The Snow Pack is Back!

After a year of virtually no snow threatened water levels in the Valley in 2004-05, there is no such thing now: the Resort closed in mid-April with 15 feet of snow. And that snow at the top of the mountain translates into water at the bottom.

Photo: Suzie Quinn. Snow was still deeper than a ski pole on May 10, three weeks after Mount Washington Alpine Resort closed for the winter season.  The resort still had 15 feet of snow when it closed.As of June 1, – June! – snow conditions on Vancouver Island were above normal, about 118 per cent, even though the snowmelt rate was high.

Despite the early melt and higher-than-usual May runoff, the River Forecast Centre noted there were no water supply concerns on the Island.

One of the snow reporting areas is Jump Creek in the Central Island. Snow pillow readings are taken from there four times a month. (A snow pillow is an apparatus that measures snow water equivalent using the weight of the snow on an antifreeze-filled rubber bladder.)

Snow is a great substance to play in, but beyond its recreational appeal, snow in the ski hills is important as a source of water in western Canada.

The relationship between snowpack and the amount of snowmelt is complex. Many factors have to be taken into consideration, such as moisture content of the soil, ground water, weather patterns, and changes in air temperature.

For instance, if the ground was dry before the snow started to fall, it won’t absorb the runoff as readily as if it was rainy before snowy.

In the West, according to, high mountain ranges hold a big enough snowpack to provide 50 to 80 per cent of a typical year’s water supply.

“Despite an overall positive water supply outlook, we’re still encouraging British Columbians to conserve water whenever possible,” Environment Minister Barry Penner said. “It’s an incredibly valuable resource.”

DID YOU KNOW? Snowpack is measured in centimeters. One centimeter of snow is equivalent to one millimetre of rain once the snow is melted.

Mount Washington had its third-deepest snow year ever in 2005-06. The record still stands at approximately 21 feet, which fell in 1995. In fact, it was a world record!