2014-01-29 - Drought and Extended Inversion Force Mountain Closure
Image: A lean snowpack has forced Mount Washington to close until more snow hits Vancouver Island.
Credit: Mount Washington Alpine Resort
As drought-like conditions continue to plague the West Coast of North America, Mount Washington received a double whammy of no precipitation over the last two weeks combined with an aggressive inversion weather pattern.
As a result, the mountain's snowpack, especially at lower elevations, is too lean to continue with alpine and nordic operations for the time being.
“We knew we could make it through the first inversion which began a few days after our opening day on January 12th,” explains resort spokesperson Brent Curtain. “But the next inversion wave was even warmer and deteriorated our snowpack so much it has forced us to close the mountain. Our current plan is to reopen with the next significant snowfall.”
The inversion, a weather phenomenon where temperatures actually rise with elevation, brought temperatures as high as 16C to Mount Washington's alpine. This warm weather event, coupled with the lowest three-month snowfall totals since the resort opened in 1979, proved too much to handle for the mountain's snowpack.
The contrast in snowfall from last winter to this winter is stark. Last winter, the mountain received over 500 centimetres of snowfall in December alone. This winter, Mount Washington has received less than 150 centimetres of total snowfall from the beginning of November through to the end of January. A yearly average for the resort is close to 12 metres in a single winter season.
“Our crews worked very hard to move snow around the mountain and fill in the gaps,” says Don Sharpe, Director of Business Operations and Marketing. “But we're now at the point where there's simply not enough snow to farm.”
In a move to put their season passholders minds at ease, Mount Washington will implement a new '100 day assurance' clause that guarantees 100 days (which is equal to 100%) of skiing or boarding per winter season. The mountain will then deduct a point per day that the mountain is open.
So for this season to date, the mountain is counting 14 days of open operations from January 12th to the 26th. With the 100 day assurance, passholders are currently entitled to an 86% credit towards the cost of next winter's season pass purchase.
Mount Washington is waiting to see what the season brings before making a decision on what to do with their 6ixPak customers. The mountain plans on making a final decision for 6ixPak holders on March 31, 2014.
Mount Washington is still hopeful for snow and plans to reopen if the drought breaks and snow returns to the mountains. With three months left this winter, if the snow falls, Mount Washington will be ready.
“Our staff are still very optimistic that we will get more days in before the season ends,” continues Sharpe. “This season has been extremely challenging for everybody. We feel for our customers, our community, but also our staff who are trying to persevere through work shortages and layoffs.”
For the latest mountain information and to check out the webcams, visit mountwashington.ca.
Mount Washington Alpine Resort is located 30 minutes above The Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. WestJet, Central Mountain Air, and Pacific Coastal Airlines service the Comox Valley Airport (YQQ) or fly right into Comox Harbour via Harbour Air. To find out about accommodation and package information, call Mount Washington Alpine Resort at 1-877-845-4499 toll free. Surf to www.mountwashington.ca for additional information including our live webcams.
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Drought and Extended Inversion Force Mountain Closure