Cypress Mountain, Vancouver
It you are visiting Vancouver in the winter months and you want to try an outdoor activity that is easy to pick-up I highly recommend cross country skiing on Cypress mountain. If you have never been skiing before you can take a lesson to teach you the basics and then you are free to explore the trails on your own. Cypress mountain is just a short drive from downtown Vancouver with coaches going up regularly.
Cypress Mountain is a ski resprt in the winter and a haven for hiking and biking in the summer. On my first visit we hiked up Black mountain which took around 2.5hrs for the round trip. The views of Garibaldi, Washington, Bowen Island, the Georgia Straits and Vancouver are impressive. I think you need a car to get up year in the summer but it isn't as crowded as Grouse so you'll be able to enjoy some relative tranquility
What do you do in Vancouver if you love to ski, but lack the large bank account necessary for a Whistler trip?
You go local, of course. The city features 3 local ski areas ? Grouse Mountain, Cypress Mountain, and Mt. Seymour ? all within a 45-minute drive (depending on traffic) of downtown. We chose Cypress, as my wife is an avid cross-country skier and they have an extensive trail system.
A pleasant and fairly easy mountain road leads up the slope to the base area, with some stunning views en route. It's not nearly as high in elevation as my home (California) ski resorts; it doesn't need to be. Vancouver rain changes to mountain snow quickly as you ascend.
The scenery was a majestic winter wonderland. The snow pack was huge with spring-like conditions. Crowds were sparse, especially considering the beautiful weather. Lots of ski schools, kids and local families.
Vancouverites can leave work a bit early and scoot up for a pleasant afternoon/evening of great skiing, and they often do. These areas are nowhere near the size of Whistler or other large-scale resorts, but offer a small variety of runs and trails at reasonable prices. Other winter recreation such as snowshoeing and tubing is also available.
While most tourists are encouraged by Tourism Vancouver to pay money to take a gondola up to the top of Grouse Mountain, if you have a car - forget it! Drive your car over the Lions Gate Bridge (from downtown Vancouver) and follow Hwy 99 northbound. Take the Cypress Provincial Park exit (a short 10 minute drive later), and you'll start driving up a very scenic road to the top of Cypress Mountain. Here I am in June of 1995 at the main lookout point on Cypress Mountain. On clear days not only can you see all of Greater Vancouver, but you can see as far as Mount Baker, in Washington state.
Be sure to come here on a sunny day for then you'll get stunning views of the city and the surrounding geography.
Also, Cypress offers skiing in the winter, and great hiking and mountain biking in the summer months. Either season, Cypress is a fun place to be!
In West Vancouver, take the Cypress Bowl Road off Highway 1. There is a look-out point half-way up the hill, giving you a spectacular view of the city. I don't have any pictures unfortunately, because I went at night, and only passed by during the day the other time on my way up to the ski area. The ski hill at the top of the mountain is fairly large, quite fun. The whole area is a Provincial Park, and there are tobagganing, x-country skiing, snowshoeing areas as well.