Tofino: weather challenges & winter storm watching

Getting the weather right on the West Coast is a challenge. We were fortunate to have enough flexibility to “just go” when the forecast turned favorable for a few sunny days.

Winter storm watchers have a different challenge — to arrive in Tofino when the weather is horrible. Or ideally when the seas are ferocious, but the sun is out, as in the above winter storm image [courtesy of the Chesterman Beach Bed & Breakfast.]

Winter storm watchers flock to this area to observe storms that have not been seen land since Japan. The absolute premiere place to stay and observe is the Wickaninnish Inn.

While most of Canada lives winter under a blanket of white, the West Coast of Vancouver Island grows green, green, green as it witnesses the fury of howling gales, 20-foot breakers, and enough rainfall to keep our pristine temperate rainforest alive and well. All this drama is courtesy of the Gulf of Alaska’s Aleutian Low, formed from the growing contrast between the warm air over the North Pacific and the cooler landmasses of Asia and America . The ensuing natural furor is a spectacular site for the newly initiated, or for the “seasoned” winter storm watching enthusiast.

Since 1996, the Wickaninnish Inn has been the original winter storm watching destination on Canada’s West Coast (see our aptly-named Storm Watchers package) but how, oh how, did we even come up with this concept? Leave it up to the McDiarmid family for originality, but long before plans for the Wickaninnish Inn were even inked on blueprints, the family hiked a rugged shoreline trail to their cabin built on the first point west past the Inn. When a winter storm hit, a frequent occurrence from November through February, the McDiarmid kids would sit by the fire and watch the waves explode against the rocky shore – so much better than television! Some thirty years later, The Inn was designed so that every single room, suite and public space would allow for a view of the ocean – and that all guests would live the excitement of viewing our legendary West Coast winter storms from luxurious comfort inside. For a closeup of the storm action, reserve a couples massage in Ancient Cedars Spa’s Cedar Sanctuary, our hand-adzed cedar cabin right out on the ocean’s edge.

For those wishing to spend less than $1000/day another well-positioned dining/observing spot is the restaurant at the Wickaninnish Interpretive Centre.

More on “Riding the storm out” from the Denver Post, 2003.

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