Warm winter weather woes plague Lower Mainland ski hills

Click to play video: 'Ski hills facing tough holiday season'
Ski hills facing tough holiday season
Ski hills all across B.C. are facing a challenging holiday season, with a stretch of warm, wet weather making for marginal conditions and limited operations. Grace Ke reports – Dec 20, 2023

Heading into what is typically one of the busiest weeks at Lower Mainland hills, the runs are suffering from a distinct lack of snow.

“Pretty bad. Pretty sucky. Not good,” was the frank assessment Cypress Mountain skier Seline Chen offered of the conditions.

“I just needed to use the day because this is my day off and I really need to use my season’s pass.”

It’s a stark contrast from this time last year, when southwestern B.C. was in the grips of an unusual deep freeze.

Click to play video: 'Warm winter woes on Lower Mainland ski hills'
Warm winter woes on Lower Mainland ski hills

On Wednesday, just one lift was operating at Cypress, along with a handful of runs.

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Mount Seymour was completely closed, while Grouse Mountain was open but just offering access to one green run. One person Global News spoke to on Whistler described the conditions as being like skiing in “clam chowder.”

And it doesn’t appear conditions will improve soon.

Environment Canada meteorologist Alyssa Charbonneau said odds are slim of a white Christmas in the Lower Mainland.

“We’re currently seeing temperatures above normal, and it is going to cool off a little bit in the days leading up to Christmas, but it also looks like it is going to dry out as well,” she said.

The stage for the poor early season conditions was already set last month, according to Charbonneau, with a late start  to the snowpack.

“Typically we start to see those snowpacks on our mountains start to build in November, and the latter half of November this year was really dry — that’s fairly unusual,” she said.

The storms that did develop after the dry period were relatively warm, she added, meaning more rain than snow on the local mountains.

Click to play video: 'B.C. ski resorts dealing with lack of snow'
B.C. ski resorts dealing with lack of snow

Chrarbonneau said there are some new storm systems expected to roll into the region after Christmas, but it’s not clear yet whether they’ll deliver snow or bring warmer precipitation to the mountains.

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The new year could also bring warmer air from the equatorial Pacific into the region, as a part of the developing El Nino climate pattern, she said.

Despite the gloomy forecast, skiers like Julius Trenkmann on Cypress remained optimistic.

“It’s the early season, so I think we have more to expect, but yeah it could be better of course,” he said.

“As long as nobody is here and we are the only ones, basically, it’s going to be fun anyway.”

Click to play video: 'Whistler Blackcomb opens for winter season'
Whistler Blackcomb opens for winter season

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