Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

News stories from the Renfrew-Collingwood community in East Vancouver

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Coping with COVID: Have a snow day

Stay on track with cross-country skiing


View from Cypress to Vancouver Island. Photo by Julie Cheng
It’s a breathtaking view from Hollyburn’s Powerline trail to Vancouver Island. Photos by Julie Cheng

Feeling cooped up with the provincial COVID restrictions and the non-stop Vancouver rain? When I used to be cooped up all day with my young kids, I’d hand them off to my husband at 6 pm and escape by myself for a night ski at Hollyburn Ridge on Cypress Mountain. Often when it was raining down here, it’d be snowing up there.

I don’t mean downhill skiing or snowboarding, but the immersion-with-nature experience of cross-country skiing.

Each winter more than 2.7 million Canadians and 240,000 Vancouverites take to cross-country trails, according to the Canadian Ski Council (Facts + Stats 2017–18).

A winter workout

Cross-country skiing is a great way to stay energized and keep fit while enjoying the outdoors.

It’s a whole-body winter sport that improves circulation, strengthens the immune system, detoxifies the body and relieves stress. I find the combination of exercise and fresh air gives me a good night’s sleep. Best of all, cross-country skiing is easy on the knees and joints.

Sport for all ages

Cross-country skiing is an easy way for beginners to enjoy snow sports. Photo by Julie Cheng
Cross-country skiing is an easy way for beginners to enjoy snow sports.

The whole family can enjoy cross-country skiing.

My youngest was three when she started. We’d head to Hollyburn Lodge for a hot chocolate and vegetarian chili to warm up. Just remember to bundle up with layers and keep everyone’s hands and feet warm and dry.

Enthusiasts pull their toddlers in a special sled and get a great workout at the same time. Many older skiers who fly by me are in terrific shape for their age.

It’s easy to start learning with classic cross-country skis – just think walking/gliding on skis in groomed tracks. Once you become more advanced, you may want try skate skiing, which can be an even better cardio workout.

Nature’s magic

The quiet swish of skis over snow is one of the great joys of winter. It’s peaceful and rejuvenating to wind along mountain trails and breathe in the fresh forest air. The scenery can be breathtaking.

I always end my ski on Cypress by going down the Powerline trail where, on a clear day, you can see all the way to Vancouver Island.

One afternoon, the clouds lifted and the sun peaked out, revealing Nanaimo in the distance. The sun glowed red then disappeared over the horizon. It was magical.

As I drove down the mountain, I slipped below the clouds and back into the dreary city. But I wasn’t feeling cooped up anymore.

Local cross-country ski trails are found on Hollyburn Ridge’s nordic area on Cypress Mountain – a 40-minute drive from Vancouver. There are 19 kilometres of trails for beginner to expert skiiers, including 7.5 km of trails lit for night skiing. If you want to get away from the crowds, especially during these COVID times, ski to the top. The initial uphill burn on your lungs and legs will be worth the effort when you catch all the trails going downhill the rest of the way. These days you need to purchase tickets and ski rentals online and wear a mask on site. Visit

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Read On: Camping


Reading level 3 (***)

For most people in Vancouver, B.C. Day is the unofficial start of summer.

And for many, it also means it is time to think about going camping.

Camping in one of the many forest parks in B.C. is a long-time summer tradition enjoyed by both old and young.

But camping does require some knowledge, so if you are new to it, you should learn as much as you can about it before you attempt it.

A good start is the B.C. government, which has (free) information on camping in leaflets, small books and pamphlets, and online. Many books on camping in B.C. also exist.

Unless they are very experienced, most local families go to campgrounds where everything – such as campsites, toilets and other needs – are provided for a small cost.

But it is best to check, because many are filled quickly.

With almost all camping, you must bring much of your own equipment with you. You will need a tent, sleeping bags, a comfortable ground cover like a sheet of foam or plastic, a camp stove, food, eating utensils like plates, knives and forks, perhaps something to cut wood for a fire (where allowed), and some warm clothes because the woods can be chilly at night.

Many official campsites supply water, but it is a good idea to bring your own if you can.

When camping, a popular pastime is swimming in nearby lakes or streams if they are available. So bring some swimsuits and towels.

Reading level 2 (**)

You need some knowledge to enjoy one of the many campgrounds.

The B.C. government has much material in different languages to help you understand what you must do and bring when being in the forest.

Understand that you will have to bring your own food, water, bedding, a tent, and clothing that is comfortable in the heat of the day and cool of the night.

First published in the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News August 2019.


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Family tree tips for creating a memory box

Loretta Houben created this memory box as a tribute to her grandma Helen.

Loretta Houben created this memory box as a tribute to her grandma Helen.


A fun way to keep your family history alive is to create a memory box. Many sizes of boxes are available and can be purchased from Michael’s craft stores, Dollarama or Winner’s Homesense. They range in price from $3 to $25.

The focal point of the box could be a favourite photo or a personal keepsake. In my case I chose the earliest photo available of my maternal grandma, Helen Brutke. She was a talented seamstress so I lined the back of the box with fabric similar to the era in which she did most of her sewing.

I glued the fabric to the back of the box and added lace, which I had purchased years ago at my grandma’s favourite fabric store in Salem, Oregon. I included vintage buttons and a scrap of antique lace from her button box.

I played around with where to place the framed photo and the other items, and had fun while doing so! Whenever I look at this special memory box, I wish I had been able to know Grandma Helen, but she died when I was 10 days old. In this way I can’t forget her, thankful that I inherited her love of sewing.

A memory box also makes a wonderful gift for a loved one. (Remember Mother’s Day is on May 11th!) For my dad’s 80th birthday I bought a large box and included photos from all decades of his life, embellished the photos with scrap book images from the dollar store, and used coloured lettering from Michael’s craft store. It was fun to choose the pictures that represented his long life.

This year I’m working on a very special project to celebrate the upcoming First World War centenary. My great uncle, William Williams, who I wrote about in the April 2014 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News Family Tree Tips article, died after being wounded in battle in Salonika, Greece in 1917.

I plan to use a larger memory box and include a photo, a copy of his war medal card, photo copies of Salonika, a photocopy of the newspaper clipping describing his bravery in battle, and possibly his original war medal which was sent to his family after his death. (If I can coerce it from my dad’s possession.)

Visual mementos are a lovely way to keep the memory of our relatives alive, especially if they lived long ago or are ones you never met. Younger generations will appreciate the care and thought which went into making them, and one day they will be precious family heirlooms.

Next month’s installment will focus on searching old journals or diaries, notebooks and even receipts for family clues.

Loretta Houben is a member of the British Columbia Genealogy Society and enjoys finding ways to keep her family history alive and well. Please check the society’s website at for free meet-ups once a month. First published in the May 2014 issue of the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News.

Copyright (c) 2018 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News