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Where winter-sport newbies learn to ski and snowboard in Vancouver

by Ben Chang |

For adults taking up skiing for the first time, the steep, bumpy runs that the likes of Alexandre Bilodeau fly down are the stuff of nightmares. Newcomers to the sport find themselves feeling as awkward on the bunny hill as they are flummoxed by the “pizza”: the slang term of choice to describe the beginner’s snowplow stability technique.

Once they start making their way down the hill, newbies soon discover that there’s more to this winter sport than thrills (and potentially spills): it’s an outstanding cardiovascular workouts that requires—and helps develop—muscular and core strength. If you are going to exercise, why not move your body amid spectacular surroundings in the great outdoors?

Whether it’s skiing or snowboarding, local mountains have plenty to lure those who are just starting out in the world of winter fitness.



Whistler Blackcomb

Sure, the side-by-side mountains are known for their vertical and have runs with names like Doom and Gloom and Freefall, but there are gentler slopes, such as Pony Trail and Green Acres. In fact, 35 percent of the terrain on both mountains combined consists of beginner pistes. To make its winter playground more accessible to beginners, the resort recently revamped its learning area.

“Whistler Blackcomb makes every effort to be a friendly learning environment for guests new to skiing or snowboarding,” Sarah Morden, Whistler Blackcomb public-relations coordinator, tells the Georgia Straight. “With the regrading and addition of two new covered carpets, the learning area is a much more comfortable experience for beginners.”

Throughout the season, the resort offers Discover Whistler Days, which feature discounts on group lessons for adults, among other ski-school programs. It also participates in Never Ever Days, a national initiative of the Canadian Ski Council, and Alpine Canada’s CIBC National Ski Day, both of which are geared to introducing skiing and snowboarding to those who have never tried them.

“Also, the North Face Women’s Camps and the Showcase Women’s Snowboard Camps are really inclusive and encouraging places for women to learn,” Morden says.

The ski school aims to build people’s confidence as much as teach them how to make it down the hill, with options including private sessions and group lessons with up to four family members or friends at the same level. Instructors can be selected based on language spoken, gender, and certification level.

In no time, beginner adults will be ready to graduate from green runs to blue, all while learning at what SKI magazine calls the number one overall ski resort in North America for its terrain, off-hill activities, lodging, and après.



Grouse Mountain

When they look up, way up, to the peak of Grouse from downtown Vancouver, people who have never skied or snowboarded before might find it hard to believe that they could make it down the Cut, the mountain’s main run. But with 212 acres of skiable terrain and a magic carpet, Grouse is well suited to those donning goggles for the first time.

Its ski school guarantees that adults will learn to ski or ride if they sign up for a four-session package, while its specialized adult clinics can be booked as coed or ladies only.

“We offer a variety of terrain for all levels, including beginners, available during the day and also for night skiing,” resort spokesperson Julia Grant says. “The Cut, our signature run, is a green run and offers stunning views of Vancouver. After a day on the slopes, skiers and boarders can also enjoy some of the other activities we offer on the mountaintop or maybe just relax with a well-earned meal in the chalet.”

Those other activities include snowshoeing at Munday Alpine Snowshoe Park, with four groomed trails over nine kilometres; skating; zooming down a hill on snow carpets in the Sliding Zone; and strolling the illuminated nighttime Light Walk.



Cypress Mountain

Comprising Black Mountain, Mount Strachan, and Hollyburn Mountain, Cypress claims to have the greatest vertical drop, the most terrain, and the best snow conditions of the North Shore hills. Twenty-five percent of its 53 runs are green or blue.

First-timers who take lessons will learn about balance and momentum, how to use the chairlift, and how to skate and slide. They also go over the Alpine Responsibility Code, a universal set of rules that includes such vital but often forgotten principles as “People ahead of you have the right of way. It’s your responsibility to avoid them.”

The mountain claims that adults can become skiers or snowboarders in just one weekend with its Learn to Ski and Ride Camps. Its Adult Learn to Ski or Snowboard (ALTS) program consists of four group lessons plus rentals; once you graduate, you get a free OneNiter season pass to ski or ride for the rest of the season.

The Slope Sisters program, taught by female instructors, features four mornings geared to getting women of all abilities on the snow and building confidence, winding up with a wrap-up social on the last day.

The restored Hollyburn Lodge, a West Vancouver landmark that dates back to 1926, will soon be open to the public, while beginner skiers and boarders who want a break from hard learning can also check out the mountain’s 10 kilometres of self-guided snowshoe trails and its Snow Tube Park, with six 100-metre-long chutes.

Source: The Georgia Straight