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Visiting Vancouver in the Winter – From Rainforest to Winter Wonderland

Vancouver, British Columbia in the winter months offers natural beauty and charm with a very small chance of snow… in the city at least. Many visitors are surprised to learn that Canada’s west coast cosmopolitan jewel doesn’t fit into the stereotypical ‘great white north’ of the rest of the country. In fact, Vancouver does not get the harsh winters that the central and eastern parts of the country experience. This due to the temperate effects of the Pacific Ocean that keeps Vancouver’s winters very mild, at sea level at least.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on who you ask, the winter weather in Vancouver is typically cloudy with rain where temperatures rarely dip below freezing. You would need your umbrella and raincoat but for the most part around the city you won’t get much snow sticking around too long, unlike Toronto or Montreal where the snow banks build up and stay for months on end.

When snow does fall in Vancouver it is unusual for it to remain around on the ground for more than a day. Usually the city can expect just a hand full of days in the entire year where there will be snow on the ground. Again, this is not like other Canadian cities where you can get knee deep in snow after a storm, we’re talking more like a centimeter or two. If you do find yourself in Vancouver in a snow day on your visit consider yourself lucky and enjoy the added beauty to this already spectacular city.

The best part of winter in Vancouver is not that it stays above freezing for the most part, but rather that you can drive up into the surrounding mountains from the city be in a winter wonderland within minutes. The neighboring Coastal Mountains on the North Shore will get their share of snow over the winter season and provide a picturesque backdrop to the cityscape especially after a fresh snowfall. The local mountains, as they are called by Vancouverites, have many resorts to ski, snowshoe, ice skate or just enjoy a fireside view looking back on the city. Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain and Seymour Mountain are the most well known but there are smaller lifts and plenty to explore up that way.

Beyond the Coastal Mountains on through to Squamish and Whistler are larger mountains and resorts that offer event more terrain to explore and activities. Driving up there would be hours as opposed to minutes but the drive on the Sea to Sky Highway is as spectacular as any in the world, especially with the snow capped peaks along the way. Whistler is the world famous destination but Squamish is up and coming and certainly worth checking out.

The Interior of British Columbia and the mountain passes you travel through to get there also give you that real Canadian snowy winter experience. The unique part about the Interior is that he snow is very dry. Temperatures in the winter months are typically much lower than the coast so you will get persistent snow conditions through the winter months. The benefit of traveling up this way in the winter is that you can ski the famous champagne powder that is very light and very deep. Along with the many ski resorts that scatter the area you can find heli-skiing and cat-skiing companies to take you on your memorable BC adventure. Lakes will freeze in the Interior as well so there is plenty of ice skating and if you are lucky you can join a real Canadian pastime playing hockey outside with some of the locals.

If you travel to Vancouver Island during the winter you can expect weather conditions similar to what you would find in Vancouver. They do have some mountains with elevation that will be snow but the ski resorts are fairly limited and do not really stack up to the ones you would find on the mainland. The winter activity that is unique to the island is the storm watching that you can experience on the west side facing the open Pacific Ocean. You can rent a cabin right on the beach and watch huge storm systems roll in off while remaining comfortable, cozy and dry snuggled up fireside. This activity has actually become very popular in recent years as luxury lodges are catering to romantic getaways planned around some of nature’s most impressive displays of power and beauty.

Any time of the year you visit Vancouver you will experience the beauty and charm no matter what. Going during the winter months will give you a peak into city living rainforest style where you can quick escape into a winter wonderland. Vancouver is truly a magical city all year long but something about the winter brings out many of its natural wonders.