Im looking at the forecast for Whistler and for certain days, it is forecasting 15 inches at the peak, 6 inches at mid-station and zero rain or snow fall at the base. Temperature at base is at 40 to 45F. Why is that?
Here’s a good quote from Tony Crocker (of www.bestsnow.net) that should help explain Whistler:
“The snow statistics provided below (see HERE) show the impact of elevation upon snowfall... The huge vertical and proximity to the ocean, about 30 miles away as the crow flies, influence Whistler weather. The base area frequently receives rain and all major lifts from the base are therefore covered. The lower mountain runs have snowmaking to build sufficient base to hold up to the fickle weather into April. Surface conditions can be pretty sloppy, and many skiers download at the end of the day after skiing the better snow higher on the mountain. Even without the lower runs, remember that these high elevation areas have 3,500 vertical feet spread over 6,000 lift-served acres.
On average it rains to the top of Whistler/Blackcomb only two or three times per season. It snows a lot in the alpine region, however, and the snow up there is generally lighter than at most West Coast areas, although not as dry as it is in the Rockies. Snow preservation in the alpine is excellent, second on the West Coast only to Mammoth. Consistency of snowfall in the alpine results in an enviable 90% reliability record at Christmas, the best of any major resort in North America. 2005 was only the second season in Whistler’s 40-year history that the resort suffered through poor mid-season conditions.
Pacific Northwest weather is unpredictable, as exemplified by the common joke that Whistler is a four-season resort because you experience all four seasons in the same day. With the huge vertical, it is possible to board a base area lift in the rain and ride through snow and fog and finally emerge into sun at the top. The lower mountain surface is likely to be better in December and January when the snowmaking equipment may be used more often. The alpine region, however, has better coverage and visibility in February and later months. The lifts close at 3 p.m. through January and at 3:30 p.m. from February onward.”
Snow conditions, temperature, visibility, can all vary drastically throughout Whistler. Don't let the rain at the base keep you off the mountain. You should move around as the conditions change to find the sweet spots.
If you look up from the base and see fog, it may not extend all the way to the peak either. I've had a single lift ride go through rain/sleet, dense fog, wet snow, powder, to clear skies.
I've been only in spring time. Skiing to the base was possible (sometimes) but not enjoyable or recommended. The high alpine area is immense - you don't really need the base ski area to have a great time.
Try to imagine or compare how much a 5000 vertical is. It's huge.
not sure what your home mountain is but look up the vert of a run you know well or your home resortsx top to bottom, and you may need to multiple it several times to add up to Whistler peak to creek.
Even their regular beg/int groomer areas are 2x or 3x the length of a typical other mountain.
If you do go to whistler, try doing peak to creek and how long it takes you
I think OP is asking how it can be snowing at the top/mid, but no precipitation at the bottom.
Orographic Lift - when an air mass is forced from a low elevation to a higher elevation as it moves over rising terrain. As the air mass gains altitude it quickly cools down adiabatically, which can raise the relative humidity to 100% and create clouds and, under the right conditions, precipitation.