The dismal ski season on the North Shore Mountains is being called the worst in a century, and climatologists warn bare slopes could become the norm.

Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress are all lacking in snow, a disappointing sight for local skiers and international tourists who travelled thousands of kilometres to enjoy the popular hills.

Scientists see the conditions as a statistical anomaly – a one-in-33-year occurrence – but projections suggest there will be more and more of them as the decades pass.

“This is an extreme event,” said Simon Donner, associate professor of climatology at the University of British Columbia.

“Don’t take this winter as an example of what’s going to happen next winter, but take this winter as an example of what the future’s going to be like for your kids and grandkids.”

Snow was similarly scarce in 2010 when Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics, but 2012 was banner year with snow from November to June.

Scientists blame the bare slopes on the freezing level, which has been so high this winter that much of the precipitation on the South Coast has fallen on the mountains as rain, not snow.

That freezing level is expected to gradually continue climbing over time, making things difficult for resorts at lower altitudes, Donner said.

“Whistler’s somewhat safe. It’s so high up that there’s going to be snow falling at the top of Whistler for a long, long time, but it’s going to be raining at the base,” he said.

Dr. Michael Pidwirny, associate professor of earth and environmental science at the UBC Okanagan campus, has predicted scarce snow could become the norm by 2085 if greenhouse gases continue to increase.

Donner said it’s too late to prevent some of the effects of climate change, but slowing fossil fuel emissions can still make a difference in the long run.

“What happens in the next few decades is somewhat cooked in already, however what happens in the latter half of the century, that we still have control over. Whether that forecast for 2085 happens or not is somewhat up to us.”

With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Peter Grainger