Vancouver winter wonderland attractions and things to do

Vancouver loves winter like bears love salmon.

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Fairy lights twinkle in parks, ice skating becomes the thing to do after work and ski fields are a short shuttle ride away.

Maybe you've been a planker (skier) or shredder (snowboarder) all your life, or maybe you're a beginner who wants to zoom up the learning curve.  Either way, a winter holiday based in Vancouver will exceed your expectations from every angle. We're talking hundreds of ski and snowboarding runs, a multitude of freestyle terrain parks and lifts that make getting up mountains effortless. You can also count on a massive choice of après ski bars and restaurants, both on the slopes and in the gorgeous mountain villages that thrive on snow sport tourism.

A Vancouver winter isn't only about whooshing down mountains. Ice skating, snowshoeing and watching winter sports are other things to do.  In between activities you can enjoy roaring fires, cosy restaurants, mulled wine and hearty food. There are also night-time displays involving thousands of lights and a food festival that spans 17 days in January.

Skiing and snowboarding near Vancouver

The easy-to-reach snowy magnets for skiiers and snowboarders are Grouse Mountain, Cypress Mountain and Mount Seymour. Vancouver snow is reliable, so the season lasts for nearly six months.

Known as 'the peak of Vancouver', Grouse Mountain has been in the snow business since 1926. A 20-minute drive from downtown Vancouver, Grouse Mountain is an appealing option for those wanting to hit the slopes without significant travel time. There are 33 ski and snowboard runs, 15 night runs and six terrain parks. What's more, Grouse Mountain's 'The Cut' was named one of the world's top 100 runs by CNN Travel.

Stop off for a free ice skating session at the Robson Square outdoor ice skating rink. It costs just a few dollars to rent skates.

Cypress Mountain is north-west of Vancouver, near the coast. On a shuttle from the city, you'll be there in less than an hour. Famous as the first ski resort in British Columbia to allow snowboarding, Cypress is actually three mountains in one - Black Mountain, Mount Strachan and Hollyburn Mountain. There's something for every skill level here, including learners.

Forty minutes' drive north-east from Vancouver is Mount Seymour, a family-owned ski resort with 80 hectares of terrain. There are gentle ski slopes for beginners, as well as fast, naturally-contoured slopes and tree runs for more advanced skiers. Snowboarders get a choice of four terrain parks; all of them are illuminated for night riding.

Whistler Blackcomb

Two hours' drive north of Vancouver you'll find one of the world's legendary ski resorts - Whistler Blackcomb, a name that sends shivers of pleasure down the spine of experienced skiers and boarders. Here you'll find more than 3000 hectares of snow-covered slopes, including 16 alpine bowls, three glaciers, multiple terrain parks and more than 200 marked trails.

Located at the base of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains is Whistler Village, which has all the accommodation, restaurants and shops you'll need for total winter holiday bliss. It's a wonderful blend of quaint mountain village and sophisticated snowsport hub, so being off the slopes is almost as much fun as being on them.

Kids at Whistler, Vancouver, Canada.

Snowshoe and fondue at Grouse Mountain

If you love snow, but not from a skier's point of view, there are other ways to celebrate the white stuff in Vancouver. A favourite on the winter activities list is the Grouse Mountain snowshoe and fondue experience. It starts with a ride up to the peak of Grouse Mountain via scenic gondola, then rolls into a spectacular one-hour snowshoe tour, taking in some of the most picturesque winter landscapes and city views imaginable. To finish there's a three-course fondue dinner, enjoyed fireside at Altitudes Bistro in the cosy mountaintop chalet. À votre santé!

Illuminations and ice hockey

Winter is also when Vancouver turns on lots of lights. Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park and the VanDusen Botanical Garden's Festival of Lights will captivate you with their magical sparkle. That's two of Vancouver's most beautiful landmarks turned into winter attractions that will light up your life.

Another must-do in winter is catching an ice hockey game. Cheering on the Vancouver Canucks at a home game will win you points with the locals faster than anything else. The Canucks play their games at Roger's Arena, but you will need to play close attention to NHL game schedules to make sure you get your timing right.

Shopping, Vancouver, Canada.

Shopping and skating

Pull on your puffer jacket and explore Vancouver's main shopping district in the heart of the city, along Robson Street, where you'll find North America's best known stores alongside independent boutiques, cafés and souvenir stops. For more options amble into some of the areas nearby, such as Alberni and Granville streets or the Pacific Centre shopping mall in the centre of the city. While you're there, why not take a little break from shopping and stop off for a free ice skating session at the Robson Square outdoor ice skating rink? It costs just a few dollars to rent skates.

Vancouver winter events

Dine Out Vancouver Festival, Canada's largest food and drink event, takes place in January and February each year. It's a 17-day smorgasbord of culinary events and experiences that involves hundreds of restaurants. Timing your winter travel to catch this festival is a sure fire way to get a taste of the city.

If you need something to drink after all of that gastronomy, stick around for the Vancouver International Wine Festival. Running from late February to early March, it's one of the oldest and biggest wine events in the world. Wineries from 16 countries participate in this salute to the grape.

Vancouver winter highlights

Be wowed by Vancouver during winter. As well as ski slopes, you'll discover picturesque winter landscapes, cosy firesides, beautiful night-time illuminations and tasty food events. Experience this vibrant city with Air New Zealand flying direct from Auckland up to five times weekly.

Watch more: The tastes of Vancouver, The neighbourhoods of Vancouver

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