Winter is Coming, but When, Where, and For How Long?

Over the next few weeks, dozens of ski resorts across Canada will open for business for the 2014/2015 season. There are different ways people prepare for the upcoming winter. The brand new, fresh-off-the-bus seasonal workers are wide-eyed and up all night as they  are trained in new jobs, familiarising themselves into their new neighbourhood, partying with new roommates, and working out the best place to buy the cheapest Kraft Dinner in town.

You know it's gourmet because of the cut up hot dogs.
You know it’s gourmet because of the cut up hot dogs.

The more settled like myself are hunkering down to save money and warmth by looking for free outdoor activities in the less than glamorous weather, or disappearing to foreign lands in search of culture or warmth from the great sun god.  Then the long-term locals are just keeping on keeping on, making sure the kids are ready for school every morning and silently uttering a prayer to Ullr once in a while for a bountiful harvest of unplowed fields – that is, heavenly dumps of the fluffy white stuff.

As a matter of fact, nearly everyone in the above groups are counting on the weather to make its usual turn toward gray and drizzly. Fun fact: if, while walking through a ski town around this time of year, you spy a person smiling as the rain showers down on their head, ask them how they’re doing. Betcha dollars to doughnuts they’ll shrug and say “Hey – it’s snowing up top!”

This man is a crazy person in any other town.
This man is a crazy person in any other town.

But how can we know what’s in store for the winter?

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Farmer’s Almanac

Ah, the wisdom gleaned by men who are real men, working the land day in, day out. The Farmer’s Almanac was Google before Google, the app found in your grandparents’ bookcase. Through some sort of apparent sorcery, the annual publication predicts by comparing solar patterns and historical weather conditions with current solar activity.  Of course, you have to take it with a pinch of salt. After all, a book can’t update daily like some of our more modern weather recorders. That being said, FA has incorporated new methods of predicting the seasonal changes. And, though it is impossible to truly predict the weather on a long-term scale, this does a good job of giving us a general outline. 

A site specific to ski enthusiasts, Snow-Forecast is all about answering questions for the next few days.  Search by resort or by region, and you can even set up an alert up to 9 days ahead of time when 10 or more cm is set to fall at your ski hill of choice. Primo site.

Local Resort’s Weather Page

If you want to keep it as grassroots as possible while still being in the comfort of your bed on an early morning, check out your resorts homepage for a detailed layout of how much snow fell, how fast the wind is coming and from where, and even what runs are open. With a little knowledge, you can work out where the wind is blowing all the fluff over a sheltered ridge, making a note of the Run of the Day to avoid the punters. Be advised: ski resorts are still a business, and may massage the figures somewhat, say, on a Thursday or Friday, to ensure higher bookings for the weekend.

(This does work both ways though: more than once I’ve gone up out of duty and boredom on a “5cm” day, only to be greeted with 25 or more in the right places – and no one in front of me because that 5 cents isn’t worth getting out of bed for.)

Kick It Old School

Ultimately, the only true way to know what the winter will be like is to stick your head out the window every morning, and gear up regardless. Some of the best days can be had when you least expect it, and there’s far more fun to be had getting soaking wet for 2 laps than staying in your PJ’s till 3pm waiting for the rain to stop.

And hey – it’s probably snowing up top!