Snow in Vancouver: Here is What You Need to Know

Vancouver is known for its wet climate and the colder months of the year are no exception. A typical winter day means two things: darkness and lots of rain. Occasionally the sky will clear allowing locals and tourists a moment or two of sunshine and clear blue skies – the view of the snow-capped Northshore Mountains in particular is absolutely stunning during this season. But for most Canadians, outside of this region, winter means one thing: snow. And while snow in Vancouver is nothing compared to the rest of the Great White North, a little bit of snowfall can have a nasty way of impacting your daily life in this city. So if it does snow in Vancouver, here is what you need to know.

Most Businesses Will Stay Open

Shopping malls, local attractions, banks, government agencies, and most schools will be operating as normal through a light or moderate snowfall. For the majority of businesses, their operations are based on the ability of public transit to function. So that means if the Skytrain and major bus routes are functioning, the business will not close. Nowadays most companies will also provide alerts and updates on their social media channels – Twitter is often a reliable source for this information.

Snowfall Varies Throughout the Region

Downtown Vancouver is usually milder than nearby cities such as Burnaby, North Vancouver, and Coquitlam which generally means more snowfall the further inland that you travel. An area such as Burnaby Mountain, for example, may see 5 to 10 cm of snow where as downtown Vancouver may only be limited to 1 to 2 cm – and most of that will melt away by lunchtime. Here are two things to remember:

  1. Your commute to Vancouver will typically improve as you near the downtown area. Snow tapers off and the roads and sidewalks are clear.
  2. Your commute home, for example to Burnaby or Port Moody, may worsen. If it’s snowing lightly downtown, it could be heavier in neighbouring cities.

Bottom line, check the weather report regularly for current conditions and forecasts.

Public Transit

If you take the bus through the hilly streets in areas such as North Burnaby and New Westminster, expect delays and possibly cancellations. Unfortunately our buses are not adequately equipped for snow, so it can be a frustrating experience for transit riders. However, Skytrain normally operates on schedule, but may go at a slightly slower speed. SeaBus and Westcoast Express are rarely impacted. Get the latest news on Translink’s website and their Twitter feed.

Heavy Snowfall in Downtown Vancouver is Rare

Thanks to its milder temperatures and proximity to the water, significant snowfall in downtown Vancouver is extremely uncommon. To be clear, it’s usually less than 5 cm, sometimes 5 to 10 cm, and occasionally over 10 cm. As noted earlier, it typically melts quickly too. But if you do find yourself in the midst of a heavy snowfall, travel is not recommended. Stay home. Again, check current conditions and the forecast regularly and stay up to date with transit alerts.

What to Wear

For snowy weather, you need to remember two things:

  1. Stay warm
  2. Stay dry

Wear layers of clothes, winter socks, boots (ideally waterproof), gloves (again, waterproof), a quality winter jacket and preferably a hat appropriate for winter. A walk in the snow can be an absolute dream or a complete nightmare depending on a person’s choice of attire.

Enjoy the Snow in Vancouver

As mentioned, snowfall is rare in downtown Vancouver and it tends to disappear just as fast as it arrived. Provided that transit is running smoothly, a snowy day can be a wonderful experience that few visitors will encounter during their stay here. And possibly the most memorable part is a clear day after a fresh dusting on the local mountains – the view of North Vancouver and the Northshore Mountains is postcard worthy and, again, a moment that few visitors ever witness.

Local attractions such as the Vancouver Aquarium, FlyOver Canada, and The Lookout at Harbour Tower will almost always remain open, and there’s always one of our major shopping centres to keep locals and tourist occupied on a winter day.

If you have any questions, please contact us. We’re happy to help.

By Bryan Candy