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The summer that wasn’t



Technically, there are about three weeks left of summer 2007, but can a season end if it never really started?

Summers are short to begin with in Whistler, but usually we can count on a few months of nice weather with only sporadic rain — or outright drought conditions where a wildfire can start if two blades of grass rub together.

This year has been a little different, and by different I mean bad.

We have had a few weeks of good weather here and there since April and a handful of good weekends, but for the most part it’s been cool, it’s been wet, and it’s been frustrating. August is over and I have not gone for a swim in one lake. I have not ridden Comfortably Numb. I have not spent a day relaxing at Rainbow Park or Lost Lake. I have not pissed away an afternoon on a patio. I have not done much camping. I have gone on no hikes to Rainbow Lake, Garibaldi Lake, Wedge Lake, Russet Lake, or any of the other usual destinations. I have not taken my shirt off to get a tan, unless you count the two weeks I spent in subtropical Toronto. I went to one outdoor concert outside of Seattle — Rush — but that was cold and wet as well.

Usually at this time of the year I’d be at my fittest, but somehow I haven’t managed to get enough hours of running or biking to feel like I’ve made much progress since April.

As well as the limitations of the weather, I’ve been a busy guy in general with events to cover and various family obligations. In total I’ve spent about six weekends out of Whistler since April, but by the sounds of things I didn’t miss much but more rain.

Weather is everything for Whistler. When it snows during the winter season we’re happy, when it’s sunny in the spring and summer we’re happy, and when it rains after a long drought we’re happy — if only because we finally get a day to flake on the couch and catch up on movies and video games, and the municipality will put the barbecues back in the parks.

Weather is also crucial for the tourism industry. People who come to Whistler and get fresh snow and sun are more likely to have good memories of our resort, and, it stands to reason, are more likely to return.

Weather is also the thing that we’re least able to predict on the coast, influenced as we are by both ocean and mountain climates. To boot, most climate change models suggest that the situation is going to become even less predictable in the future and that the Pacific Coast will actually become wetter and colder as the Interior becomes hotter and drier.

Though it might seem like cold weather could be a good thing from a ski resort perspective, keep in mind that’s just the yearly average prediction — winters could actually be slightly warmer than average with a freezing level that climbs higher and higher, while summers would likely be cooler as a result of more rain and cloud cover.

Warmer ocean temperatures in the Pacific are causing unusually strong typhoons, including intense storms in the northern Pacific Ocean that have not been recorded before. That’s bound to affect weather in Whistler by spinning off more storms in our direction.

One thing I’ve noticed in Whistler over the years is that weather is not a daily thing, the result of various fronts moving back and forth, in and out. Instead Whistler and the coast are more prone to trends — clouds that hang around for weeks, high-pressure systems that bring periods of intense heat and cold. In July, Whistler had eight consecutive days of rain, which tied the second-most days of rain recorded for the region. And while we have had periods of alternating sun and rain through August, an outflow of air from Alaska kept average temperatures on the low side.

While that hardship can’t be compared to the kind of extreme weather that is bringing flooding to the southern U.S. and sparking wildfires in the Interior of the province, Washington, Northern Ontario and Quebec, it still kind of sucks. The window of opportunity for hot, lazy days in Whistler is closing a little more each day, and by October it will be over. It won’t feel like it as much as past years, thanks to a decision to push back daylight savings time changes by a few weeks to maximize our hours of daylight and save electricity, but the thermometer doesn’t lie.

I’ve already started to think about the upcoming winter season — saving up to buy new snow tires, getting some painting and home repairs underway while I can still open windows, and figuring out what new winter gear I’ll need to purchase this year. In a way I’ve already written off the summer of 2007, and am hoping for a long and mild autumn before the snow starts to fly.

Better luck next year.

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