Category: weather

Springtime in Vancouver


Spring sneaks into Vancouver.  You’ve got your head down, and your shoulders hunched and your hood up, when you suddenly look up and realize that the sun is shining, and Spring has ARRIVED!

For the last few days I have been working downtown, and there is nothing more beautiful, in my experience, than Vancouver in Spring sunshine.  I catch the Skytrain through New Westminster, along the huge slow Fraser River, into the bustle of Metrotown and out again, beside the peaceful parks and cycle paths.  As we reach Vancouver, the sun glints off the glass towers, the new leaves and the waves out on the water.  I stare at the new Community Garden which has sprung up on an abandoned parking lot near Science World – raised beds which a month ago were barely filled with soil, now a patchwork of shades of green .  The grass and wildflower roof of the Convention Centre is dazzling and busy with the bees from the Centre’s own hives.  The snow on the mountains, which look so close on a clear day, is almost too bright to look at.

I find myself running late for meetings as I am distracted by all the new cleanness around me.  Buildings and signs and people I have ignored over the winter are suddenly too bright and interesting not to stop and watch.  This is a city where people take cherry blossom very seriously; so seriously that it is a weekend and evening pastime to go for a Japanese-style Cherry Blossom walk.

I return home and sit in my garden, chatting to neighbours we haven’t seen since October – everyone is suddenly obsessed with gardening, everyone is growing something, even if it is just a lawn, and we compare notes and growing tips.  A queue of hummingbirds at the feeders, surprisingly noisy as they get into fights; apparently queue-jumpers exist everywhere.  We cannot wait for the full summer to arrive!  Welcome to Spring!

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The pleasures of seasons

Daffodils in VancouverLast week we met up with Andy, a friend from Ontario when he was over in Vancouver for a business trip. It was raining lightly that day, as it does from time to time here, so we ended up comparing the weather.

Andy started off being quite smug, since it was raining outside. (Not heavily enough for most Vancouverites to wear rain gear, or even notice). He got somewhat less smug when Sue said how much she loved spring in B.C. It is a beautiful time of year, with the spring flowers, buds on trees and of course our cherry blossoms at their best. (We celebrate this with our annual Cherry Blossom Festival in April).

Cherry blossom trees in Kits Tulips at the ObservatoryAndy, not the keenest of gardeners, hadn’t really noticed the cherry trees until we pointed them out. It was then that he admitted nothing much was growing in Ontario as yet. (This has it’s benefits, since I am already cutting the grass every week).

The difference that we most appreciate about B.C. is not only the milder weather but particularly the fact that there are seasons. We have spring as I’ve said. Much of the rest of Canada leaps from winter to summer since the sub-soil is too frozen to allow for spring flowers to appear.

Admittedly our winters are not real Canadian winters. That’s OK because the snow is still there on the hills ready for us to go play whenever we want. And not having to shovel snow off the drive does leave you with more time for golf, fishing or hiking.

My mother lived in Calgary for many years. She told me that she missed the spring, but she did love the cold winters, with sunny days and snow on the ground. She was a real Canadian! I remember one time when I visited her in the winter the temperature was -28°C. Not for me, but my mother liked it, so maybe you would.

Summer in Vancouver is not super hot and humid, as it can be in Ontario for example. We certainly make the most of the summer as you’ll see if you go to the beaches in English Bay or Kitsilano.

Autumn (or Fall as I still struggle to say) is often a very good time in B.C. The summer weather seems to stretch well into October, so visiting in September or October isn’t a bad idea for a research trip. But eventually the autumn weather comes, with rain being the main feature!

If you’re still deciding on where to live in Canada, then the seasons may be something to consider. We like gardening (Sue especially) and having a real spring is important as it brings in so many beautiful blooms and it is always a cheery sign of good weather to see the spring bulbs appearing. Just saying!

Our love hate relationship with snow

Snow on the drive
When it snows we need to park at the top of our drive

This week in Vancouver we had our first big dump of snow and it got me thinking about how we both love and hate the white stuff.

The Love Affair

Before we came to Canada, snow was a rare and exciting thing. And it was one of those things we were most looking forward to. The first year we all signed up for learn to ski or snow board lessons. (The kids all went with the cooler snow boarding option, while Sue and I hit the slopes, literally, with two planks of wood strapped to our feet).

Even if you are not new to Canada the start of the winter season is greeted with excitement. Many people are celebrating that our local ski hills are all opening early this year. The real enthusiasts are heading for Whistler, which opened today.

The Long Drive Home

The other side of the coin is commuting. I am talking here about places like Victoria and Vancouver where we are not used to snow at lower elevations. It comes once or twice a year, and generally not for more than a few days. But in that time it proves how ill prepared most of us are.

Winter tires are only the norm for people who do have to travel any distance. If you’re going to Whistler every weekend, or over the mountain passes to the interior, then you will definitely want snow tires. Otherwise many drivers skip the expense and stick with all season tires.

Most of the time that’s ok.

Then it snows big time. And you’re slipping around on the roads, sliding through the four way stop and are a danger to yourself and others.

That’s when we hate the snow.

There again, you could take the day off. Make a snowman or snow angels in the back yard. Get the snow bus to one of the ski hills. Or stay wrapped up by the fire and enjoy a real winter.

What are you looking forward to when it comes to your first Canadian winter?

Preparing for the snow


Snow on the deck is rare in Vancouver

This advice comes too late if you are here in British Columbia as the snow came down overnight. We woke up to 5cm and it has continued to snow most of the day.

However if you are planning to come to Canada from a country where snow is a rarity then this might help.

You should make sure that you are equipped for snow even if it comes fairly rarely (by Canadian standards coastal B.C. is not a snowy region).

Here is my list of things to do:

  • Fit snow tires if you are going to be relying on getting around in your vehicle
  • Get a good snow shovel, probably a metal one as our snow is wet and heavy
  • Get salt for your driveway and the sidewalks (which you have to keep clear)
  • Good winter gear is worth having too.
  • Get your furnace and fireplaces serviced before winter comes
  • Insulate pipes and winterize any outside taps (faucets) – again before winter!
  • When snow is expected, make any adjustments you might need to your travel plans
  • For example, if your driveway is steep or your road does not get ploughed early on, then consider moving your vehicle to somewhere more accessible
  • Be aware that “snow days” are called when the weather is bad and this might mean your kids don’t need a ride, but they may need someone to look after them.
  • If you are travelling into work then public transit may be your best bet as their routes are kept clear whenever possible
  • Use the highway and traffic cams to check on conditions if you are driving
  • Have an emergency pack in your vehicle. Warm blanket, cell phone, flashlight, candles, snacks, water and a shovel.
  • If the weather is extreme then better stay home

And if you are in B.C. it is very rare for bad weather to last for more than a few days. Our overnight snow is turning to rain even as I write this!


Snow on the mountains



Snow on Grouse Mountain, North Vancouver
Snow on Grouse Mountain, North Vancouver

We are getting our first taste of the winter with snow sprinkling over the local north shore mountains. Our local ski resort, Whistler, is opening this weekend too.

Local skiers and snowboarders are dusting off their equipment and looking forward to getting out on the slopes again. As is mostly the case, Vancouver at sea level is still free of snow.

There is probably a bit of a scramble for winter tires just now! The city is also getting the snow ploughs and salting trucks ready as there’s nothing like a snow fall for us soft westerners to go to pieces. Our cousins back east and in the Prairies usually laugh at us when we complain about winter weather. We laugh right back when we are golfing in February – and enjoying spring blossoms.



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