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Grouse Mountain in the summer may be synonymous with the heart-pounding Grouse Grind (hello, nature’s StairMaster). But in the winter the alpine resort hosts a much more tranquil scene. Trail runners and sports drinks get swapped for ice skates and hot chocolate as we warm up to the Peak of Christmas.
There’s a steady line of kids waiting for Santa’s helpers to bring them into the workshop. But many are just as happy to log some ice time in the sunshine while they wait for their audience with the big man himself.
Aldert White is having a great time exploring Vancouver on his holiday from England. “The people are so welcoming and pleased to see you,” he says. But that’s not the only thing that’s left an impression. “The scenery combined with the weather is just breathtaking.”
Wes Gordon and son Matthew are visiting the Peak of Christmas for the second time, and they plan to return. “I think it’s turned into a tradition,” says Wes. “He’s having a blast, so that’s the most important thing.”
Leonardo and his family recently moved to Vancouver from Brazil, and the twin girls are loving their first white Christmas. Fresh from sliding down the hill on snow carpets, the girls say, “It was fun and it was fast!”
David Megahy has been a professional Santa for about 20 years. He first wore the suit to hand out gifts to children for the food bank. Back then his beard was fake, but these days Megahy’s take on Santa is all natural. “As time went on my hair went white, and then I realized my beard was white, too. So, I just thought I would become Santa.”
Ying Pian’s first time on the ice came with some trepidation: “I’m excited. I’m nervous.” Four-year-old daughter Melanie, however, has had a little more practice—this is her fourth time skating.
A gingerbread village casts Christmas cheer atop Grouse. The candy-coated houses are all sponsored in support of SOS Children’s Villages, which provides safe homes for orphaned and abandoned kids around the world. Visitors can cast a ballot for their favourite house in person or online.
Wildlife ranger Kevin Langford thinks the reindeer have it pretty good. “They’re here really to rest up before the big night. And then they’re going to come back here afterwards as well so they can rest after their work on Christmas Eve. They’ll be with us until just the beginning of the new year.”
Santa’s reindeer, Dancer and Vixen, usually get along quite well, except when it comes to feeding time. “Dancer is kind of the more dominant one. She likes to push Vixen off the food,” says ranger Langford. “So there’s a little bit of competition there.