Cross country magic on Cypress Mountain
You could say I’m a fan of Vancouver, since I love everything about it. It is a seamless and beautiful blend of urban and nature, the city itself wedged between ocean and mountains. On any day you can choose between the sea, forest, or funky urban neighborhoods for your playground. I have never been to a city that rivals its beauty.
One of my favorite aspects of this city is its proximity to the North Shore mountains, and the incredible range of recreation they offer. In particular, the cross country skiing at Cypress Mountain, is one of its best kept secrets.
On a typical gray day in Vancouver, I take a short ten minute drive up the mountain from my house and it is like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia: the wet pavement transforms to slush and then powdery snow as your ears pop with the rise in elevation. The trees are laden with snow and a winter wonderland appears before your eyes, with no White Witch in sight, just a few chipmunks, the occasional skier, and stillness.
It is truly magical, and a better mood booster than a sunlamp.
If the sky is blue and there is fresh snow, as there was today, I make my way up to the top of Romstad, about a twenty minute climb, to a junction where you occasionally meet up with back country skiers and snowshoers. Everytime I curse the steep terrain and wonder why I am doing this wretched sport, and everytime I turn around and fly down the wide open trail and am rewarded by the swift speed you can reach unencumbered by heavy downhill gear. A quick loop of Triangle Lake and back up Romstad; my memory is short.
My favorite loop is Unknown Lake, where on a slick day where your skis run fast, I try to remain in a tuck position for the better part of the trail, the closest I will come to a downhill race.
I took a skate skiing lesson ten years ago, and have been hooked by the combination of cardiovascular exercise and skill it requires ever since. It truly is a blend of skating and skiing, with the added benefit of an upper body workout. Climbing hills – of which there are many – it is hard to tell which is more taxed: your searing lungs or the lactic acid build up in your legs, but the rewards of gliding along a trail that ebbs and flows through the forest make all of the climbs worthwhile.
This sport doesn’t come easily, for me at least. The technique improves with years of practice; there are expansive movements involved as your upper and lower body work in different ways to propel your body forward. I am still a student; occasionally I feel as graceful as a bird but more often like a fish out of water. In my mind’s eye I look like Becky Scott, my favorite Olympian, who makes skate skiing look completely effortless; in reality my form is a much more cumbersome attempt at gliding. Thankfully I have never had to watch myself, so Becky Scott wins the day.
Sweating in the fresh mountain air, as the snow glitters like fairy dust and my eye is calmed by incredible vistas, is my idea of a cleanse, Vancouver style.