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Andy Prest: We need better ways to describe seasons in Vancouver

Forget winter, spring, summer and fall. Vancouver seasons range from smoke to cherry blossom to atmospheric river season. Here's a new guide 🍂

We need to rethink the seasons here in Vancouver.

No more of this “winter, spring, summer and fall” stuff. That’s just not cutting it anymore. This year, for instance, summer season lasted nearly half the year, right up until near the end of October. Then we went right into one week of smoke season – it was late this year – and we skipped fall entirely and went right into winter.

Throw out your childhood weather textbooks – you know, the one with the picture of a tree in four neat little phases, growing buds, full bloom, autumnal glory and winter bare. Right now, that tree is confused as the rest of us – one minute it’s basking in the greatest summer ever, the next it’s freezing its nuts off.

Here’s a new reckoning of what our seasons actually are these days:

It’s snowing? Again? season 

When newcomers arrive in Vancouver they are told, at least they used to be, that it very rarely snows here. People were like, “oh yeah, that one Christmas back in ’08 when I abandoned my car on Oak Street trying to get to the airport and ate Christmas dinner with my roommate at Solly’s Bagelry. Not a bad Christmas!”

Now? It seems like we’re chipping our cars out of ice ruts every year, sometimes for weeks on end. We can no longer pretend it doesn’t happen – it’s a season now.

Make the rest of Canada jealous season 

This is that period of time in the traditional “winter” season when the sun comes out and people here start posting TikToks of cherry blossoms and brunch on the patio. Meanwhile, the rest of Canada is still -15 C and buried under snow, wishing that all of us smug Vancouverites would choke on our avocado toast. This, obviously, is one of Vancouver’s best seasons.

Fake spring season 

This is when the rain starts to slow down and you think you can have a baseball game – it’s late-May for God’s sake – but by the end of the fourth inning your hands are so cold that an untied shoelace feels more like an untied electric eel.

Summer season 

Oh yeah, summer is legit here. When the rain stops, it REALLY stops. The sun comes out, the beaches beckon, those mountain lakes are surprisingly swimmable, and you can put your long pants away for months. Months! This year we were wearing shorts and playing pickleball well into October, basking together in our glorious sunshine and our willful ignorance of climate change. Vancouver summers are fabulous, except....

Heat dome season 

Seemingly a yearly occurrence now, this is that 10-day period that threatens to cancel your soccer games or kill your grandma. If summer season is the party, heat dome season is the scary after-party where you go way overboard, do three shots of whiskey and wake up naked with your head stuck in the fridge. Why, summer? Why’d you have to take it too far? And speaking of scary...

Smoke season 

If heat dome season is the blackout phase, smoke season is the hangover. This is where Mother Nature comes to collect after all that sunshine, a yearly reminder that we pay for our summer heat with fire. Traditionally an August occurrence, smoke season arrived late this year and was quenched relatively quickly. The ashes still hang in our memories, though, making us think twice about booking that late-summer trip to the Shuswap.

Atmospheric river season 

This season is the angel of mercy and death. It douses the last wildfires, and unleashes the torrents that let our beloved salmon back into the streams and creeks where they can lay their eggs and die happy. But whoa!, did a major highway just fall off a cliff? And how many times do we have to say “atmospheric river?” And do I need to cancel my soccer practice again tonight, making me a hero or a coward, depending on who you ask? And as the atmospheric rivers fade, we a left with....

Wet gloom season 

This is the yin to the yang of our glorious summer. Months and months of wet socks, mouldy windows, darkness, and soccer. Climate change is real, but this particular Vancouver climate ain’t changing in our lifetimes.

Yes, those are our true seasons. We might as well print those new weather textbooks already, because the traditional four aren’t coming back anytime soon. It’s tough in Vancouver these days. Some weeks it’s so bad, we can barely get in a round of golf.

Andy Prest is the assistant editor of the North Shore News. His lifestyle/humour column runs biweekly. [email protected]

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