Let it snow! It's a record year, says weather expert By Chris Woodall This year may prove to be the whopper of all snowfalls. "By mid-December we've had more snow on the ground than at any time since records were kept," says meteorologist Marilyn Manso from her Whistler office of Environment Canada. That record goes back 15 years, but long-time skiers will attest to the white bounty this year. Instead of heavy wet stuff, it is lighter than snow normally seen at this time of year. "It's more anecdotal than scientific, but I'd have to agree we've had more powder than the heavy stuff," says Manso. As of mid-December, 74 cm of snow was on the ground at the valley bottom. There have been additional dumps of snow since then. Whistler had only a miserly 34 cm on the ground by the end of December last year; 64 cm in December, 1994; and 42 cm in December, 1993. But surely more snow than that fell, eh? A lot of aching muscles from shovelling the stuff attest to that. In 1994, for example, 168.5 cm of snow fell in November with 194 cm cascading from the heavens in December, prompting the mountains to open well ahead of schedule. But as any old hand will tell you, what falls from the sky doesn't mean much. Snow compacts once it's had a chance to sit around for a bit, or it melts away when snowfalls are followed by above-zero temperatures. The difference this year is that although less snow fell than at the same time in 1994, colder temperatures this year kept the snow god's gift on the ground. Whistler's heavy snowfalls in December represent the bulk of our accumulation, weather station statistics show. Typical January and February snows are one-third to one-half of the falls in December. After 194 cm of snow during Dec., 1994, for example, January '96 saw only 60 cm tumble from the sky. Of course, less snow should mean a lot more sunshine, providing the best of both worlds: lots of powdies and blue skies.