British Columbia

Lower Mainland ski resorts welcome heavy snowfall this weekend

Heavy snow is sweeping across B.C.'s North Shore mountains over the weekend and ski resorts are welcoming their second major snowfall this season. 

Motorists cautioned over sudden changes in weather — and driving — conditions

Whistler and the Sea to Sky Highway from Squamish to Whistler can expect 15 to 20 centimetres of snow into Saturday, according to Environment Canada. (Christie Fitzpatrick)

Heavy snow is sweeping across B.C.'s North Shore mountains over the weekend and ski resorts are welcoming their second major snowfall this season. 

On Friday, a strong Pacific frontal system spread into Whistler and the Sea to Sky Highway from Squamish to Whistler, bringing an expected 15 to 20 centimetres of snow into Saturday. 

This can be considered the first real early winter storm, says Trevor Smith, a meteorologist with Environment Canada.

The storm is bringing strong winds and heavy rain and snow across the province into the weekend. 

"It's a much cooler flow, much more of a skier's flow. And that's really the good news when the system goes through Saturday morning."

'A fairly normal early [ski] season'

This is one of the stronger weather events for Whistler Blackcomb ski hills, says Jennifer Smith, senior manager of Vail Resorts Pacific Northwest.

The mountain expects 35 to 40 centimetres of snow into the weekend, while opening day in early November also had 34 centimetres of snow. 

On Saturday, strong winds mean high alpine lifts will likely not be opening, and the focus will be on mid-mountain area skiing, she says. 

B.C.'s North Shore mountains could get 30 to 50 centimetres of snow this weekend, says meteorologist Trevor Smith. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Despite the strong winds, the start of the season has been relatively solid, she adds.

"We've got all this nice, cold, regular temperature coming in, we're expecting that we're off to the races, and it should be a fairly normal early season for us."

More activities and terrain expected to open 

At Cypress Mountain, more natural snowfall is peppering the man-made snow blanketing the mountain.

"This will also be enough to get our Nordic activities up and running," said Joffrey Koeman, director of sales and marketing at Cypress Mountain Resort.

With more snow drifting down, visitors can expect to go snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on Sunday, Koeman says.

At Mount Seymour, crews hope to open more terrain and chairlifts over the weekend. 

"Traditional opening time is the middle of December. But we have been really, really lucky with some early openings over the last couple of years," said Simon Whitehead, marketing and communications manager at Mount Seymour. 

The mountain snow has also allowed Mount Seymour's beginner parks like the Goldie Meadows Learning Area and Mushroom Terrain Park to open. The tobogganing area is also opening on Sunday. 

"The forecast is looking great for the next four days," said Whitehead. 

Be prepared for winter driving 

While ski resorts welcome more snowfall, it's important to be mindful of changing weather conditions and safe driving, says Environment Canada meteorologist Trevor Smith. 

Environment Canada warns weather in the mountains can change suddenly, resulting in hazardous driving conditions.

"Take your time ... keep a good gap between you and the person ahead. Obviously, you've got to have snow tires," said Smith. 

He says snow flurries could follow into Sunday and Monday, and any rainfall will transform to snow in the North Shore mountains above 500 metres.

The North Shore mountains could be the local champions, getting at least 30 to 50 centimetres of snow, he says.

"This snow isn't going anywhere. It's probably going to be fairly good quality snow as well."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Baneet Braich

CBC Journalist

Baneet Braich is a journalist with CBC News. Connect with her at baneet.braich@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @Baneet_Braich

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