B.C. ski hills credit La Nina for early opening
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 | 2:49 PM PT
Ski hills across B.C. are gearing up for an early season opening this month, and many are hoping a La Nina weather cycle will bring record snows this year.
One of the first resorts planning to open is Sun Peaks, located north of Kamloops, on Nov. 20. Nearby, Silver Star plans to open its Nordic ski tracks on Nov. 18 and its downhill area on Nov. 26.
Down on the coast, Whistler Blackcomb spokesman Stephen Butt said the official opening day is still set for Nov. 25, but with freezing level at 1,200 metres and 68 centimetres of snow already on the slopes, the resort could potentially open earlier.
On Wednesday morning, Vancouver residents woke up to a cold clear day with a blanket of fresh snow on the North Shore Mountains. Grouse Mountain resort spokesman William Mbaho said the resort's mountaintop skating rink has already opened for the season and predicted that the slopes would be open by the end of the month.
"Historically, the opening of the ice pond has served as an accurate predictor of the start of the snow season, usually within three weeks of the pond's freeze," said Mbaho.
El Nino or La Nina?
But it is not yet clear how this year's cooler La Nina pattern will ultimately affect the ski season. In 2009, the warmer El Nino weather pattern led to even earlier openings on the coast, with Cypress, Grouse and Whistler opening around Nov. 13.The skating rink at Grouse Mountain opened on Tuesday. (Grouse Mountain)
Then as the world watched, much of the snow on the North Shore Mountains was washed away during a stretch of unseasonably warm weather during the 2010 Olympic Games, while further north at Whistler Blackcomb, the moist weather dumped near record amounts of snow on the slopes.
CBC meteorologist Claire Martin has already warned that the La Nina weather pattern will bring colder weather, but it might not be that moist, and she said statistically speaking, there is no reason to predict a big snow year for B.C.'s slopes.
But according to Whistler officials, past La Nina years have resulted in an average snowfall of 1,110 centimetres at the resort, nearly 100 centimetres more than the total average since records began. La Nina has also accounted for the highest total snowfall ever in a single season — 1,693 centimetres of snow in 1998-99 season.
Vancouver prepares to clear snow
In Vancouver, the engineering department says it is prepared for winter — no matter what Mother Nature has in store.
"I've had numerous conversations with Environment Canada in the last few weeks just getting their take on what could be coming. We've certainly been talking a lot with our drivers just giving them the heads up that this could be a bad winter," said engineer Murray Wightman.
Skier Mike Douglas gets the season's first tracks at on Whistler Mountains during a photo shoot on Oct. 27. (Paul Morrison/Whistler-Blackcomb)He said the city isn't making any major changes to its typical plans, which include having 51 snowplows ready and stockpiling 2,600 tonnes of salt.
The city also has a plan to keep the new separated bike lanes clear. Two new snow blowers are on the way and will be used in part to keep Dunsmuir and Hornby streets clear.
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