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COLUMN: Southern provides more comfort

West Coaster learns there are subtle differences when it comes to winter weather in Alberta's two biggest cities.
Snow Plow Okotoks 6441
The snow doesn't stick around quite as long in the Calgary region as it does in Edmonton. (Brent Calver/Western Wheel)

When we moved to Alberta two years ago, I must admit that I was ignorant of the subtleties when it came to my new province’s weather patterns.

Having lived in Greater Vancouver almost my entire life, I knew Alberta was significantly chillier, but mercifully much drier, than the West Coast, but I assumed that its two largest cities, Calgary and Edmonton, weren’t a whole lot different weather-wise. 

I’ve since learned that earlier assumption isn’t too far from the truth, but what I’ve also come to realize over the past 26 months is there’s definitely room for some hairsplitting when it comes to meteorological conditions in the battle of Alberta. 

We arrived in Beaumont, a suburb immediately south of Edmonton, just before Labour Day in 2020, which allowed us to enjoy a comfortable September and an increasingly chilly October, but our welcome to Alberta moment came on the first weekend in November when a storm dropped somewhere in the neighbourhood of 30 centimetres of snow. 

We knew the winter was going to be a long one, but what we didn’t realize was that it wasn't quite as lengthy, or as cold, just a few hours south on Highway 2.

I had equated Calgary-Edmonton to Vancouver-Seattle, which are a similar distance apart and share pretty much the same weather, rain included. 

Yet often when we’d watch the evening news, the weather map would display some rather disheartening numbers — and not just because there was a minus sign in front of all the temperatures. What surprised (annoyed) us was that Calgary was often a few degrees warmer throughout the coldest months of the year. 

Now, it's not like the difference between –5 and 0 is the tipping point where pants become shorts or it allows toques to be banished to the closet, but I’m learning that in an Alberta winter, every bit counts, so it kind of sucked to be on the wrong end of that score with such regularity. 

When we drove down Highway 2 on Good Friday this year, we received another reminder of this discrepancy as the further south we got, the less snow we saw, until it pretty much had all disappeared by the time we hit Calgary, where we actually saw people out on golf courses. 

Shortly after we moved to Okotoks, I had one person explain the difference in weather between the province's two biggest cities this way: Winter arrives here a month later and leaves a month earlier. I suspect that’s a bit of a generality, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out in the months ahead. 

I must say that a wry smile came across my face a couple of weeks back while watching the weather report on the six o’clock news when the meteorologist, while rattling off the forecasted highs for places throughout the province the following day, said that Calgary was going to be half a dozen degrees warmer than Edmonton. 

Hopefully there’s a lot more of where that came from in the months ahead as I’m looking forward to being on the right end of the scoreboard for a change. 

Ted Murphy

About the Author: Ted Murphy

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