A cold snap that hit our region last week had people scrambling for the long underwear, rushing to flood outdoor rinks and talking about the weather with hands wrapped around hot drinks.
Ron Lakeman, weather forecaster at the Southeast Fire Centre in Castlegar explained the cold snap was a result of an arctic air mass that made its way west of the Rockies — something that doesn’t frequently happen.
“It’s a bubble of cold air… that originated up in the Yukon,” he said. “Bubbles of cold air make their way down and usually the Rocky Mountains will protect us. It will all be deflected to the east.”
In this case, the storm track pushed this bubble from Alberta into Southern BC something that hasn’t happened since January (-19.5) and February (-19.7) in 2011.
“We haven’t seen a true Arctic outbreak for a couple of years,” he said.
Cold weather started to move in December 3 and the coldest days hit just as Whitewater Ski Resort opened its hill — last Friday and Saturday. Lakeman says the coldest temperatures recorded at their Castlegar station were -17.7, a record for December 7 and 8. The previous records for those dates were -16.3 in 2009 and -17.2 in 1972 respectively.
Up at the hill, Rebeckah Hornung, sales and marketing director for Whitewater Ski Resort relayed long-time general manager Kirk Jensen’s perception that “it was the coldest that he’s ever recalled with temperatures between -18 and -24 degrees.
“And it was the first time we ever delayed opening our lifts due to cold temperatures,” she said.
When temperatures fall too low, it’s dangerous to have people on lifts in case they malfunction and skiers become stuck.
“It’s just for the safety of our guests,” she said. Lift delays were brief and skiers hit the lodge for a hot drink while they waited.
Hornung knows there were some people that were turned away from opening weekend due to cold weather but she said those diehards who came and “persevered just had more great snow to themselves.”
“The snow is excellent,” she said. “When it’s cold like this it sucks all the moisture out of the snow and it’s dry and light. Anyone up there over the weekend will understand — it’s snow that just floats through the air.”
With temperatures warming up this week, the hill is sure to be busy with folks heading up. Hornung said Glory Bowl officially opens Friday.