‘Hoping for more snow’: Unseasonable conditions bring concerns to Island ski hills and trails

'Hoping for more snow': Unseasonable conditions bring concerns to Island ski hills and trails

Unseasonably high temperatures across the Island might be making some residents happy, but ski hills and backcountry trails are having a hard time.

Over the weekend, residents were seen walking the streets in light jackets and even T-shirts, with some telling CHEK News they love the conditions.

“This is wonderful, absolutely beautiful,” Margaret Land said.

Holly Allen added it’s been a beautiful winter season “with no complaints at all.”

This year’s winter warmth has led to new heat records on Vancouver Island, including a new monthly record for warmest December day ever recorded in Tofino.

READ MORE: Two more daily weather records fall on Vancouver Island

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, this is partially due to the El Nino climate pattern the West Coast is currently experiencing.

“It’s also due to the very stagnant and stubborn ridge we had over B.C. that’s just keeping warm southwesterly flow over our region and the warmer temperatures,” meteorologis Nan Ru said.

These warm temperatures have created unfavorable conditions for ski hills and back country trails.

Mount Washington has a current base of 20 centimeters with a number of runs not operating.

The ski hill posted on Facebook on Thursday that the Eagle Chair just opened.

“Eagle Chair is officially up and running this morning! Thanks for hanging in there with us through the slow kick-off to the season,” the post read. “Our ops team has been all hands on deck to get more lifts and slopes ready for you to enjoy.”

Jan Neuspiel, Island Alpine Guides director, said while this is concerning, the lack of snow on the backcountry trails is making it hard for skiers.

He said there is a very low avalanche threat, but the thin base has created other risks.

“The main hazard for backcountry travelers right now is those obstacles that are barely hidden under the thin snow pack, like tree stumps, rocks, that kind of thing. Open creeks would be another one,” Neuspiel said. “Like all of us who love to ride in the snow, just hoping for more snow.”

Environment and Climate Change Canada said snow might not be too far away.

The forecast is calling for temperatures to cool down starting next weekend, with more seasonable winter conditions starting mid-January.

Ru said this could bring the potential of snow.

“For the lower elevation regions over Vancouver Island it will really depend on if we do get the cold air in place, but over the mountains we probably will see some snow falling,” she added.

Neuspiel said more snow over a frozen wet base could bring some dangers, including a higher avalanche risk.

“If it’s insufficient quantity and there’s wind to move it around, for sure you’re going to develop an avalanche problem with that, no question,” he said.

Those hitting both the ski hills and backcountry trails are advised to be prepared for all conditions, have a safety plan and tell it to friends and family.

Neuspiel said it’s also important to check the avalanche conditions online before hitting the trails.

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