Groundhog Day? You don’t have to ask the groundhog, or his mountain cousin cousin the hoary marmot, about the arrival of spring in the Canadian Rockies. You can always bet on at least six more weeks of winter. I consider spring has arrived when the snowpack reaches its peak and starts its steady meltdown into summer. Judging from the records at high-elevation snow stations, that occurs in early May.
Back in late February, I tried to predict whether this year’s hiking season would come early, late, or about the same as usual. I linked to seven snow survey stations, which at that point were all registering near average mid-winter accumulations.
Since then, as any skier can tell you, things have changed dramatically. Snowfall in the Front Ranges and the southern end of the range has soared off the charts. Readings at Southesk (Jasper), Skoki Lodge (Banff), Three Isle Lake (Peter Lougheed), and Akamina Pass (Waterton Lakes) are all above record levels, while those along the Great Divide and to the west are closer to average.
This leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Certainly, hikers and backpackers are likely to be shut out of the high country until late July or early August on many popular trails. And record snowfall levels can lead to severe spring flooding when combined with heavy rainfall events and a sudden, prolonged warm spell. Will there be more bridge washouts this spring?
Regardless of what happens, watching the “snow pillow” graphs has been an educational exercise.
Snowpack readings from the Skoki Lodge station show near record snowfall this season, especially during the last two months. This reading from May 15 shows the beginning of the spring meltdown. You can keep an eye on the current trends by linking back to my original posting “Snowpack in the Canadian Rockies’ high country” and by checking the Rock Isle Lake webcam at Sunshine Village Ski Area.