Snow from Sea to Sky in Squamish

Living in Vancouver has turned me into a bit of a wimp when it comes to winter weather. With such mild temperatures (our average winter temperature is about 4 degrees Celsius), I barely have to wear gloves or a toque—that’s Canadian for winter hat, by the way. Instead, my winter boots have been exchanged for a collection of waterproof shoes and boots to wear on my daily walk to work. It’s quite the change from a childhood of bundling up in warm snow pants to go skating on our backyard ice rink, frozen in the sub-zero temperatures.

With the warmth, though, comes the rain. Despite Vancouverites' annual complaints, it’s not that bad; the rain is usually more of a drizzle than a downpour. But every once in awhile I feel the need to go back to my roots a little bit, to go up in the mountains and experience snow and cold and winter again.

So up we went. It was my first time on the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish, which takes riders up 885 metres on 10-minute ride. It felt surprisingly long, but still not long enough to tire of the amazing view, even with the clouds.

The view from the Sea to Sky Gondola

The view from the Sea to Sky Gondola

The beauty was just getting started. Up at the top the rain had turned to snow, and all the trails were covered in crispy white.

The Squamish people, one of Canada’s First Nations, believed that the Tantalus Mountains, part of the Coast Mountains along the Sea to Sky Highway, were formed from ancient Tl’elhnayem, mountain goat hunters, and Skipkepalu, Squamish hunting dogs. According to legend, a sign along one of the trails atop the mountain states, the mountain goat hunters spent their years on the mountain, training and bonding with the environment. One day a small group of Tl’elhnayem and Skipkepalu were caught in a blizzard on the mountains, and as a consequence they were transformed into the Tantalus Mountain Range and destined to be forever covered in a blanket of snow. From what we could see across the Howe Sound fjord, the snow was still there.

My friends and I spent the whole afternoon on the mountain. We crossed on the suspension bridge, walked the trails, ate chili and drank hot chocolate, walked to the viewing deck, admired the view, stood in the snowfall, and warmed up by the fireplace. It was a Sunday Social (since the weather report called for rain in the city), so there was live music in the summit lodge to entertain us.

But the highlight of our afternoon was the tubing. There’s something about playing in the snow to take you right back to those childhood winter days, when winter was a season you looked forward to. Here we were, once again, bundled up in our coats, gloves, toques, and winter boots. We slid down and ran back up a dozen times, with joy, until the sun began to set and we had to give the tubes back.  

To cap off this perfect winter day, a sunset:

The Sea to Sky Gondola can be reached by car along the Sea to Sky Highway, or by shuttle from Vancouver. Buy tickets online here to save a few dollars. An adult ticket is $33.95; tickets for youth under 18 are reduced and children 5 and under are free. For more information, like current hours and conditions, check the Sea to Sky Gondola website.

Sunday Socials happen whenever there's greater than 50% chance of rain. They make the call on Thursdays; check the Sea to Sky Gondola Facebook page.