Still reason for optimism despite historically low November snowfall in Whistler

November saw just 88 centimetres of snow—that's compared to a 10-year November average of 254 cm

While Whistler Blackcomb continues to double down on snowmaking to open new terrain, the resort is off to a slow start.

November saw just 88 centimetres of snow—that's compared to a 10-year November average of 254 cm.

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Adding to people's anxiety is the fact that it is expected to be an El Niño year, a weather system that typically results in wetter and warmer conditions.

According to a Nov. 23 update from the U.S. government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there is around an 80 per cent probability of seeing an El Niño system this winter, and a 55-to-60-per-cent probability of it extending through spring.

It may then come as a relief to some to hear that CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe is still predicting a decent season—at least above mid-station of the Whistler Village Gondola.

"Mid-station is actually a really good marker of (the expected) snow level," explained Wagstaffe.

"Above that, we're still expecting to see really good snowpack. It just might be below that (snowline) we won't see as much (snow)."

The challenges predicted for the lower mountain are compounded by the fact that long-range weather forecasts for the south coast of B.C. are predicting above normal temperatures for the next three months.

"It doesn't necessarily mean we are in for a bad season," said Wagstaffe. "We just likely won't get snow in the village."

It is also worth bearing in mind that there can be variability in impact of El Niños.

A recent article on The Weather Network's website, explained that there has been significant fluctuations when it comes to "weak El Niño" events: In the 2004-05 and 2014-15 seasons, there was 685 and 672 cm of snowfall respectively; in 2006-07, there was 1,416 cm.

The article goes on to predict that Whistler Blackcomb may see around 20 per cent less snow than the average 1,056 cm it historically receives.

Wagstaffe pointed out that the last couple seasons have been good snow years, which may be affecting our expectations. They were affected by La Niña systems, which brings colder and snowier conditions.

Looming over any conversation around weather phenomena such as La Niña and El Niño these days is the topic of climate change. According to Wagstaffe—who released a successful podcast on the subject last year—climate change is shifting "the baseline of those phenomenon up."

In the future, we will see less slow and more rain below the alpine levels," she said.

But it will take, "a little longer for the warming temperatures to really impact that alpine snow level," she said, ending on a note of tempered optimism.

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