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Utopia atop the mountains

Published : Jan 14, 2018, 1:43 am IST
Updated : Jan 14, 2018, 1:43 am IST

Grouse mountain in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, is an adventurous spot, sitting in a bed of white serenity.

Aerial tramway that transports people upto Grouse Mountain.
 Aerial tramway that transports people upto Grouse Mountain.

It was a crisp spring morning in June, and as we drove through Stanley Park and across the Lion’s Gate Bridge, our friends Annie and Raj told us all about Grouse Mountain. Looking up, it seemed as though the Peak was omnipresent! Driving through fir forest and brilliant views of the city of Vancouver, the sparkling Pacific Ocean and snowy peaks, in under twenty minutes, we arrived at the North America’s largest aerial tramway system…

Another view of the tramway.Another view of the tramway.

On the way up, the family very eagerly gleaned from the hosts all about Grouse Mountain. Snowboarding, skiing, skating, snowshoeing, ziplining are just some of the experiences that this very well-laid out attraction offers. It’s a mountaintop surrounded by alpine peaks, centuries-old forest and beautiful sights. On clear days, visitors get to enjoy a panorama of the city’s downtown towers shimmering in the water below and Stanley Park laid out like a lush green carpet. The closeness to the city — as well as the option to go night skiing on winter weeknights — makes the mountain very popular awarding visitors with beautiful nights views of the shimmering city.

Squamish wood sculpture on a salvaged fallen tree.Squamish wood sculpture on a salvaged fallen tree.

Of course, skiing and snowboarding are the most popular recreation activities on the mountain, but the Grouse Grind is another popular activity. The trail has become part of the fabric of Vancouver with thousands of hikers taking on the challenge of the rugged terrain and steep climb every year, up an approximate 30° slope, which starts at the Valley Station of Grouse Mountain and finishes at the Peak’s plateau. Nicknamed ‘Mother Nature’s Stairmaster’, it is steep and mountainous terrain. In fact, Grouse Mountain was named by the first recorded hikers to reach the summit in October 1894. In those days, climbing Grouse Mountain was a three or four day journey, with no bridges to aid access.

An eagle ready to take flight.An eagle ready to take flight.

Surely, the most popular Grouse Mountain recreation activity in fall, spring, or summer, is the Grouse Grind hiking trail. A steep trail that climbs 853m, it’s an amazing workout, and on average, it takes anywhere from 60-90 minutes to reach the top. The grind is usually closed in the winter months from November to April.

Grizzly bear in it’s habitat.Grizzly bear in it’s habitat.

And then there is Disc golf on top of the mountain! The husband made a mental note to factor in the activity, even as I decided my next visit would definitely include the Grind! One can play the 18-hole disc golf course atop The Cut on Grouse Mountain. Indeed, a very unique alternative to the classic mountain activities that one would expect.

Coming down from the Grouse Mountain.Coming down from the Grouse Mountain.

Some history about the original mode of sky-travel — the world’s first double chairlift was built in 1949 replacing a two to three hour hike from the skiers’ bus stop at the base of the mountain, onwards to lovely sights. These were the same breathtaking views that delighted us as we went up, up and away! At many places the snow had not yet melted and it was really cool going up.

At the ticket window for the tramway, there were options for day tickets, season and annual passes, with various activity options laid out, including Chairlift rides from May to October and Eco-Walk, Eco-Hike, the Lumberjack Show, Birds in Motion Demonstration, Grizzly Bear Habitat Walk, among others. We landed up signing on for most of the activities. The children were most excited to watch the Lumberjack show and threatened to learn the tricks from them.

From then on, the day just whizzed past — watching the very good-looking and sprightly lumberjacks do their thing, click pictures with them and learning so much from the folks at the conservation centre for wildlife. It is a wilderness sanctuary where endangered animals can explore and play, knowing they’re safe and secure. We learnt that this was that time of year when animal and bird babies start appearing all over the mountain. The Refuge also offers programmes that make learning about nature fun and fascinating. I thought the bird-show was a great way of introducing birds and their ways to folks who are not into birdwatching and largely clueless. Answers to figure out when Grizzly Bears are playing or when they really mean business or why birds of prey hover in the sky more at certain times of the day, are answered by rangers and wildlife experts. What a joy to sit down in the Grizzly Lookout Cafe for a delicious bear-inspired snack!

Also available was a unique First Nations experience with native history being highlighted. During this 45-minute presentation, led by an elder of the Squamish Nation, one discovers the ancient legends, dances and rich history of the First Nations people. The beautiful wood sculptures made me realise just how beautiful a tradition the Squamish have.

So much fun and so many activities later, we took the car back to Vancouver city. All in all, it was a day well spent with tons of memories and information to process until the next visit — hopefully the trek up Grouse Mountain!

— Anu PD is a fashion designer with a passion to see the world.

Tags: grouse mountain, stanley park