Surprisingly, considering I’ve had family living in Vancouver my entire life, I didn’t make it out to British Columbia until 2009. Like most who visit the lower mainland, I fell in love. It’s not hard to become captivated by the mountains, the trees and the Pacific. I’ve spoken to many people, visitors and residents alike and there’s one thing we always seem to agree on. Vancouver is one of the most naturally beautiful major cities in the world.
Now, I’ve never been skiing at Grouse, or anywhere in BC for that matter. Yet. So, I can’t speak of it’s ski conditions and can make no recommendations to that effect. I did, however, have the opportunity to ride the tram to the peak and got way more than I bargained for. The ride up offers spectacular views of the city, rivalled, I’m sure, only by a ride in a floatplane or helicopter. When you reach the top, you immediately notice the drop in temperature. Although I had expected this, it was mid-August and I had worn shorts and flip-flops. I will be more prepared in the future. After leaving the tram, you have a number of paths you can follow and are greeted by giant carvings chiselled out of single massive cedar stumps. You pick a path and head further up the mountain towards chairlifts to the peak and the bears.
That’s right, I had no idea either. There are bears. Two massive grizzlies play, eat, sleep and hibernate right there on the side of the mountain. Grinder and Coola were both rescued in 2001 and relocated to their new habitat on Grouse where they now live year round. Visitors can watch as they do what bears do. During my visit, that was sleep. The bears, weighing in at somewhere around 1000lbs each, are incredible. Not as active at the time as I had hoped, but worth a stop all the same. In the winter, during their hibernation, you can even check up on them through online live-feed cameras. Apparently bears, grizzlies at least, get up and move around. Who knew?
Just across from the bear paddock, there is a Birds of Prey demonstration that takes place at different times during the day. They do a fantastic job of explaining the feeding habits, life cycles and environments of the birds as they fly directly overhead. Falcons, eagles, hawks, owls and even a turkey vulture named Frank. You’re warned not to stand up during the performance, the birds are incredibly comfortable around people and as a result swoop incredibly low to the stands. The kids were amazed, as were most of the adults. Another great attraction on the mountain!
If you take another short walk around the bear habitat, you come to the peak chairlift. You still have a good chunk of the mountain to climb and the climate changes even further as you creep up the side towards the top. There, you have even more activities, most of which I didn’t try but definitely will in the future. There is zip-lining, paragliding and the mountain-top wind turbine called the Eye of the Wind. It sits right at the peak and extends another 225 feet for a total of 4176.5 feet above the City of Vancouver. You are able to take an elevator to the top where you stand in a bubble with 360 degree views of the city and the incredible British Columbia wilderness. The blade of the turbine is 122 feet across and when at full speed the entire structure can sway up to six inches. The day I was there, it was windy. You do feel safe, but perhaps a little uneasy. The three Japanese tourists who rode up after me, peered out the elevator and pressed the down button. If you’re going up the mountain, it’s definitely worth checking out save perhaps on a day with record wind speeds…
All in all, Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain is a wonderful full or half day experience for the whole family. There are gift shops, cafes, restaurants and even a mascot roaming around that the kids will love, my parents did, too. At the base, there are also wolves (in a pen) and one of the worlds steepest and toughest mountain trails called The Grouse Grind. I didn’t have a lot of time and, quite frankly, I’m not sure I’d have made it, so I took the tram. While it’s a little on the pricier side, so is everything else in BC. As the mountain is also a wildlife refuge, it feels like money well spent and I highly recommend you check it out.