British Columbia

Lower Mainland ski resorts could open earlier after chilly start to November

As one ski resort in B.C.'s Lower Mainland opened ahead of schedule on Saturday, other operators say they're waiting for a little more snow to drop before opening up the hills.

Third La Niña season could mean a much snowier winter, CBC meteorologist says

A person is pictured skiing against a mountain of snow.
A person skiing is pictured on the opening day of Cypress Mountain Ski Resort in November 2020. This year, the resort opened ahead of schedule after a chilly start to November. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

As one ski resort in B.C.'s Lower Mainland opened ahead of schedule on Saturday, other operators say they're waiting for a little more snow to drop before opening up the hills.

The Cypress Mountain Resort in West Vancouver opened at 9 a.m. Saturday, with certain hills open to the public after more than 30 centimetres of snow fell on the peaks and more than 15 snowmaking guns increased snow density.

It comes after an Arctic air mass brought snow and freezing temperatures to the South Coast at the start of November.

"This is an early start, maybe about 10 days earlier than last year," said Joffrey Koeman, director of sales and marketing at Cypress Mountain.

"And last year was still early ... historically, it's Dec. 1, give or take a week.

"We're wall-to-wall, edge-to-edge. Snow coverage is huge up top, so there's going to be good skiing qualities."

A white man wears a Cypress-branded jacket and hat in a snowy environment.
Joffrey Koeman, director of sales and marketing at Cypress Mountain resort, said around 37 centimetres of natural snow fell on the peaks in West Vancouver, allowing them to open ahead of schedule when combined with snow guns. (CBC)

Dozens of people were out on the trails Saturday.

Koeman says he anticipates a great skiing season in 2022, due to it being the third La Niña winter season in a row. La Niña means the waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean's surface are running colder.

A snowboarder sits on a ski lift in hazy conditions.
Skiiers and snowboarders could have a snowier winter than usual, according to CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"Typically, La Niña means colder-than-normal weather conditions here across B.C.," said CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe. 

"Last year was exceptional for snowpack, not just across the local [mountains] but for all of B.C. 

"No two La Niñas are the same, but there's a good chance it will be colder and snowier than usual this year."

Other resorts preparing to open

In B.C.'s Interior, the Silver Star Mountain and Big White resorts are also opening this week.

Like Cypress, Silver Star is opening certain trails on Saturday, with Big White preparing to open on Nov. 17, their earliest start since 2016.

A spokesperson for Whistler Blackcomb told CBC News in a statement that staff at the resort were "busy getting ready for opening," which is currently scheduled for Nov. 24.

At Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver, a spokesperson said the "forecast continues to look promising," but wouldn't say if there was a date for when the hills could open.

"Our snowmaking team partners up with Mother Nature so we can be open as quickly as possible," they said in an email.

In the nearby Mount Seymour, communications manager Simon Whitehead said while they are entirely reliant on natural snow, they still hope to open earlier than usual this year. Their scheduled opening date is Dec. 9.

"We are very excited to be getting this amount of snow and these cold temperatures at this time of year. It's a real treat, but we do need more snow," he said. "We'll be watching the weather three, four, five times a day.

"It is a a triple La Niña this year, which gives me a lot of confidence and I'm pretty sure we'll be able to open earlier than [Dec. 9]."

With files from Wildinette Paul, Akshay Kulkarni, Christy Climenhaga and Johanna Wagstaffe

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