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Image: Lijuan Guo

Ditch the car—all it takes to travel from the downtown streets of Vancouver to the top of a ski slope is a ferry ride, a bus, a tram, and a ski lift; it’s why you see commuters exchanging work heels for snowboard boots in the bus queue downtown.

Vancouver’s North Shore is the unique ski destination that isn’t even near a big city, it’s in it; skiers board the Grouse Mountain tram in what’s basically a neighborhood cul-de-sac, about as far from downtown as Seattle’s Ballard is from the Space Needle. 

Grouse’s skiable acres are just 3 percent of Whistler’s, but here you can count the freighters anchored in English Bay from the chairlift. When night falls, the lights of Vancouver feel just under the next mogul, as if the runs were tracing through a cloud hovering over the metropolis.

Grouse draws more than just skiers and snowboarders, becoming a kind of permanent winter carnival once snow coats the sledding hill and the skating rink freezes. Above the slopes a solitary wind turbine churns, the only one in the world with a viewing pod beneath its blades.

While Grouse specializes in spectacle, the North Shore mountains cradle two more ski spots. Cypress Mountain to the west hosted freestyle and snowboard cross events in the 2010 Olympics, a fitting site being that it was the first mountain in the province to allow snowboarding. Mount Seymour to the east is family first, with guided snowshoe hikes and tubing to supplement the skiing. The best part: All offer night skiing, the perfect dessert to a dinner in one of Vancouver’s world-class restaurants.

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