In Squamish, in the shoulder season, it rains a lot. And kind of non-stop for days on end. We get a lot of warnings like these:
Rainfall warning issued for: Howe Sound. Total rainfall amounts of 50 to 70 mm are forecasted http://t.co/2vDkCI9uNd
— Squamish weather (@Squamishweather) November 5, 2014
The rain is not a terrible price to pay for the nice weather we get most of the summer. By late October and early November it also means the rain is actually falling as snow somewhere high up in the mountains around town. The catch is how high up the mountains that is.
The last few weeks in Squamish, freezing levels have been hovering as low as 1300 meters but then skyrocketing back up to 3000 meters (remember I live at sea-level or about 3 meters). So far, only areas high in the alpine have been retaining snow. Below 2000 meters, snow accumulates and then is washed away by warm rain. Glaciers are the best bet for skiing this time of year where the snow is not so quick to wash away and the underlying surface is quicker to accept coverage compared to rocky moraines.
Down in the valley, the world is saturated. The forrest seems more alive than the entire summer with all the moisture. Trees are extra green and mushrooms are sprouting like crazy. The river has overrun it’s banks and standing on the bridge near my house, I can hear the huge boulders getting raked down the riverbed. An island that stood where the Mamquam meets the Squamish is gone, its few trees entirely washed away.
Trails are muddy slides and granite loses all friction. We do our best to train on our summer running trails. Now is the time of year when we try to increase the skimo specific training. This means more intense workouts, running with poles, and roller skiing. With work and daylight saving time, we end up doing the majority of the weekday workouts in the dark by headlamp. It’s hard to keep enough workout clothing dry for each training session. My shoe dryer runs through the night as I cycle through newly soaked pairs.
When the weather eases off for a day or two, we jump at the opportunity to explore into the alpine. The peaks around town that we take for granted in the clear summer weather appear out of the clouds and we are shocked at the terrain around us with its new winter coat. We drive as high as possible toward the snow line and start hiking with our skis on our backs.
Pretty soon, the temperature will drop another five or ten degrees and we will find ourselves in winter proper. Whistler will open for the season and we will have quick access to the alpine on the gondola. Snow will fall to the parking lot at Red Heather and we will again become proficient at putting tire chains on the car to get to the trailhead.
I can’t wait to get on some reliable snow but even the worst season of there year here is pretty special…