Real Ski Report: Rain threatens good conditions

Each week, CBC Calgary's Paul Karchut speaks with dozens of dedicated skiers and boarders across eastern B.C. and southern Alberta to get the real scoop on conditions at resorts, on cross-country trails and in the backcountry.

The last couple of weeks have been phenomenal for skiers, with deep powder and great cross-country conditions.

However, as with most good things, that could all come to a screeching halt at many resorts this weekend.

Before getting into what's ahead for skiers and boarders (spoiler alert: rain), let's break down what it's been like this week. 

There's been some top shelf powder from the backcountry in Golden, B.C. to Sunshine and Lake Louise.

The stoke was real for Alex Armstrong, who has been bouncing back and forth between those two resorts all week. With 65 centimetres at Sunshine this week and 55 at Louise, she's right to be excited.

"It has been amazing," said Armstrong. "We've gotten so much snow in March. If you're not skiing out here right now, you're doing it wrong."

In B.C., Fernie received 52 centimetres, 48 centimetres fell at Kicking Horse and Revelstoke saw 94 centimetres. 

Temperature swings ahead

Getting close to spring skiing season means the forecast precipitation isn't always going to be snow. Rain travelled very high up the slopes a couple days ago at pretty much every hill in southern Alberta and southeastern B.C., with the exception of Sunshine because of its extra elevation.

Even Lake Louise got rain to mid-mountain before temperatures cooled back down and snow started pounding down again on Wednesday night.

Those two resorts might skip the rain this weekend, but other resorts are likely to take a slushy hit.

On Saturday, Nakiska is expecting a high of 5 C, while Norquay, Panorama and Revelstoke should hit 7 C. Down in the southern corner of the province, Castle is expected to see a high of 10 C.

The forecasts are also calling for up to 15 millimetres of rain in some areas. 

Expect some pretty high freezing levels, too. At Revelstoke, for example, the freezing level is 1,900 metres on Saturday. That's half way up the Stoke Chair at the very top of the mountain.

If Saturday does come in with rain, all that slop will freeze up over night and make for some pretty cruddy, hard-packed refreeze Sunday morning.

Banner year

Despite the rainy forecast ahead, it's been a banner year on the hills. Every hill covered on the Real Ski Report has had at least 30 centimetres more of settled snowpack compared to last year.

While Kimberley and Castle Mountain in particular both struggled last year, they are much better positioned for the spring this time around — with Castle extending its season an extra week because of all the snow.

 

If you buy a discounted season's pass right now for next season, you can use it to ski the rest of this season for free.

But maybe pack a garbage bag poncho just in case for this weekend.

Tricky XC conditions

"We had about two weeks ... where you couldn't go wrong," said Bob Truman from Canmore, Alta. "That's all changed, of course, with the warm weather. There's plenty of snow around; it's just going to be wet."

If you're planning on heading to the Canmore Nordic Centre, be warned that parking will be tough as cross-country ski nationals run there for a week, beginning on Saturday.

Plenty of trails will still be open to the public, however, and there's a free shuttle from downtown Canmore.

Backcountry conditions

Moderate to high avalanche warnings for much of the Rockies and interior B.C. are in effect this weekend. 

Those ratings are currently high, and are expected to go even higher on the weekend, particularly in the national parks. 

No backcountry travel is recommended. 

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With files from the Calgary Eyeopener