The winter season got off to a good start this year, with the earliest opening for the mountains in 25 years on Nov. 5, but snowfalls dropped off considerably in December.
In total Whistler and Blackcomb received 84 cm of snow in November. Until another storm system moved in on Monday (Dec. 19) of this week, total December snowfall was just 11 cm. Cold air, light winds, periods of low level fog and blue skies in the alpine were the general rule, and a persistent inversion created warmer temperatures in the low alpine than in the valley. Many compared the conditions to spring skiing.
Although there is still over a week of December left and the weather is changing, so far the total snowfall accumulation is well below normal. Last December there was 224 cm, and for the pervious four years snowfalls were between 171 and 377 cm.
"We had our earliest opening in 25 years, and that certainly got the momentum started, and got people excited, and put Whistler-Blackcomb back in the market after the last season," said Christina Moore, manager of public relations for Whistler-Blackcomb.
"This season, so far (December) has been disappointing, but its still early season. And its certainly been awesome for snowmaking."
There are about 200 snow guns on the mountains, and according to Moore theyve been making snow almost non-stop for several weeks. Every day they have been going through between 11 million and 15 million litres of water, which is the reason the ski-outs on both Whistler and Blackcomb are open.
"We can offer about 5,280 vertical feet (1,610 metres) of skiing, and we have about 4,100 acres of terrain open. For Whistler-Blackcomb thats only about 50 per cent of our terrain, but its still one of the largest amounts of terrain open in North America," said Moore.
"We still have a vast array of skiing for our guests. The Blackcomb Glacier is in great shape, and were making snow on over 235 acres on Whistler and 355 acres on Blackcomb."
Because of the inversion, most of the snowmaking has been taking place on the lower mountain, using water from Fitzsimmons Creek. The reservoirs on the upper mountain were close to being depleted but have been replenished somewhat recently, also because of the inversion.
The terrain parks have also been a focus of snowmaking, especially with Whistler hosting World Cup snowboarding events from Dec. 8 to 11. Right now the Superpipe and Nintendo Terrain Park are open on Blackcomb, and the Habitat Park and halfpipe on Whistler are also open with natural snow.