Step across the Continental Divide near Golden and the weather in winter changes dramatically. With the mountains spreading out, the wind channels and moves the moisture swiftly. The skies are bright but oh, dang it can get cold.
That cloud cover in the Okanagan Valley also traps the warm air. Out on the prairies, that star-studded night sky offers no heat. But don’t discount the mountainous effect yet. The towns and cities near the mountains bank on the Chinook wind to bring a reprieve from the snow and cold. If places like Calgary are experiencing a chinook, that usually means any of the ski resorts on the other side of the Rockies are getting snow. A chinook is caused by winds that originated on the Pacific Coast. As they head east, they bump into the wall of mountains and out of frustration, dump rain or snow, warm up and rise. As they get over the peaks they rush down the east slop and melt the snow in their path. Those gusts can be as strong as a hurricane in excess of 120 km/hr. The temperature can rise swiftly with that wind. In 1962, Pincher Creek saw the temperature rise from -19 to +22 C in one hour. When that wind dies down, the deep freeze returns, turning those puddles into rinks. But, at least its sunny.
Two things are for sure no matter where you are – you have to dress for the conditions and spring will eventually come. Honest.
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