Stoked on Science: Taking slow steps to the next season

Jade Harvey

Columnist

I don’t know why exactly, but this year I am not quite ready for the ski season yet. Don’t get me wrong I love the look of the snow capped peaks and I miss not the smoky haze of mid Summer but I am caught in the dream of the transitional fall weather. It enabled cool sunny days to be spent in the mountains on a bike, in shorts and a t shirt, light rain to refresh the air on colourful walks through the forests, time enough to enjoy a moment of recreation after a long days work without leaving the place plunged into the black chasm of evening. The joy of BC, and specifically Revelstoke is the diversity of activities that ebb and flow with the movement of the seasons. (This said most I think most would argue that November belongs to no season and should be written off from the calendar entirely).

As part of the world’s only inland temperate rainforest, (all of which is found in the Columbia Mountains) we experience unique weather in Revelstoke. As warm, moisture laden air moves in from the Pacific Ocean with the jet stream and associated prevailing winds, the air is deflected up by the Columbia Mountains. This air then cools, increasing in density and the clouds that form become so heavy they must shed their precipitous load. In the Winter months this of course falls as snow in our Powder Highway heaven (shhh don’t tell anyone). With an average precipitation of 1278mm or 50” in Revelstoke itself and 1995 (75”) in the sub-alpine over the year. On average 112.5 (44.29”) of that happens as snow in January alone.

We live in an area where the hydrological cycle presents itself to us with vigour. We have already however in our short habitation of this valley altered the natural environment here, seeing locally reported reductions in snowfall due to the construction of the Revelstoke Dam. Large bodies of water change the way air flows, regionally changing local weather.

This phenomenon of lower snowfall here has been acknowledged in a report written in 2012 as a review of the Columbia Basin Treaty, however has not been scientifically investigated or quantified as of yet.

It never fails to amaze me how incredibly the city here deals with this amount of snow over a season. I know that there can be complaints about the logistics of this here place but let me put it into perspective for you. I’m originally from the UK and when we get minuscule amounts of snow these are some of the legitimate headlines from national newspapers.

”SNOWMAGEDDDON!” (This, in response to 10 cm of snow in London0 or “A COUNTRY IN CHAOS” (Due to 30cm countrywide last Winter). Yes, you Canadians are the cream of the crop for living, taming and dominating in wild environments. It is astounding, if this were England every day between January and March would be a snow day, the entire travel infrastructure would be closed down and the economy would collapse, as nobody turned up for work. It is an honour and a privilege to live in a place where people are just tough and well prepared and get on with things.

And so we come full circle to my point about the changing of the seasons, I am not perhaps ready to add an extra 15 minutes of windshield defrosting and scraping to my daily routine, I will miss bare arms and the ability to leave the house without several layers of temperature adaptable clothes, I already miss swimming in the lake and the sun on my face.

This said, I shall take the skis out for a walkabout in the next few days and I imagine the moment I feel the sweet glissando of sliding ski against that crisp white base I will remember the heavenly aspects of the winter and be thankful for its bounty. For those of you not involved in a winter sport I suggest you take the joy in knowing that the timing of the plentiful snow melt at the other side of the season is reason why our unique old growth forests developed as they have.The humidity that follows due to rain in the Spring coincides with the peak growth of the tree species generating a special vegetation community. Revelstoke is encompassed within a unique biosphere entitled the Interior Cedar Hemlock Ecozone (ICH) that covers an area from the US border, North to Wells Gray Provincial Park. Old growth ICH forests are dominated by Western Red Cedar and Western Hemlock at low elevations, with riparian hybrid White Spruce. At mid-elevations, Engelmann Spruce and Subalpine Fir dominate the stand, with Mountain Hemlock in some areas.

Whether you are mountain biking, hiking, skiing, working within these forests it is impossible not to observe the majesty of their presence.

Whatever the season they stand strong and triumphant in the landscape. So lets embrace the seasonal change and prepare ourselves for another long and hopefully prosperous Winter. Lets hope we too are still standing at the end.

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