This season, it's all about Whistler. The world's best snow sports athletes are set to descend on the Canadian resort next February for the Winter Games. Although its officially billed as the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, most of the pre-competition attention has been lavished on Whistler, two hours to its north, which will host the downhill, slalom and cross-country skiing contests. Meanwhile, little old Cypress Mountain, only 30 minutes from Vancouver, has been largely overlooked. Strange, since this will host the freestyle ski and snowboard competitions, which are widely regarded as the games' coolest events.
Olympic year or not, Cypress is often ignored. It's most often seen as a locals' resort. The majority of visitors to Canada's west coast simply touch down and head straight out to Whistler. More fool them, I thought, as I paused to take a picture halfway down the aptly named First Run on a sunny day last December. I'd decided to take the road less travelled and make my way up to Vancouver's "local" resort. My reward for trying something different was one of the most spectacular views I've ever laid eyes on – from any resort.
After grabbing a day pass (from and piste map from the Cypress Creek Lodge in the resort, I was making my way up the mountain within 10 minutes of arriving. Even by North American standards, that was quick; but as one local pointed out to me: "We don't do lift lines at Cypress." Fine by me. It meant more time for photos.
As I found out the moment I arrived at the top of the Eagle Express lift, I'd be spending a large proportion of my slope time taking snaps over the next three days. While there's probably not enough here to keep you occupied for an entire week, the views and the quality of skiing make it a stunning winter destination for anyone heading to Vancouver.
Even from the lift, the vistas were magnificent. Straining my neck to soak it all up, I turned round to see the petrol-blue waters of Howe Sound stretching out behind me. This huge inlet of water runs off the Strait of Georgia, which separates mainland Vancouver from the island.
Disembarking from the chair, I felt none of the usual desperation to speed straight off. Shuffling right, to the start of a mellow blue run, I stopped to soak it all in. The eponymous cypress trees spilled away down the hill, leaving an uninterrupted view of the waters below. Beyond that were yet more mountains cascading off into the distance – the whole scene topped off by a watery blue sky pulled tightly over the horizon line.
In all, there are 52 runs here, draped across Black Mountain and Mount Strachan. All 600 acres of Cypress's skiable terrain are accessed by only eight lifts. It sounds limiting, but one of the things I really liked about the place is that each gives you the option of at least three runs, catering to various skill levels. As a result, the whole of both mountains is open to skiers and boarders of all abilities – something you won't get at Whistler.
Finding my way around was easy, too. Most of the lifts from the Eagle Express funnel their way conveniently back down to the lodge, where a pint of pale ale and an enormous burger in the Crazy Raven bar were my reward for spending the morning out in the cold. Come the Olympics next February, when the majority of pistes will be closed here, this will be the ideal place to watch the half-pipe competition.
This is also where much of the resort's après-ski shenanigans take place. The only downside is that you have to go back to your hotel at some point, which can be a bit of a schlep. There's no accommodation on site, something that could be an annoyance or an opportunity. I was in the latter camp, having opted to stay at the swanky Fairmont in downtown Vancouver. With a daily shuttle service to and from the resort, it means that you can still enjoy a beer or two and then swap your salopettes for glad rags when the sun goes down.
Before all that, though, there was still some snowboarding to be had. Making my way over to Black Mountain's other big lift (the Raven Ridge quad), I set off to explore the rest of the hill. By Alpine standards these are low-altitude peaks, and yet the quality of snow here is superb. This is thanks to the quantities of salt that get sucked up by storm clouds on their way over from the Georgia Strait, which I saw spread out before me as I made my way down First Run. As storm clouds come in off the Pacific and encounter the suddenly high altitude of Cypress, the abrupt temperature drop causes precipitation to fall as snow.
Later, as I rounded a corner halfway down, the view that unfolded ahead stopped me in my tracks. Across the water, downtown Vancouver shimmered in the twilight like a carpet of glowworms. Another run, another photo opportunity.
Traveller's guide: Cypress Mountain
Inghams (020-8780 4447; inghams.co.uk) offers a seven-night package to Whistler, including return flights and room-only accommodation at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler ( fairmont.com/whistler) from £1,253 per person (based on two sharing). A Vancouver stopover at the Fairmont Waterfront ( fairmont.com/waterfront) is available from £59.50 per person (based on two sharing). Day passes to Cypress Mountain are available from C$47 (£28). The shuttle from downtown Vancouver to Cypress Mountain costs C$20 (£12) return.
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