On Top of Grouse Mountain…

Welcome to Grouse Mountain!

Welcome to Grouse Mountain!

During my brief time in Vancouver, I had so many things I wanted to do all over the jewel of the Pacific Northwest.  Alas, the late train into Pacific Central dampened my schedule; this was going to take some serious speed through the city.  But if there’s one thing I love, it is a challenge.  In this case, it was squeezing enough time into a full day throughout Vancouver.  My mom and I tied our shoes and proceeded to our first destination: Grouse Mountain.

Towering high over British Columbia’s largest city, in the area of North Vancouver, Grouse Mountain stands tall at over 4,000 ft. (1,200 meters) in altitude at its peak, is the site of an alpine ski area, which in the winter season overlooks Greater Vancouver with four chairlifts servicing 26 runs.  In the summer, Grouse Mountain Resort features lumberjack shows, a birds of prey wildlife demonstration, a scenic chairlift ride, and a 1.8 mile  (2.9 km) hiking trail known as the Grouse Grind, which is popular with hikers and workout enthusiasts who love to traverse the trail in the fastest time.  Year-round operations include a 100-seat mountaintop theatre and a wildlife refuge featuring timberwolves and bears.  Public access to the mountain top is by a Swiss Garaventa aerial tramway, or the Grouse Grind hiking trail (Open for hiking May-October).

Grouse Mountain gets its name from the Blue Grouse commonly found throughout the mountain.  It was named in October of 1894 by the first hikers to reach it’s peak, due to the blue grouse being a common food source for them while trekking to the top.  Grouse Mountain’s first lodge was hand-built by Scandinavians in the 1920s.  They hauled planks up what would become the Grouse Grind hiking.

The area at the bottom of the “Cut”—one of Vancouver’s most well-known ski runs—is the original base of the mountain, where the area’s first lodge and rope tow were built.  The base became known as the “Village” to local skiers, since numerous cabins were built in the trees surrounding the lodge and the base of the old Cut chairlift.  Some of these cabins still exist and they are located below and to the west of the old Cut chairlift.  The gravel road that was built to access the base, the Old Grouse Mountain Highway, still exists and is currently only used for maintaining the ski area.

One of the things that drew me to Grouse Mountain wasn’t just the scenery, but the fabled Grouse Grind.  This steep trail climbs 2,800 feet (853 m) from the gate and timer near the bottom of the trail to the “Grind Timer” at the top of the trail, a distance of 1.8 miles (2.9 km).  The total number of stairs is 2,830.  The trail, known to locals as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster”, is notoriously gruelling due to its steepness and mountainous terrain.  Hikers, who often time themselves on the trail, reach the top in approximately 90 minutes on average although some who are very fit can finish in under 30 minutes.  The Grouse Grind trail, unfortunately, was closed due to the season; each winter usually from November to April or May, due to hazardous geotechnical and weather conditions.  I knew that I was in no shape to set any records, but it was the allure of this nature-made exercise that made me wanna try it.  Oh well, if I ever come back in the summer, I’ll have a fresh pair of sneakers for the climb up.

The weather that morning was not quite the winter-wonderland vibe we were expecting, especially in Canada in December.  Instead of crisp, fresh snow, it was rain.  Just cold, wet, rather grey rain.  We waited for nearly an hour for lift tickets as we were sandwiched between scores and scores of tourists with their skis.  Most of the skiers were all Asian; not surprising since Vancouver has a large concentration of Asian immigrants.  Some, however, I’m guessing were from overseas for the trail runs since Canada offers some of the best skiing in the world.  Also, it is a shorter flight than going all the way to the Alps in Europe or to the slopes in New England.  While we waited for the ride up the mountain, we did one of the most wintery things around: sipped hot chocolate in the freezing cold.

The ride up was truly breathtaking.  Well, halfway that is.  Because of the wet weather, there was a tremendous amount of fog; it was literally like being stuck inside a cloud.  The coolest part was seeing the thousands upon thousands of trees that stood so tall and were covered by the chunkiest snow and ice; I couldn’t believe how none of the branches were falling off.

Foggy Day on Grouse Mountain

Foggy Day on Grouse Mountain

Grouse Mountain Timbers

Grouse Mountain Timbers

At the top, my mom and I were finally treated to the winter wonderland that we were expecting.  Atop Grouse Mountain were all the skiers, chairlifts, lodges, and even a miniature recreation of Santa’s Village.  Touristy?  Sure.  Tacky?  Yeah.  Hey, it’s Canada in December.  The rainy ambiance was replaced by snow and fog all around.  Frankly, it was a bit dangerous to ski; the fog was so thick, I couldn’t imagine skiing without crashing into anyone.

Greetings from Grouse Mountain

Greetings from Grouse Mountain

Since my mom and I were ski-less (and since we did not wanna spend the rest of our trip in a hospital in spite of the fact that Canada has universal healthcare), we took our chances in the ski apparel store, shopping for gloves and goggles.  You might say we had a little too much fun trying on gear and cosplaying like we were extras in 1986’s Better Off Dead.  I could just hear that little twerp yelling “I WANT MY TWO DOLLARS!”

Me throwing "shade" on Grouse Mountain!

Me throwing “shade” on Grouse Mountain!

About admin

I am a graduate of Stony Brook University, and I have a degree in History. I am an avid traveler, with an extensive knowledge of geography, a passion for photography, and a knowledge of animals too. I enjoy pop music of the 1980's, fine dining, movies, baseball, basketball, and rugby.
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