Striking Comparison Pictures of Horstman Glacier at Whistler Blackcomb, BC, Show Just How Much the Glacier has Diminished

Brent Thomas | | Industry NewsIndustry News
horstman glacier
Credit: mikedski Instagram

Skiing and riding on the Horstman Glacier at Whistler Blackcomb are a summer tradition. Multiple summer glacier camps are offered there every year, including freestyle and race camps. This year the camps ran from June 10 to July 16.

However, a recent Instagram post from professional freeskiing legend Mike Douglas shows two pictures portraying the glacier hasn’t held up well over the years. The contrasting pictures show one from July 2006 and another from August 2023 and the difference is concerning to some. The August 2023 picture with an alarming lack of snowpack is the headliner. See the post below.

Why so drastic?

It is important to note that these pictures do not represent an apples-to-apples comparison. First off, they are taken during different months of the year. Additionally, if the first picture was taken in early July 2006 and the second picture was taken in late August 2023, then the time difference could be up to two months. That is a significant amount of time for the warm summer sun to melt additional snow.

On top of that, it is noteworthy to compare snowfall totals for the years in question. The 2005/06 season at Whistler Blackcomb saw a very respectable 469 inches of snowfall. The 2022/23 season had 371 inches. A difference of 98 inches of total snowfall in the later year will undoubtedly make a difference. Combine that with the additional month (or two) of time and that could be a plausible reason for the difference.

Many people would immediately point to climate change as the reason for this discrepancy in snowpack. This is certainly a plausible explanation as a recent report out of Europe states that at the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, 90% of Europe’s ski resorts will eventually face critical shortages of natural snow.

However, when it comes to analyzing these photos of the Horstman Glacier taken almost two decades apart and in different months of the year, a wiser approach would be to compare multiple years over a long period on the same day of the year. This would give a more accurate reflection on what was happening on the glacier and rule out any outlining weather patterns in any given year. Even with the comparison’s shortcomings, these pictures do make us stop to think about the future of our sport as glacier skiing has already begun to be minimized.

Terrain Park on the glacier. Credit: Camp of Champions

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One thought on “Striking Comparison Pictures of Horstman Glacier at Whistler Blackcomb, BC, Show Just How Much the Glacier has Diminished

  1. Thanks for bringing attention to the issue of climate change affecting snow sports. In addition to the points you made, I would add that glaciers have historically been stable masses that looked the same from year to year, year-round (in contrast to snow cover). Much has been written about the shrinking of glaciers in recent decades, but seeing it firsthand drives it home. I went to Macugnaga, Italy last year and saw where a mile-long glacier used to be – until about 2002, when it started to retreat. The empty, rocky 300 yard wide channel was a horrifying sight. There is absolutely no doubt that climate change is severely affecting the high mountains.

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