Warming Up

New Snow 0 cm 7 Day Snow 53 cm Snowbase 150 cm
Alpine Temp -1 °C Valley Temp +3 °C Conditions Soft to Slush

Well the temperatures are creeping higher as this high pressure ridge develops. At least there doesn’t appear to be much precipitation in the forecast.

Today was very similar to yesterday, with the upper mountain being just below zero, with really nice snow. As you came down the mountain it slowly got warmer, and the snow started to became slushy. Around mid-mountain there was the thick fog layer again, and below that the snow was definitely slush… Lots of fun, especially on the groomers – more like spring skiing at the bottom (which is some peoples preferred type of skiing) but obviously they are the people who come here in spring, not winter…

It was around the Red chair elevation that you could perceive the ‘wetness’ of the snow, as it started to become sticky and grab your skis – so down to there was quite decent skiing, even off-piste.

The next few days / week will see the freezing levels spike, and the snow will become slush all the way to the top (most likely). This is not terrible news, as if it stays that way for long enough, the moisture might be able to seep deep enough into the snow pack to help stabilize the weak layer right at the bottom (as I understand it – maybe wrong ? ) When the temperatures start to drop again, that moisture should help the different layers to bond together (providing the temperatures drop slowly, if it drops too fast it will probably make the conditions worse….)

Note to self: I really should learn more about the art of snow science. I have done the level 1 recreational avalanche awareness course, and have a little bit of experience of back country travel. However, I still have a lot (under statement) to learn. The courses are not cheap, but I will get around to doing them eventually, which will not only help me enjoy the outdoors more safely but also help me give better snow reports / amateur forecasts.

Update: I have had a few people give me a hard time for not mentioning how sunny and nice it was up above the fog layer, so now I have :)
Also, I heard a few stories regarding the current avalanche problems we have. Firstly, apparently when patrol used explosives to create a slide in 1 of the Horseshoes on Harmony, it propagated (correct word someone?) to all the other Horseshoes resulting in crowns of around 1 meter in all of them. It is hard to describe the ‘layout’ but for this to happen was very surprising to me.
Secondly, I took a photo yesterday of a slide in Whistler bowl – hard to see in photo. I presumed at the time it was a ‘controlled’ avalanche set off by patrol, apparently not, apparently it was a natural slide !

Whistler Bowl Avalanche


  1. Is it usual for the pineapple to occur in WB in January or is this totally out of character?

    We’ll be in WB from 14th Jan for 2 weeks, I sure hope the snow returns within those two weeks….I really will be crying in my beer if it doesn’t haha!

  2. I don’t think this qualifies as a ‘pineapple express’ as normally there is a lot of rain that accompanies the warm air. So far it looks like we will stay relatively dry (fingers crossed).

    This is the wiki for the ‘pineapple express’
    Notice how the water makes a straight line up from Hawaii, and now look at
    and you will see the 2 lows and 1 high still moving the weather ‘around’

    I remember the 04/05 season, all we got was rain during January, and a lot of it. Now that was a pineapple express during a La Nino’?’ year.

    I am wondering what that big Low south-west of Alaska is going to do/bring …. that may bring a ‘pineapple express’ to us ….. lets hope not.

  3. Speaking of snow science, I’m curious about the freezing level — why is it predicted to go so high when the temps won’t be that different? Is it due to the heat of the sun?

    Today was our first one here, and we spent a beautiful, sunny day skiing off the 7th Heaven chair, with spectacular views in every direction. Despite some melting when the sun came out, and sloppy slush on the last run, down toward the bottom, we managed to have lots of fun! :)

  4. Hi greg

    In a strange sort of way I’m looking forward to skiing in warm sunshine when I get out on the 20th. It’s definitely not what I expected!! It looks like it’s dropping below freezing at night though, do you think they’ll get the snow cannons on to freshen up the runs?

  5. Hi Greg and others,

    I agree with all the other comments – this is the one site I check back with every couple of days to see what the snow’s like in Whistler.

    I’m coming out there the second week of February. I know it may be premature, but do you have an idea of what the forecast is calling for in terms of snow/temps in Feb?

  6. coming out in 5 days. i think I will leave my thermals at home and bring my boardshorts instead!!!!!!!

  7. Hi again Greg,

    Okay, now I am really curious. According to snow-forecast.com, the temperature is going to drop tonight, but the freezing level is rising?? How is this possible…?

    I know it sounds dorky, but we joined a group tour of Blackcomb today, and I can’t recommend it enough for those new to WB. We went all over the mountain, and saw so much more than we would ever have on our own. We joined the “fast” intermediate group with a guide named Reno, who kept us going at a good clip. He seemed to know everything about the Coastal Range; geology, climate, anthropology, etc. We skied the Horstman Glacier, and peeked over the edge of Couloir Extreme for a hair-raising view.

    We had started the day back at 7th Heaven, which was super smooth but a little icy from yesterday’s melt/freeze. Still, it was a fun & gentle way to start the day. I found that the snow on the north side of Blackcomb was better quality, and there was even a little dusting of powdery snow that improved conditions even more.

    Again, we had a GREAT time, even with the relatively mild temps. The bottom of the mountain was a mess though; tomorrow we’re definitely taking the gondola down at the end of the day.

    Still haven’t made it over to Whistler Mountain; we keep hearing that it isn’t as good over there, condition-wise. Maybe we’ll ride the Peak-t0-Peak over and back… if anyone has suggestions, that would be great!

  8. Firstly I will talk about the questions regarding the freezing levels and temps – and Steve, yes you did miss something. The part about ‘sub-freezing temperatures below 1800 m’.
    Basically, although the freezing level is rising, we still have cold air ‘trapped’ in the valley and at lower elevations in general. Since hot air rises and cold air sinks, it is pretty hard for this cold air to go anywhere, since it has mountains blocking it’s way. It can only go ‘up’ – but the warmer air up there resists that movement.

    Andrea, I am glad to hear you are enjoying the conditions. Right now the skiing is pretty good, and I had a great day myself. I did do a run down the ‘Colouir Extreme’ which is pretty rocky up the top, and overall not really worth it. I had some nice turns in the middle, but at the bottom is was kind of ‘chunky’ snow again.

    Ali, I am sure if it is cold enough to make snow, they will – but only in the high traffic zones.

    Oppi, No idea about the weather next week, let alone next month….

    Tootie, it isn’t that hot, in fact it was kinda cold today with isolated pockets of snowfall.

    Simon, yes there is enough base for the ski outs to the village to survive a week or two of high temps – although if you look at the temps, the valley is staying quite cool – due to the trapped cold air mentioned earlier.

  9. Wow, props to you for skiing Couloir Extreme! When I looked over the edge I had the sudden urge to use the loo.