder is public land, and the ski resort reverts to being public out of season) runs a shuttle bus up the 3 mile winding road to the resort proper.  At least, at weekends and on holidays, they do.  Mid-week, the shuttle buses are in short supply, which meant we'd scrambled across the downtown peninsula and out of town to try and meet a non-existent bus.  The guys in the mountain bike shop advised us to try and hitch – after all, the road only goes to one place, right?  Disbelievingly, we started walking uphill, thumbs out, and only 5 or so minutes later, a young woman stopped in her 4×4 and picked us up.  The relief was palpable, and she was the most useful contact possible; as an employee of the resort, she knew where was good to go, what the snow was like and when it's quiet or busy.  Thank you, random lady!

Being a national park, it is cheaper than elsewhere to get a pass for the resort and hire the gear – it reminded me somewhat of Runcorn dry ski slope.  Somewhat down at heel, but obviously well loved and used.  I'm being charitable to Runcorn here, as Cheshire residents will know.  

We saddled up and hit the trails.  Mount Seymour resort has a number of circular trails laid out (complete with markers, to prevent you inadvertently straying onto frozen lakes and suchlike) and you can also join up with longer BC Parks trails.  We headed out on Flower Lake Loop, round a beautiful frozen lake in a clearing, back through the trees, before stopping in a sunny spot to eat some lunch.  Despite being close to ski runs, the air was clear and it was very peaceful, with only the occasional snatch of birdsong audible.  The pine forests had no snow on the boughs but their roots were well-covered, with deep divots around the base of each tree, and the tracks of small animals dotted enigmatically amongst them.

Snowshoeing is pretty easy; it's true what they say, if you can walk, you can snowshoe.  But it does feel like a very different experience while you're doing it, and I always enjoy being able to take part in other outdoor activities beyond skiing/snowboarding when it is snowy.  Having covered pretty much all of the available trails (snow covering is something of an issue on the lower slopes of the resort – apparently coverage is good higher up), we crumped uphill to watch some languid snowboarders perfecting tricks on the impressively well-stocked terrain park, took some photos of Mount Baker, clearly visible in the distance, and then started hitching back downhill again…

Now you have seen the picture of me snowshoeing, you must *never speak of this again*. And thank you to the random guy who we hitched downhill and all the way to the Skytrain with.

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