Being sent out to Vancouver for a recent business trip was a dream come true – I had always wanted to go, but somehow always seemed to end up in Europe or Asia! Which is, of course, nothing to complain about, but I really have always wanted to explore the west coast of Canada.
My time was limited, but never one to miss an opportunity to have some fun; I crammed as much into a couple of days as I possibly could before the hard work started. The weather was a bit against me on this trip, so out of perhaps five days, I managed to get three decent days that put a smile on my face.
Vancouver is huge, everything is big and there is so much going on, but it is really like Scotland in a lot of ways – the weather is really similar and although there is a lot more going on, a lot of it is the same sort of thing – cycling, running, hiking, climbing, skiing.
Pretty much everyone is active out there, and super duper happy – I’m sure it’s got something to do with all that maple syrup!
For a bit of acclimatisation, and to adjust to the very different time zone – something I’m very sensitive to – I hired a bike and peddled round Stanley Park – it’s just a great place to escape the city hustle and bustle, there are so many native Canadian elements like trails, totem poles, leaping salmon and coyotes – it’s like a world away from central Vancouver, yet it takes just a few minutes to get there! I loved all the little ravines and lakes – my favourite sightings were the cute black squirrels – something I’ve never seen before! The park has an 8km route around it, and from there you can see the waterways and the Lions Gate Bridge – it’s all pretty spectacular.
The park and all the city stuff was great, but I really needed some adrenaline! So I headed into the mountains for a couple of days – the closest options are Grouse Mountain and Cyprus Mountain. Grouse is one of those fairytale places with twinkling lights, roaring log fires, timber lodges and grizzly bears; Cyprus is a bit more rustic!
Both mountains offer great skiing, however, the saturation of snowboarders and the general North American rule to stay within the resort boundaries made me want to just get away from all that and into the woods – which, by the way, is route-marked in North America, but it still has that feeling of being off the beaten track.
At Grouse, I decided to try snowshoeing – I’d never done it before, but you literally just strap on the snowshoes and go. There are an option of routes from green to black, all of which take you through the trees and woods – my favourite places! The green and blue got boring in no time and I was soon trotting up the Grouse Grind, which is steep and tiring and hard but so worth it! I elegantly (!) slipped the few kilometres back down through the trees to be greeted by quite simply the most spectacular sunset I have ever seen over the south of Vancouver and tankers anchored on the waterway – it was breathtaking, and very atmospheric with through the mountain clouds.
I wished I could have stayed for the night skiing but I had to get back since I wanted to see the view over Vancouver at dusk from the Grouse Mountain Skyride.
Cyprus Mountain is a bit more, I suppose, rustic – there isn’t the same Alpine charm, but great skiing nonetheless. I wanted some more time exploring the woods, and I heard rumours there was the occasional grizzly bear sighting in the Cyprus National Park, so opted for Nordic skiing. The conditions were pretty grey and damp but the snow was lovely – a bit thick for the uphill sections but still pretty good. Again all the routes are big, and well marked – I eventually found myself right in the middle of the forest sipping hot apple ciders at the historical ski camp Hollyburn Lodge.
After all that excitement, it was time to get back to the grindstone – presenting at the Design Principles and Practices Conference – which went surprisingly well!