You can call this a sight for sore eyes for ski enthusiasts and resort operators. Earlier this morning, on the second day of September, Whistler Blackcomb recorded its first snowfall of the season.
Webcam live feeds show the peak of Whistler Mountain has been blanketed by a dusting of snow. At the moment, the freezing level is sitting at 1,900 metres, a few hundred metres below the mountain peak.
Cloudy conditions and flurries are expected to continue throughout the day, and into the night the freezing levels will drop to 1,600 metres.
But it’s too early to get excited. Meteorologists have stated that the El Niño event that severely hindered the last ski season is continuing and growing stronger, with the Pacific Ocean’s warm waters expanding to occupy an area that is much larger than usual.
Temperatures are anticipated to be even warmer this coming winter, meaning alpine peaks could see another season of more rain than snow.
By Friday, the freezing level is expected to soar to 2,600 metres.
The early snowfall is not entirely unusual either. Whistler saw its first snow on September 22 for the 2013-14 season and October 15 for the 2014-2015 season, although there was also a freak summer snow dump of 30 cm on Blackcomb’s 7th Heaven on July 24, 2014. And of course, last year’s early snow did not translate to a good ski season.
Beginning this year, Whistler Blackcomb and ski hills on the North Shore will be depending more on snowmaking efforts to make up for any snowfall deficit. Cypress Mountain has made a $500,000 investment to extend its snowmaking capabilities by another 500 feet of vertical on the Collins run. Five additional high production Super Polecat Snowguns have been purchased.
Whistler Blackcomb is currently scheduled for a November 26, 2015 opening while the North Shore mountains typically open in early-December each year, depending if there is sufficient snow.