'Get it while it’s good' - Snowy storms hit North Shore Mountains

The weekend winter storm that blew through the North Shore turned Grouse Mountain’s chalet into more of a chateau Saturday night.

Though the ski hills were closed at 10 p.m., heavy gusts of wind meant resort staff were unable to get remaining guests down to the parking lot on the Skyride. Staff prioritized seniors and people with infants when it came to getting the last rides down. The rest had to hunker down for the night.

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“Basically we were experiencing extremely high winds so it was unsafe to operate the Skyride and we ended up having just over 300 guests at the chalet overnight,” said Julia Grant, Grouse Mountain spokeswoman. “It was over 100 kilometres per hour.”

Thankfully, it turned out to be more of a slumber party than Donner party. “Everyone actually seemed in pretty high spirits. They were given food throughout the night and water and hot chocolate, blankets. We kept the Christmas movies running in the theatre. The staff did a great job and worked really hard to make sure everyone was as comfortable as possible,” Grant said. “We also had a number of our ski patrol on site so they’re first-aid trained if anything were to become an issue.”

At sea level, wind gusts at Point Atkinson were a hairy 87 kilometres per hour, according to Environment Canada meteorologist Matt MacDonald, and the storm brought with it substantial rainfall. “Between 50 and 90 centimetres fell on the North Shore mountains, depending on where you were,” he said.

Taking advantage of the fresh dump, Mt. Seymour opened its Mystery Peak Express chair for the first time this season, and another seven runs along with it.

In the short term at least, the forecast is looking good for the mountains with another 10 to 15 centimetres expected by Friday. Forecasters are still expecting an El Nino winter, and thus, warmer temperatures come the new year. “I’d encourage people to get it while it’s good because, come mid-January, it may not be as good,” MacDonald said.

There’s also some good news for those sick of sideways rain down closer to sea level. “We’re finally in a bit of a reprieve here, a well-deserved one, I would argue,” he said. “We may actually see the first snowflakes of the season in the Lower Mainland. The freezing level is going to drop to about 300 metres – pretty darned low. That’s SFU and North and West Vancouver.”

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