There is no arguing against the beautiful mountainous landscapes quintessential of British Columbia. Even in metropolitan areas, outdoor enthusiasts have little difficulty getting out into nature. Less than an hour from Vancouver, Squamish is one outdoor recreation hotspot for those needing a break from city life. Even during winter, trekkers can explore wooded trails with snowshoes strapped to their feet.
In 2014, the Sea to Sky Gondola celebrated its grand opening. Some worry the new infrastructure will bring in crowds of people and detract from the natural beauty of the area. Others are only too happy for access to a new set of trails and new mountains to summit.
As the gondola is still relatively new, and with Squamish being farther out than Mt. Seymour or Cypress Mountain, it is easy to spend a day snowshoeing without having to share the trail with a crowd of people. There are several trails to choose from and serious trekkers won’t have to worry about tourists following them up an intermediate – or advanced- grade climb.
It was a sunny Saturday morning when four of us started out on the 10km Shannon Basin Loop Trail. We tramped through snow and trees for over four hours in almost complete seclusion. Encountering only half a dozen other hikers, the trail was beautifully – and almost eerily – quiet. While this trail can be completed more quickly, you will want to stop frequently to absorb the quiet and isolated views that are becoming a rarity on Vancouver hikes.
Bear in mind, 10km in snowshoes feels longer than 10km in hiking boots. About half way through this hike – just when you feel like you’ve accomplished something and are ready to head back – you realise you are going down the mountain instead of up. For the next hour, you will catch glimpses of the chalet in the distance. As much as you long to rest your legs next to a roaring fire, the chalet keeps appearing smaller and farther away.
When you finally do trudge your way up the final ascent – which seems never-ending – stunning views of the surrounding mountains will be your reward. The dazzling sunset will almost make you forget how sore your legs are. Almost.
If you’re not feeling up to an arduous traverse up and down the mountainside, you can always try your legs on the shorter Wonderland Lake Loop. It may be easy, but it really is enchanting!
The ascent in the gondola costs $39 CAD. Passengers can receive a 20% discount on this fare if hiking with a friend who holds an annual pass. Ambitious hikers who want to walk the steep 7.5km Sea to Summit trail can ride the gondola back down the mountain for $15 CAD. Snowshoes are available for rent for $20 and tours are also available.
Note that while these trails are marked, they are still considered backcountry. If you are heading out, be self-sufficient. Ensure you have everything you need to survive and know what the conditions are before setting out. As the weather warms, avalanches and slides are a risk. It could be hours before help arrives should something go wrong.
Check out the Sea to Summit website for more information.
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