Opinion » Cybernaut


The weather vein



They say the Inuit have over 22 words for snow. I guess that’s pretty good.

In Whistler, we probably have twice as many words for snow, and at least 10 times as many half-baked (or fully baked) theories on how much of the stuff we’re supposed to get and when. Snow is our collective passion. It’s also our business.

That’s why every skier and boarder out here dabbles in meteorology, scanning the skies, looking for rings around the sun and the moon, piecing together weather reports from all over the spectrum to get a sense of what’s coming next. Through our natural enthusiasm and our fanatical worship of all things snow, we’ve become slaves to the weather forecast.

For every person who shrugs their shoulders and says "if it comes, it comes," there are a dozen others who will tell you all about the system that’s moving in from Alaska, or a dump that’s heading up the Duffey Lake road from Roger’s Pass. Most of these reports tend to be optimistic, but a good fanatic will always exaggerate the occasion the same way a hockey fan would exaggerate his team’s chances of winning the Stanley Cup.

The other day on the bus, a preteen told everyone that we were going to get another 50 centimetres that night and that this was going to be the best winter in nigh on three years. I didn’t ask him what his source was, but I took the information home with me anyway and told my roommates that we were going to get another 25 centimetres that night – I’m gullible but on the conservative side. We ended up with 15.

Another earlier report said the snow would turn to rain in the village by midday Saturday, but happily that didn’t happen either.

You hear a lot of different things, and speculation, as always, is rampant. Where is everyone getting their information? Hopefully not the bus.

There are literally dozens of qualified sources out there that don’t exaggerate the situation or spin the numbers to make things appear better than they are. Here are a few Web sites no serious snow watcher can live without.


Environment Canada may be completely ineffectual in protecting the environment these days, but they’ve always done a bang up job monitoring and projecting the weather.

This area of the site can direct you to recent satellite pictures, infrared pictures that show moisture, and an overlay of both picture and infrared. It’s always cloudy, but whether those clouds are carrying moisture or not is another story.

There’s also a link on the left side of this Web page that can take you to a five day forecast for Whistler in a couple of clicks. While no forecast is guaranteed, this is the one most media outlets go with.


The Canadian Avalanche Association has been guiding people’s backcountry excursions for 10 years now, and they do a great job both forecasting and backcasting – analyzing – the weather. They also have a page of links to dozens of different weather satellites, including Environment Canada information, that is updated daily, hourly, even instantly.

From this page you can access the satellite page or their weather projections.


Although Whistler-Blackcomb will always try to put a positive spin on weather conditions, they are always honest. From their Web site you can access live Alpine Web Cams, daily snow reports, and more.

Check out the "Weather and Lifts" section for grooming reports and maps, lift status, live conditions around the mountain (temperature, wind, alpine forecast and valley forecast), the latest avalanche advisory, weather statistics and up to date road reports.


This is a link to more satellite images, including B.C. Forecasts. Check under Current Satellite Images partway down on this page to see what’s available. A quick rundown includes Infrared, Visible Satellite Imagery, Water Vapor Satellite Imagery, and Infrared with Overlaid Fronts.

While these images are mostly centred on Washington State, the satellite images usually include a good portion of B.C. Some even go as far as Alaska.


Satellite images can be addictive. This site, a spin-off of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has links to more than 20 different satellite centres spanning the globe, many of which provide live satellite imagery. There are dozens of ways and aspects to track all the fronts moving in and out of the region, and to find out just how loaded those clouds are with moisture.

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