Grouse Mountain Snowshoe Grind
By Alicia Woodside, Modern Mix Vancouver Fitness Writer
During winter, what do you to replace Vancouver’s Grouse Grind? While the winter might bar you from your favourite trail, it enables a whole new Grind experience, with the Grouse Mountain Snowshoe Grind! Make way for the winter relative of our city’s favourite stairmaster, at Grouse Mountain’s Social Snowshoe evenings. Tackle the Snowshoe Grind with a free guided tour offered every Monday and Wednesday that helps you to enjoy the winter pleasures of crunching fresh snow, sliding down the occasional snow bank, and admiring pristine winter beauty– all from the best views atop Vancouver.
All participants meet in front of the Fireside Hut at the mountaintop Ice Skating Pond. If you need rentals, a $10 rental rate is available to all session participants. You can purchase rental vouchers at either Base Guest Services or Alpine Guest Services, and pick up your snowshoes at the Snowshoe Hut beside the Ice Skating Pond.
At my first Social Snowshoe, I saw something for everyone. If you’re like me, I was able to get my advanced fitness fill by joining in with the “Fast” group, and I found myself among other runners and triathletes who were using the evening as cross-training. If you’re out there for a more casual experience, there is also a “Social” (slow) group and a “Medium” group, which cater to beginner and intermediate levels.
Joining the “Fast” group was a great way to dive in head-first. As a novice snowshoer, I couldn’t believe some of the steep climbs the group seamlessly tackled. Although my friend and I had no idea what we were doing, we picked it up pretty fast. Slowly, we gathered faith that our snowshoes would work, and the rest followed. After about 50 minutes of mostly upward hiking, we reached the peak of the Snowshoe Grind and marveled at the wonderful view. If we are to compare the regular (summer) Grind and the Snowshoe (winter) Grind for the view, the winter edition would win, without a question. Surrounded by snow-capped trees and lit only by weak headlamps, you get a beautiful winter take on the popular city view.
The rest of the journey entailed some uphill, but mostly downhill– which we found more natural to conquer by running. Toward the end we passed underneath some of the chair lifts, which were lively with skiers overhead. I decided to snowshoe-run the rest of the way, with a motivation to beat the pace of the chairlift. Now, that’s something you can’t do in the summertime! Within a few minutes, I was back at the Lodge, comparing times and stripping off layers, much like what I do after the summer Grind.
In the summer, I tend to skip the social drink at the top of the Grind. Maybe it’s more of a strictly-fitness endeavor, or perhaps the heat makes the transition from hill to pub more complicated. Showshoeing is far more suited for an “aprés” event. The tour ends at 8:30pm, which presents a great time to go for a drink with some of the new friends you met during the training. In my experience, it was very easy to meet and mingle with the other snowshoers at Altitudes Bistro, who were exceptionally friendly and welcoming. For those of you who love the social prospect, I am told that starting in the new year, the aprés will become even better: Grouse will be kicking off Winter Social Nights with DJ’s, prizes, and drink specials every Wednesday, as though the friendly people and awesome view were not enough.
Summer or Winter Grind? Why choose, when you can have both? For those of you that cannot compare yet, I advise you get out there and see for yourself. For more information about the Snowshoe Social evenings, please visit the Grouse Mountain snowshoe page.