As the northerners of Westeros have prophesized, winter is coming. The 2015/16 season is going to be one of those nail biters, with every news and ski media outlet throwing out their two cents of what El Niño will bring. Rather than join the circus of speculation, today we’re going to share the most helpful Rockies and Whistler weather resources.
A note on weather forecasts: Despite the vast technological advances in weather modelling used by scientists and meteorologists, a chaotic element remains embedded in every weather system. Meaning, when the weather doesn’t quite match the forecast, shooting (or online trolling) the messenger isn’t going to improve the quality of your winter resort experience. Every forecast, no matter how positive or negative-looking – should be taken with a grain of salt.
For Whistler locals and drive-distance visitors, the Whistler Blackcomb website (and/or mobile app) is the first port of call to check the overnight snowfall and short term forecast. While some online sleuths still testify that resort snow reports are inflated, since the dawn of social media and instant mobile data sharing it’s near impossible for any resort to get away with such shenanigans. While it’s the in-house avalanche forecasters who take daily snowfall readings, Whistler Blackcomb’s weather is actually outsourced from consulting company RWDI. With the fluctuating freezing levels we’ve experienced recent years, once the mountain opens the WB forecast features a line chart showing where the rain stops and the rain starts.
One of the most popular snowfall forecast websites in the world, Snow-Forecast is an excellent cross reference to local snow reports. It features six-day snow and rain forecasts for peak, mid mountain and lower mountain elevations as well as freezing levels, windchill and the relative humidity so you can dress appropriately. Have this one bookmarked for Whistler Blackcomb and Banff resorts.
The Weather Network doesn’t show snowfall prediction, but has a pretty accurate seven-day outlook with Probability of Precipitation (P.O.P) percentages. This is a handy check before embarking on backcountry trips to see if you’ll have clear enough weather for an objective such as a summit or couloir. The Weather Network also has a “14 Day Trend” prediction, which always shifts as the date gets closer but helps gauge expectation when planning road trips or expeditions. AccuWeather.com is pretty much the same thing and arguably a tad more accurate, but the layout of The Weather Network’s website is a bit neater.
If you’re looking for information straight from the horses mouth, the Government Canada website has forecasts for towns and cities all over the country. For the weather nerds there’s also animated weather radar graphics that show how weather systems are moving over several hours. Best locations for West Coast is Victoria and Aldergrove, BC, closest to the Rockies resorts is Strathmore, Alberta.
If heading into the backcountry, a visit to the Avalanche Canada website should proceed all other weather checks. It may be sunny and cold, but staying up to date on the avalanche bulletin is essential before setting foot outside resort boundaries. More on avalanche safety to come in the next few weeks.
With so many weather resources at one’s finger tips, it’s easier to stay informed about snow, rain and sunshine than ever before. By doing homework beforehand, skiers and snowboarders heading up to the mountains will know what they’re in for. And if you’re nervous about what the El Niño season will bring to Whistler, take a look at the empirical data before making assumptions of how terrible the season will be.
To better understand weather or to if travelling in regions outside of normal forecast areas, take a look at our Mountain Weather course available in both Whistler/Squamish and Banff/Canmore locations.