Halfway around the globe, Canadian Olympians are getting set to compete in sports from downhill skiing to snowboarding to hockey – but this weekend, Vancouverites not only can stay awake to watch their favourite winter sports, they can stay up all night doing them.
Starting on Saturday at 8 a.m. and running until Sunday at 10 p.m., lovers of snow and ice can take in a torch parade, enjoy snowshoe tours at dusk, dawn and midnight, go hurtling down a zipline under the stars, ski and snowboard day and night, take part in a midnight park jam, cheer on tiny tots in a pond hockey tournament, compete in the Snowshoe Grind Challenge and dance into the wee hours at 24 Hours of Winter – a Grouse Mountain event that began during the 2010 Olympics and proved so popular it became an annual attraction.
"Where else can you snowshoe under the stars, go ice skating, take part in a park jam in the middle of the night, and be skiing and seeing the sunrise?" says Grouse Mountain events manager Lynn Chappell, who adds that visitors will also be able to catch Olympic events on big-screen TVs as they warm up at the Peak Chalet. "And when you see the sunrise over the city, it's incredible."
The festivities continue on Family Day Monday, when admission and lift tickets are half price, and where kids can meet real-life rescue dogs, pick up tips about mountain safety, take part in a scavenger hunt and tuck into a charity pancake breakfast to raise funds for North Shore Rescue's Tim Jones memorial fund.
With high temperatures and low snow levels, it has been a rough year for the local ski hills, but a recent dump of snow and a cold snap have improved conditions. So just how many people turn out in the wee hours, while the rest of the city sleeps? According to Ms. Chappell, more than you might think.
"It's pretty busy. There's definitely a buzz going on, and people are into it," she says. "It's just something that you'll never forget."
24 Hours of Winter begins on Saturday at 8 a.m. and ends Sunday at 10 p.m. Family Day events run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday (grousemountain.com).