Snow Report is written by paramedic and mountain patroller Wayne Flann and other passionate mountain dwellers. Wayne moved to Whistler in 1979, and has worked as a Blackcomb Ski Patroller since 1984. He is a blogger, father, and avid skier.
Will it Snow in Whistler this March?
I’m not usually one for aphorisms, but it would certainly be nice if March went out like a lion. The winter thus far has been pretty dismal, with the high pressure wreaking havoc on our weather pattern and an El Nino that just never materialized. As of now, it looks like the pattern is heading for yet another La Nada cycle, just as we’ve experienced in the past two years. Combined with the seemingly northerly migrating high that has been affecting the California weather pattern, we could very well be in for another warm, dry summer. This might sound like a good thing, but with forests already in dry conditions, it could lead to a disastrous fire season.
But enough doom and gloom — will it snow in Whistler this March? Is there a chance that old man winter might come back to the mountains rather than taking an extended hiatus on the East Coast? There is a good chance that we could see some precipitation beginning this weekend but, as of now, the strengthening of the dreaded persistent high pressure to the south and east follows it. It goes without saying that a little snow would certainly help the alpine conditions!
March has historically been one of the most consistent months for snow. Even back in the winter of 2004-05 – the last similar season to our present winter – March produced 250 cm of snow, followed by another 185 cm in April. This data comes from the weather plot at 1650 metres on Whistler Mountain, known locally as the Pig Alley weather plot. The Pig Alley plot measured a snow depth of 155 cm in February 2005 – not too different from the 144 cm depth measured on February 28, 2015.
I personally recall the first two winters of the 1980s as being pretty terrible. Blackcomb had to close for a month – I remember road tripping to Cabo San Lucas in early February that year. When I returned, it had started to snow. Around that time, locals began to experiment with hiking and ski touring, as conditions were much better above the lift-accessible terrain (which, in those days, ended at the top of the T-bar on Whistler and the top of Jersey Cream on Blackcomb). Downloading lines were horrendous during those two early 80s seasons – after all, there was no snowmaking to keep a downhill track in those days. As an aside, the snowmakers are doing a great job of keeping the ski-out track alive right now.
Speaking with a few elders in the valley, I was informed of the 1976-77 season when Whistler Mountain closed for 6 weeks. Torrential rains of biblical proportions washed away the snow pack all the way up to the T-bar. By the end of February, it had begun to snow once again, and the skiing was solid well into May. To commemorate the season, a local artist made up a t-shirt using the Garibaldi Lift Company logo but swapping the words “Whistler Mountain” to “Pissler Fountain.” And you thought it rained a lot this winter!
Some are saying that SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) has not really been an issue this winter because we’ve had so many warm, sunny days. Yet there seems to be plenty of sad people affected by NPAD (No Powder Affective Disorder).
Will history repeat itself? Can we count on the snow to return before the season is over? Looking towards the next week, it does look like we could see some very welcomed snow falling in the alpine, with freezing levels dropping to mid-mountain. An additional 30 or 40 cm of new snow could certainly improve alpine conditions. Unfortunately, the dreaded high looks to push back into the area late next week. But let’s not lose hope! Do your best to maintain a positive attitude and keep hoping that the Lion will return and stay well into April.
Let it snow! Powder to the people!
To read more of Wayne’s stories and avalanche posts visit his blog.