Weather & Snow
The old mountain adage, “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes” is certainly applicable at Whistler Blackcomb, but another apt saying would be, “if you don’t like the weather in the valley, head up the mountain.”
Did You Know?
For every 150 meters of vertical you climb, the temperature typically drops one degree Celsius. Climbing over 1,600 meters, Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains are a snow-lovers paradise, even if it’s raining in Vancouver or Whistler Village.
With a vertical of 1,609 meters or 5,280 feet, Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains pass through three climate zones. Starting at the base, the first climate zone is West Coast Hemlock which extends to the Mountain Hemlock zone. The Mountain Hemlock zone reaches the tree line giving way to the Alpine Tundra.
Located in the Coast Mountain Range, which is actually a rainforest, Whistler Blackcomb is blessed with lots of precipitation. The combination of high levels of precipitation and moderate temperatures creates the west coast powder that Whistler Blackcomb is famous for. This unique snow consistency sticks to expert terrain, enabling Whistler Blackcomb to offer some of the best expert terrain in North America.
Whistler Blackcomb’s weather and snow communication team reports on the conditions five times daily.
The Whistler Blackcomb Snowphone can be reached by calling 604-932-4211.
Check out the lastest Whistler Blackcomb Snow report »
At Whistler Blackcomb we have 220 snow guns in our snowmaking fleet with 39 automated guns, 69 manual fan guns and 162 air/water guns.
Our water reservoirs have a capacity of 52 million gallons, a breakdown of 20 million gallons on Blackcomb and 32 million on Whistler.
Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains use a combination of fan guns and air/water guns. Snow guns range from fully automatic (start, stop and adjustment automatically) to manual guns that require hourly checks by staff.
Snowmaking begins at -2 Celsius. As the temperature gets colder we are able to put more water through each gun making more snow in less time. -15 Celsius provides maximum production out of each gun and we continue to make snow well into the -20C.
Humidity affects what we call a "Wet Bulb Temperature" the lower the humidity the colder the temperature will feel and act. Zero Celsius at 100 per cent humidity will still result in a snowmaking temperature of zero Celsius. However zero Celsius at 10 per cent humidity would put us at a level of snowmaking that acts as though it is -5 Celsius.
In 24 hours, our snowmaking team can fill an NHL hockey rink to the top of the glass with snow.
10,000 gallons of water per minute can be converted into snow on Whistler Mountain and 5,000 gallons of water per minute on Blackcomb Mountain.
On average, each year our snowmaking team turns 130 to 180 million+ gallons of water into 650 to 900 acres a foot deep of snow.
- Envision a football field (American size - which is a snowmaking industry standard) covered in snow that is 650 feet high!
- This is the size of a 65 story building.
- Snowmaking starts to make snow at the end of September and continues to make snow well into the spring.
- This is enough snow to fill a third of BC Place
- We could also fill GM Place three times over with snow each season.
Whistler Blackcomb receives an average of 11.92 metres / 469 inches / 39 feet per year, as measured at the Pig Alley Weather Station on Whistler Mountain (elevation 1,660 metres/ 5,445 feet).
The greatest snow base record for Whistler Mountain is 504 cm (197 inches, 16.4 feet) set in 1973/74.
The snowiest month on record was November 2009 where 560cm fell that month alone.
This tropical storm is the sister of El Niño but it occurs less frequently (only 4 times in the past 20 years).
La Niña and El Niño are phases of the climate cycle called the El Niño/Southern Oscillation which describes the ocean and atmospheric patterns occurring in and over the equatorial Pacific Ocean. El Niño and La Niña are often seen as opposite ends of the spectrum. Western Canada often experiences mild winters during an El Niño episode, while La Niña episodes mark colder-than-normal winter temperatures with heavier precipitation.
Although unpredictable, La Niña has been generally good for Whistler Blackcomb. Past La Niña years have resulted in an average snowfall of 1110cm, almost 100cm more than the total average since records began. La Niña has also accounted for the highest total snowfall ever in a single season as we recorded 1693cm of snow in 1998/1999. Another positive out of the La Niña storm is the colder temperatures. Even in years where the snow may be below average on the mountain, the colder temperatures help to ensure more snow at lower elevations helping to preserve more of the mountains for longer.
Words for Snow
In the early 1900s, skiers created their own terminology to describe types of snow, including the terms "fluffy snow," "powder snow," and "sticky snow." Later, the terminology expanded to include descriptive terms such as "champagne powder," "corduroy," and "mashed potatoes." Ask a local and they could likely come up with at least a dozen.