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'It could be the strongest': El Nino cycle continues to hit B.C. snow resorts


The warm and wet conditions in British Columbia continue to wreak havoc for skiers and snowboarders.

Whether on the North Shore mountains, Whistler, or in the Okanagan, much of the southern portion of the province has been hit with mild weather.

Apex Mountain Resort in Penticton is just one example. The resort reports that this season has been slow compared to last year, when the region was covered in snow in December.

"The snow has come in a couple of centimetres here, a couple of centimetres there, and nothing for about three weeks," said Jame Shalman, the resort's General Manager.

Shalman said the mountain currently has a 50-centimetre base, a drop from the typical 150-centimetre base for this time of the year. Despite this, the mountain's lifts are all open, but several black diamond slopes still need significant snow and remain closed.

"Numbers are down, and we had discounted lift tickets for a chunk of December and the Christmas holidays," said Shalman. "Financially, it hasn't been the best, and the forecast doesn't look that good coming up either."

He estimates that business is down 50 per cent from last year and believes the losses during the holiday rush can't be recovered during the remainder of the season, regardless of the weather.

UBC Okanagan professor Michael Pidwirny studies the effects of climate change on western North American ski resorts and has found that this year's El Niño cycle could be one of the top five strongest in recorded history.

"It could be the strongest," said Pidwirny. "We won't know until February, but an El Niño is strongest for the Pacific Northwest from January to March."

Environment Canada has indicated that above-average temperatures are expected throughout the coming months, and December will likely be one of the warmest on record.

Based on his years of research, Pidwirny says this El Niño has stretched across the continent, bringing warm and dry conditions to mountains from coast to coast. He believes the intensity of this dry spell is being aided by climate change.

"Climate change is making these events a little bit more intense, a little bit warmer when they occur," said Pidwirny via Zoom from Kelowna. Top Stories

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