Tag Archives: Vancouver

A Day Visit to Grouse Mountain

My husband is obsessed with snow. He checks weather forecasts daily, and laments our decision to live on the temperate American west coast. He wishes our jobs allowed us to live in Minnesota where we could shovel snow off our driveway for months every year. When a work holiday came around during a winter when conditions were frosty, but never quite right for snow, we decided to take a day trip to a ski resort. My husband researched his best options, and landed on Grouse Mountain.

Entrance to Grouse Mountain Resort

We didn’t know what to expect when we got there, and were initially confused by the cars we saw parked along the road leading up to the resort area. We kept driving to see where we’d end up; that was smart, because we would have ended up taking a pointless walk uphill. The road to Grouse Mountain is a heavily populated residential area, and the cars we saw belonged to home owners, not adventurers. Along the way we passed the Capilano Suspension Bridge, still presenting a popular Christmas light show called Canyon Lights, which runs until January 28. The light show help up traffic on our way back down later that night, but traffic was light going up, and there was available paid parking at the entrance to Grouse Mountain.

Grouse Mountain admission prices

If we’d done our research, we would have gotten an earlier start, because admission prices are high, and available resort activities justify a full day. We paid just over $100 Canadian for the privilege of seeing it, as we were in no way equipped to ski or snowboard. While we were waiting, we saw plenty of people who were.

Taking the skyride up and down the mountain is one of the highlights of visiting Grouse Mountain. The lift is smooth, and only sways when is goes over the supporting poles. The view is impressive in spite of the condensation on the plastic windows, and may be at its best during the summer months. We were reminded to keep our tickets, as the attendant does need to see them on our return trip. It is possible to get up the mountain without the skyride via a hiking trail called “The Grind,” and I hear it lives up to its name.

Once off the lift, Grouse Mountain turns into a winter wonderland:

Complete with sleigh rides

We were there to sled, so we rented two canvas sleds for $5 each and found the sledding hill.

The fence keeps you from dying

Two steep tracks of densely-packed snow allowed for side-by-side racing, but mostly wipeouts. The snow was slick and hard to maneuver in throughout the resort area, making it difficult for sledders to get back up after they’d skidded down. My husband and daughter collided with each other and the resulting sore muscles curbed their enthusiasm for more.

Popular snowman-building spot

We made snowmen, then moved to the frozen pond where my daughter tried out ice skating. The skate rental was $5 for as much time as she wanted on the ice, which wasn’t much. There were plenty of helpful trainers available, but she learned fast that ice skating is harder than it looks.

We picked up snacks and coffee at the Grouse Grind Coffee Bar and rested. The lounge was crowded and not very clean. We sat next to a family who had brought Ramen in tupperware and I was very curious to see how they were going to warm it up without a stove or microwave. The father used a hot water spigot on the coffee machine, so now you know how it’s done. The best part of our time in the lounge was watching the sun set over the city, attracting many photographers to the outdoor balcony.

Vancouver lights from Grouse Mountain

We plan to go back another year, but early enough in the day to make snowshoeing more practical. There are also activities available when it’s not snowing, but it’s hard to see how they would be worth the price of admission. An American crossing the border for Grouse Mountain is an American looking for snow.

 

Author of Strawberry Shortcake: Return of the Purple Pie Man, Disney’s Frozen Comic Collection, Transformers: Robots in Disguise Animated and Littlest Pet Shop: Open for Business. She’s written for IDW Publishing, Hasbro, Lion Forge, American Greetings and Scholastic, and her work has been discussed in Comics Beat and The Washington Post. Subscribe to the newsletter

Make a Unicorn with the 4Cats Arts Studio

One of the booths that really drew our attention at the Vancouver Christmas Market was run by the local 4Cats Arts Studio. With multiple locations in the Vancouver area, 4Cats offers painting, polymer sculpting and oven-baked clay workshops for adults, children and families. Their booth at the market offered a wide array of polymer characters you can sculpt yourself, with enough clay inside to make them and detailed instructions.

We bought our daughter a kit for Christmas so she could make her own unicorn. Her artistic inclinations come from her father and since we knew she’d want to preserve her sculpt forever, we also got her the glass dome sold separately. We paid $14.99 Canadian for the kit and the additional dome brought the price up to about $20.

As soon as she opened her Christmas present she wanted to make it, but I managed to put her off for a few days because I knew this build would be a bit of a time commitment. From start to finish, we were ready to bake our unicorn after two hours of work. While the instructions were as detailed as promised, our version didn’t quite look like the box:

Muppet head.

This was mostly our fault, but the instructions on building the head didn’t quite match up with the picture, and the booklet encouraged us to blend in the legs when we might have been better off showing more separation.

The baking instructions were in Celsius but after converting that to Fahrenheit, we baked our figure at 250 degrees for 1.5 hours. To my relief, the horn didn’t fall off.

Unfortunately, we planned badly and the unicorn didn’t fit inside the display dome. The box came with plenty of extra clay, however, so my daughter got creative and made a cat.

One of the ears didn’t make it. He seems a little put out about it.

My daughter didn’t end up with perfect creations her first time out, but she learned a lot about using and blending polymer clay. She’s already asking for more colors and can’t wait to try again.

4Cats no longer offers these kits on their website, but they are offering a long list of upcoming workshops where you can make a similar item in-person. Perhaps they’ll make another appearance at next year’s Christmas market so we can try a different animal.

Author of Strawberry Shortcake: Return of the Purple Pie Man, Disney’s Frozen Comic Collection, Transformers: Robots in Disguise Animated and Littlest Pet Shop: Open for Business. She’s written for IDW Publishing, Hasbro, Lion Forge, American Greetings and Scholastic, and her work has been discussed in Comics Beat and The Washington Post. Subscribe to the newsletter

The Vancouver Christmas Market

Front entrance

My husband loves to travel. He’s one of those people who always has a trip planned in advance. If we don’t have the money to go, he shrugs and starts planning the next one. If we can’t go on a big trip, we might settle for a day trip. Last week he did some research and found out about the Vancouver Christmas Market.

Handmade incense burners

This traveling market opened for its eighth year on the Vancouver waterfront and features over 75 authentic German stores in the tradition of December Christkindlmarkts in small German towns.

Mulled wine bar topped with a concert hall

We skipped the mulled wine in favor of “coffee nogs” (eggnog lattes) topped with whipped cream and candy canes. I had mulled wine waiting for us at home.

The nutcracker stand

My daughter hit every one of the kinderhuts, where volunteers helped small children make free arts and crafts. She made her own snow man ornament, a snowflake out of pipe cleaners, and some randomized art courtesy of a paint spinner.

View of Stanley Park

It was a cold and misty day on the waterfront, and that kept the crowd light. It seems most visitors wait until dark to go and the lines get long after 5pm, so consider visiting early in the day for maximum breathing space.

Inside the tree of lights

My daughter loved the carousel, and we loved the wild mushroom soup. Other appealing food options included pretzels, huckleberry pie, spaetzle and pierogies.

The tree of lights looking up

The market runs daily through December 23 and closes on December 24 at 6pm.

Author of Strawberry Shortcake: Return of the Purple Pie Man, Disney’s Frozen Comic Collection, Transformers: Robots in Disguise Animated and Littlest Pet Shop: Open for Business. She’s written for IDW Publishing, Hasbro, Lion Forge, American Greetings and Scholastic, and her work has been discussed in Comics Beat and The Washington Post. Subscribe to the newsletter