Fernie Alpine Resort opens for winter on Saturday, December 1. Source: Facebook

Kootenays in for mild winter: Environment and Climate Change Canada

El Niño to bring warm weather to Western Canada this winter

Kootenay skiers and snowboarders could be stripping off the layers a little earlier this season as Environment and Climate Change Canada warns of a warmer than average winter.

This is partly due to a weather-producing phenomena called El Niño, the warm phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation that is linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific.

Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist said there are a combination of factors at play.

“This winter we’re thinking is going to be El Niño, which tends to give Western Canada warmer weather than usual,” he said.

“(The) second reason is the waters of the Pacific, the eastern Pacific just off the coast of B.C., are quite warm right now and that’s where our storms tend to come from, so that will likely add heat to the systems.

“The third thing is the southern Arctic towards Alaska; the ocean is still pretty open and it’s usually more ice covered so these three things are all lending to the possibility or likelihood that winter will be warmer than average for Western Canada or at least for B.C.

However, this doesn’t mean there won’t be powder days or the occasional cold snap across the Kootenays.

“(Snowfall) entirely depends on storms and the events we get, so if we get lots of winter storms that track close by to Fernie we’ll get lots of snow… regardless of how warm the winter it is,” said Lundquist.

“Precipitation is really unforecastable beyond a week or 10 days.”

His predictions come ahead of the opening of Fernie Alpine Resort (FAR) in Fernie this weekend.

The resort has moved opening day from November 30 to December 1, despite recent snowfall.

As of Monday, FAR had received 34cm over the past week, bringing the season total to 133cm.

Environment and Climate Change Canada was expecting more snow early in the week as a tropical moisture-bearing system hit the coast and southern B.C.

Powder hounds hoping for fresh snow on opening weekend could be disappointed.

“There’s not too much going on after this system passes,” said meteorologist Bobby Sekhon on Monday.

“We’re actually going to get into some fairly dry periods, we’re not expecting any real precipitation until maybe a slight chance on about Friday or so.”

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