One of Vancouver‘s many natural assets is its location at the foot of the snow-capped North Shore mountains. Pulling locals a mere 20 minutes from downtown’s cloud-cresting skyscrapers to a trio of Jack Frosted peaks overlooking the city, this view constantly taunts locals to “work hard, play hard.”

Growing up I lived at the base of these peaks. Like any mountain-loving Canadian, I learned to ski at a young age, and once I finished my homework, I would meet my friends for hot chocolate, fries, and an evening ski on Grouse Mountain (at least the skiing part was healthy). Even though I was only five minutes from home, skiing atop the city backdrop felt miles away from the everyday.

Viewfinder Tip: Vancouver’s nearby mountains are easy to access via public transit and shuttle bus. Talk to your hotel concierge–I recommend the OPUS Hotel–about the best way to seek the peaks.

Two other winter wonderlands I frequent (and Vancouver visitors need to know about) are Mt. Seymour and Cypress Mountain. While Mt. Seymour is well known for its 200-acre downhill ski area, it has also become a major destination for snowshoeing adventurers of all levels, earning bragging rights as the “#1 Ski Resort for Snowshoeing in North America” by Snowshoe Magazine. Bonus: visitors can rent gear for skiing or snowshoeing.

Every winter, my husband and I drive from our downtown condo up to Mt. Seymour with our dog, Mr. Nacho King, to snowshoe at Dog Mountain, a popular free and dog-friendly trail for snow trekking. It takes us about 35 minutes to reach the top, and the view is breathtaking – trees covered tip-to-trunk in sparkly, sugary snow, and a vista of the entire city as far south as the US border.

The snow globe-like scene at the top of Grouse Mountain

Cypress Mountain was the host venue for snowboarding and freestyle skiing during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, and is the city’s only triple-threat peak, packing downhill slopes, a cross-country ski area, and snowshoe trails in its winter arsenal. Like Grouse and Mt Seymour, Cypress is another location you can rent gear for your snow-tivities.

My very first introduction to planks on snow was gliding on Cypress’ Nordic ski trails. My family used to spend every Saturday swishing through the trees, stopping frequently for trail mix and hot cider in log-built warming huts. If my parents weren’t too tuckered at the end of the day, we would convince them to join us for a ride on our magic carpets down the tobogganing hill (now Snow Tube Park).

Nowadays my husband and I are living the legacy of our Canadian upbringing sporting snowshoes, cross-country and downhill skis, and a snowboard at the ready in our condo. Winter rain in the city acts as our snow signal, indicating flakes are tumbling up top. With this, our weekend in the local mountains is promptly planned. To us, it’s a stay-cation of peak proportions: escape the city lights, to frolic in winter’s natural brights.

What are your favorite urban mountains?