Snowmaking began weeks ago on Red Mountain; the hill’s expected to open on December 8. (Photo: John Boivin)

West Kootenay ski hills could see impact of El Nino this winter

The weather phenomenon brings slightly milder temperatures to the area

People hoping to hit the slopes of the West Kootenay’s ski hills may have to be a patient a little while longer.

And in the longer term, they may find this winter produces some rough ski conditions.

A local weather forecaster says the colder, dry air from the Arctic expected Sunday is not going to create great snow-making conditions for the next week.

And Jesse Ellis of the Southeast Fire Centre says the fact it’s an El Nino year will mean slightly warmer temperatures will affect snow levels in the latter half of this winter.

El Nino appears

“The latest model output I am looking at for is anywhere from +.5 to +1.5C warmer temperatures,” he says. “They take all the models together into something called an ensemble, and the ensemble mean is right around +1.0.

“So our confidence is relatively high we will stay in a weak El Nino phase through the winter months.”

The El Nino is an ocean phenomenon in the south Pacific that affects weather patterns around the world— most particularly in North and South America. When the warm water of the El Nino moves east towards Asia, it creates colder water conditions off the South American coast; when the opposite occurs, warm water moves along the coast.

While the mechanics of it aren’t completely understood, scientists can predict the effect of an El Nino or La Nina with pretty good accuracy.

For our part of the world, the El Nino means a slightly warmer, and dryer winter.

“El Nino is most helpful telling us about average temperatures,” says Ellis. “It’s not as useful for telling us anything much about precipitation.”

And Ellis says those averages mean the snow levels will tend to be a little higher with the warmer temperatures.

“It doesn’t tell you anything about individual storms,” cautions Ellis. “We can still have big snow dumps right to the valley bottoms, even if the average temperature is a little higher than normal.”

And while slightly warmer temperatures could mean slightly higher snowfalls— good for hills— it come with bad news too.

“The rain-snow boundary will be shifted a little up the hill,” he says. “A little higher temperatures means a little more of the hill is going to be subject possibly to more frequent rains.”

“What you can say is in broad, general terms, with snow levels a little higher than usual, that you are a little more prone to seeing rain mixed with snow at lower elevations of the alpine.”

Still waiting

But all this is moot for the moment, as hills wait for the real winter snows to come as they prepare to open.

Red Mountain is scheduled to officially open December 8, and Whitewater December 7.

But cold, dry Arctic air is expected to stall over the Kootenays next week— channelled here by a strong high pressure ridge located just off the coast of B.C.— that seems to be in no hurry to move.

“We’ll have to wait for this ridge to move off before we see our next best chance to get snow in the region,” says Ellis. “That’s not likely until at least the end of next week.”

 

Ski towns like Rossland are waiting for the big winter storms to arrive. (Photo: John Boivin)

Just Posted

Young Grand Forks angler wins top B.C. fishing award

Nine-year-old Noah Dalla Lana was honoured at this year’s BC Wildlife Federation Gala

Kaslo bus fueled by vegetable oil to begin service next month

Mountain Man Mike’s will run routes to Vancouver and eventually Edmonton

Grand Forks woman lays wreath at grave of local soldier buried in England

Cpl. Alfred Gyde Heaven lied about his age to enlist in the Canadian army in 1916

The quirks and perks of living in England

From Grand Forks to Great Britain: Kalyeena Makortoff on becoming a U.K. permanent resident.

One year later, I know we’ll be okay

‘Collectively, we can’t afford to be complacent, nor can we afford for our leaders to be.’

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Growing wildfire prompts evacuation of High Level, Alta.

Chuckegg Creek fire has been burning for several day, but grew substantially Sunday

Top women’s hockey player Natalie Spooner coming to B.C.

Natalie Spooner special guest at annual Grindstone charity weekend in Kelowna

Take-home drug testing kits latest pilot to help curb B.C.’s overdose crisis

Researchers look to see if fentanyl testing could be a useful tool for those who use drugs alone

Facebook takes down anti-vaxxer page that used image of late Canadian girl

Facebook said that the social media company has disabled the anti-vaccination page

Search crews rescue kids, 6 and 7, stranded overnight on Coquitlam mountain

Father and two youngsters fall down a steep, treacherous cliff while hiking Burke Mountain

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Most Read