It has been a slow start to the touring season across the province of BC this fall. High freezing levels and blocking arctic fronts have been the predominate trends. We have had three distinct storms systems that have hit in the past three months. In previous winters, we’ve had that in a ten day period.
The skiable snow line is sitting somewhere around 1400-1600m across most of the province. With many early season hazards barely covered. Tree skiing is very spotty at this point and a season ending injury is just a turn away.
Currently there is 40 – 60 cms sitting at the highway elevation. At 1600m, approximately 100cms is present of which 30cms is from the storm on Dec 1st which fell very cold. Snow depths will likely be variable due to wind transport. Skiing options are limited given the snow depths as the key areas will be very shallow and the ski outs may still require lots of boot packing. Up high the snow quality/depth will be very good in lee terrain but the presence of windslabs may be possible. It isn’t quite time to pack away those rock skis.
Reports from Kootenay Pass are that early season conditions still prevail. Most slopes are still thinly covered and many talus fields are still unskiable. The most recent storm on December 1/2nd has likely improved the skiing but locals estimate another 50cms is needed for the area to be in shape for good skiing. Read the full Kootenay Pass report (December 2nd) from backcountryskiingcanada.
Though first hand accounts are limited the Eastern Kootenays have seen a fair share of snow. Fernie is in fine shape with a large base. The December 1st storm dumped upward of 60cms of snow. Kimberly took a direct hit and many locals took to the hill to get in their first turns of the year.
Rogers Pass/ Revelstoke
Though most parts of the province have missed at least one of the three storms that have passed through, the Revelstoke powder corridor (Salmon Arm to Golden) has received the full blast of all the storms. This has left the Selkirks with the best skiing in all the province. The skiable snow line remains very similar to other area hovering around 1400m, but the difference is this area has received more snow above 1600m and the vertical drop in its major zones is higher than the rest of the province. This is making for some fine alpine skiing conditions with the high pressure systems on the back end of each of the systems.
Whistler/ Duffey Lake
Sea to sky and the Duffey Lake region is very similar to the Coquihalla with great skiing up high but limited opportunities below tree line. Whistler slackcountry is likely the best option to get consistent skiing in this region. The lack of snow below 1400m will make many of the Duffey/Sea to Sky approaches very difficult and cut in to ski time. Read the full Duffey report (December 2nd) from backcountryskiingcanada.
There have been reports of natural avalanches in the province. The colder/clear temperatures have promoted surface hoar growth in addition to faceting in many areas. This is something to pay attention to when storms are rolling in over the next month or so. This mixed bag of surfaces will make for some interesting avalanche conditions once winter really starts rolling. High in the alpine in the Selkirks a near surface layer has been responsible for some large north facing avalanches.
Check out the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides – Mountain Conditions Report for some details.
Don’t fret we have seen a season start like this before. Vancouverites can reference our last major in-town snow event in 2008 where a cold, clear fall led to a massive dump over a 7 day period that amounted to almost a metre of snow and shuttered the city. Here is hoping for a repeat and a great holiday ski season.