WORDS & PHOTOS: Andrew Strain

November is typically storm season in the Pacific Northwest. Powerful low-pressure systems queue in the Pacific, setting up a bombing run that drops a carpet of white across the Cordillera.

Typically.

This year’s endless summer gave way to a dry, mild fall—the storm-blocking "blob" of warm water that led to a dismal season in 2015 was back, setting up shop in the north Pacific and defending the coast from the usual onslaught of wet weather. While Whistlerites claimed to be loving the tacky trails in early December, every skier was yearning to put the bikes away for the winter.

Relief arrived mid-month, when an unrelenting series of systems smashed through the blob and began their assault on the coastal mountains. Two straight weeks of storming put down 137 inches of snowfall as winds in excess of 108 mph thrashed the alpine, keeping the upper lifts closed for days at a time.

These early season storms bring rapid transformation to the mountain. Shrubs and stumps sink beneath the rising white tide and trees grow smaller with each surge of snowfall. The crowds, initially eager to slake their thirst for the winter's first turns, begin dwindle as they run out of gas—or run into responsibilities. Lift lines disappear as cramped-quad storm warriors share high-fives and oversized grins, knowing they can rest when the horde of fresh legs arrives with the approaching holidays.

PHOTO: Andrew Strain

PHOTO: Andrew Strain

Nick McNutt. PHOTO: Andrew Strain

Nick McNutt. PHOTO: Andrew Strain

Ian McIntosh. PHOTO: Andrew Strain

Ian McIntosh. PHOTO: Andrew Strain

Nick McNutt. PHOTO: Andrew Strain

Nick McNutt. PHOTO: Andrew Strain