With a mid-mountain base of about 25 centimetres as of Tuesday afternoon, Mount Washington Alpine Resort spokesperson Brent Curtain said he’s crossing his fingers and toes this week.
“We’re supposed to see some snow on probably late Thursday, early Friday,” Curtain said Tuesday, noting the snow forecast has been changing frequently of late, so predicting the weather on the mountain has been difficult.
“There is some mixed precip predicted for the weekend, so we don’t know if that’s going to fall in the form of snow or rain or both; it’s tough to say at this point.”
The mountain’s anticipated opening day was Dec. 6, and 10 days later, Curtain said it’s hard to say whether the resort will be able to open in time for the Christmas holidays next week.
“It’s one of those things … it’s a waiting game, ” he said. “Anybody that knows Mount Washington knows if the right system moves in we can get a ton of snow in a short period of time. So fingers crossed that that can happen, because we can definitely go from not a lot of snow to a lot of snow in no time.”
He added there is no set number the mountain needs to reach in terms of a snow base to be able to open; a smaller amount of moist, dense snow would go much further than plenty of fluffy powder in terms of being able to get the groomers out to pack the slopes.
Although the mountain opened early for the past four seasons, Curtain pointed out that historical data, dating back to when the resort opened in 1979, shows opening the slopes in the second or third week of December is actually the norm.
“That being said though, obviously, we’re not seeing the weather that we’d like to see,” he continued, pointing out the typical fall weather systems, which bring strong southeast winds and high precipitation amounts, have so far been non-existent. “We literally haven’t seen one of those this fall.”
Curtain noted a recently issued BC Hydro news release — announcing the dry and cool fall season’s impact on the Puntledge River hydroelectric system — as he pointed out this fall has been “very, very dry.”
According to the release, “water inflows into the Comox Lake Reservoir from Oct. 9 to date have been the lowest in 50 years of record,” resulting in a need for Hydro to operate the Puntledge River generating station at 25 per cent of capacity to conserve water.
Meanwhile, Curtain dispelled a circulating rumour that if the mountain doesn’t get enough snow to open for the holidays, the resort may choose not to open at all.
“We’re only 10 days, right now, into a five-month season, and holidays or not, we’re going to be opening as soon as we have enough snow and it doesn’t matter when that is,” he said, adding the resort recently held orientations for its more than 700 employees, who are ready to move quickly once the snow comes.
Mount Washington president Peter Gibson also said Monday he remains optimistic that snow will come soon.
“I’m not panicking,” said Gibson. “I’ve been here for 34 winters so I kind of know what to expect, and the ground is white and we’ve got … more snow (forecast) later in the week.
“Friday, the holiday starts so we’ll be doing everything we can — the place will be full of people so we’re still planning to do all our social programs and entertain people and show them a good time. “But, we do need more snow, and as it comes we’re prepared to move immediately.”
For updates, visit www.mountwashington.ca or check the resort’s Facebook page.