Whitewater looking forward to knee-deep three-peat
Who cares if the weather outside it Mexican-like and winter is months away.
Following two spectacular winters of being blessed by Mother Nature, snowboarders and skiers at Whitewater Ski Resort are crossing everything but their tips in hopeful expectation of what might well be a knee-deep three-peat.
Whitewater registered the biggest snowpack in ten years this past winter, capped off by a 40 centimeter bone-dry dump in early June . . . yup, June.
And now staff and shredders at Whitewater will have their eyes to the skies in only a few more months, in anticipation of a third consecutive super-deep season.
“After last month’s surprise snowfall and a record amount of rain in June, it’s honestly been hard to forget about winter,” smiles Whitewater Marketing and Operations General Manager Anne Pigeon, “even with summer in full swing.”
For the first time in over a decade, backcountry skiers, ‘boarders and even snowmobilers were still making tracks in the Kootenay highcountry well past Canada Day, July 1.
The deep, late-season snowpack was a result of an equally deep winter that started strong and rarely let up all winter long.
A grand total of 1225 centimeters (cms) fell at the mountain between October 2011 and April 2012. The total snowfall for the previous season of 2011/12 was an almost equally whopping 1165 cms.
Back-to-back El Ninas combined and the Kootenay region’s perfectly positioned mountain ranges and traditional weather patterns, according to local weatherman Ron Lakeman.
“Some parts of the last winter we had system after system with temperatures on the cooler side,” the Kootenay meteorologist said.
“Some months we had almost double the normal amount of precipitation.”
Whitewater’s Snow Accumulator, located at www.skiwhitewater.com, provides a remarkable recollection of the 2011/2012 season.
The Accumulator recorded 228 centimeters in October/November — enough snow to open almost all of the mountain for Whitewater’s first day — followed by 109 cms in December, 259 cms in January, 177 cms in February, 351cms in a monster March, and another 101 in April.
Indeed, March is becoming a month of marvelous mayhem at this quietly legendary resort.
Outdoor Operations Assistant Colby Lehman was one of dozens of Whitewater staffers who were tasked with fending off Ullar’s freak show, armed with shovels, snowblowers and smiles.
“We had over six days with over 20 cms in 24 hours,” Lehman said.
One of dozens of storm cycles throughout the 2011/12 season, Lehman recalls a similarly deep stretch of nine days in February in which the mountain was thumped with 118 cms of powder, accompanied by temperatures no warmer than minus-4 degrees.
“It was one of those weeks that people came up in hordes, all the lots were full and I was trying to stop people from parking on the road, but when you got on the hill you’d wonder ‘where the heck is everyone?’”
“All you could hear were whoops and hollers through the trees.”
Whitewater’s new lift, the 2044 vertical foot Glory Chair, has opened up 749 acres of additional terrain. The Glory triple celebrated its first full season last year.
The question now, with snow certain to start falling up high in only a dozen weeks or so, remains — what does the winter of 2012/13 have in store?
According to Lakeman, the forecast looks fine.
While it’s a little early to say for sure, the extra-long range outlook is suggesting an average winter — and in the Kootenays, that’s a big winter compared to most other parts of North America — or perhaps a gentle El Nino season. An El Nino pattern could bring milder temperatures with heavy precipitation.
“While that would be rain in the valleys it would mean huge snowfalls up high,” Lakeman said.
“Whitewater always seems to do well.”