The day I started my job in Vancouver the office was abuzz. Hundreds of journalists and publications from around the world were gathered for the biggest media event of the year in Calgary, the largest city in neighbouring province Alberta. There was a breakfast organised for all the attendees at the zoo. The problem? They’d received 30cm of snow overnight. Calgary was caught a little unawares. Not because they’re not used to it, but because it was only 2 October. The event was a hit. I mean, pandas playing in snow. Enough said. It epitomised Canada. I was excited for all winter would bring.
Fast forward a few months and there were regular reports of snow falling from stakeholders and colleagues…in what felt like every other city and province. One day a colleague was skyped in from Montreal during a team meeting and paused while a snow truck passed his window to clear the 40cm of snow that had fallen in the past 24 hours. The next time it passed, he held his laptop at the window for us all to watch. As Vancouverites, we were essentially the 3 year old marvelling at the garbage truck.
As I’ve learnt, in many ways, not just snowfall, Vancouver is quite a Canadian anomaly. While Canada’s major cities east to west can receive annual snowfall of anywhere from 125cm to 300cm, Vancouver gets about 30cm total.
Although I knew this, as January became February I was getting a little disappointed. We’d had a few false positives. The little snowflake appearing and then disappearing off the forecast. But still no snow.
But Sunday 3 February, it was on. I woke up and there were flurries but it didn’t stick. But the next day we woke to about 1-2cm. I walked to work and it was beautiful. But it was gone by lunch. Sadness. A few more centimetres forecast during the week, but nothing came of it. It was cold enough (ah -8 in the morning!) but no moisture in the air. The news publications were becoming the boy that called wolf.
It was the weekend again and Saturday was forecast to be overcast and a little rainy, maybe a centimetre of snow or two. Sunday was forecast to be sunshine. Accordingly, I planned a snowshoe hike for after church. But on Friday night the forecast switched. Saturday was glorious. And Sunday?
Well Sunday I walked into church and then the annual general meeting followed on. I was inside (and underground) from 10am-2pm. At 1.30pm my hiking buddy sent me a text, it was taking a little longer than he expected to get into the city. Why? The snow.
I emerged from the bunker that is UBC Robson and the city was blanked by a few centimetres of snow. It was magical. Big snowflakes, the size of a 5 cent coin!
But the roads were becoming chaotic. The weather forecasters had called wolf too many times. We were caught unawares.
Our sunset snowshoe became a hot chocolate and wander around the seawall in the graceful snowfall. (Sounds romantic, right? You can ask me for the overlooked details if you dare).
Monday commute was chaos. It was sunshine but as many had told me, the city does not cope well with snow. Tuesday? Well with 10-15cm forecast, my colleagues and I called it a “snow day” and worked from home. The kids all had snow day too. My Canadian winter was finally here.
Tuesday afternoon I popped out to explore the beach – yes, the snowcovered beach. It was a BIG novelty. I later went to a gym class. Walking in boots, coat + gloves only to peel it all off and change into shorts, singlet + runners for the class.
Wednesday the roads were cleared and we were back in business. By Thursday it was gross. Melting snow is a big muddy grey brown mess. Your boots get dirty. The gutters are all puddles of melting snow.
But by Thursday night, the temperature had dropped again. I had netball a couple of suburbs over. There were a few flurries around 6pm but I figured it wasn’t going to stick (on the roads). Too warm, too wet. (You’re probably sensing a pattern here…) I drove and parked the car share vehicle on the street, carefully navigating the small piles of snow on the kerb.
At 8.30pm I reemerged from the indoor gymnasium to be met with another few centimetres and the roads covered. Back into the little Toyota Yaris I go. Snow driving, I got this. A few questionable left turns, some passive aggressive words said to the driver crawling ahead of me…much like sand, you lose traction quickly. Must.Keep.Moving and a little slower than usual I was back down the hill in Kits.
But then Friday we woke up and it was raining. Yes! And praise God, the rain washed the majority of the snow away.
It’s now almost a week later and there is very little to show for the 31cm we got during that week. The week of above average cumulative snowfall!
On reflection, I’m thankful I chose the west coast and it’s rain. While the snow was glorious, it’s a little inconvenient! Bring on a week or so every winter. Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, they can keep their 1-2 metres of snowfall and -30 temps to themselves.